I’m slowly cooking my way through all the delightful things we ate in Atlanta. I won’t lie; I ordered these for the name. (Okay, for the name and because there are rarely more than three items on an Italian restaurant’s menu that are tomato free.) Naked ravioli. Ravioli without, well, the ravioli. Without the pasta. Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s actually bloody brilliant.
We had these at Sotto Sotto in Atlanta, and despite a late (3PM) lunch at Flip Burger and a fairly hearty appetizer, when a plateful of about 30 of these appeared in front of me I ate them all. Slowly. Complaining of the pain in my stomach from eating so much. Then I got a bowl of chocolate soup for dessert. That is how good the food in Atlanta was.
The basic idea seemed pretty simple–just ricotta and spinach, well salted, rolled into balls and baked. It took a bit of experimenting to make the cheesy spinach balls not fall apart, and a bit more to bake them just right so that the center is meltingly hot before the outside burns. Once you’ve found the technique, though, these are unforgivably easy to make. Honestly, I can’t forgive myself these last 26 years of not eating these things. It’s shameful.
Ingredients (serves 4. We had half a batch for dinner and reheated leftovers a few days later for lunch.)
1 pound spinach*
1 1/4 cups ricotta
1 egg plus 1 yolk
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided use
Kosher salt, to taste
3 T butter
basil, for garnish
*Okay, for attempt number three, which otherwise is perfect, we had to use frozen spinach because the grocery store had exactly one bunch of yellow, wilted baby spinach in all of the land of produce. As soon as I opened the frozen bag, I was suspicious because the contents smelled distinctly sweet. Nevertheless, I pressed on. The end result tasted sweet. I don’t know what was up with the sweet spinach, but the flavor of fresh spinach in the other batches was far better.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the ricotta, egg, and yolk in a mixing bowl.
Mix well and add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan and kosher salt to taste.
If you’re using frozen spinach, don’t do this. Thaw it, rinse it, and press all the water out first. A potato ricer, I discovered, is perfect for the pressing part.
Mix the spinach into the ricotta mixture.
Form the mixture into balls. This recipe yielded 25 spheres.
Bake the ravioli nudi at 350°F for about 20 minutes.
While they’re baking, melt about 3 T of butter in a small saucepan.
Remove the butter from heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan.
The cheese should melt if you leave it alone for a minute. Don’t try to stir it; that can make it clump up out of sheer rebelliousness.
This is just a nice Parmesan-butter here. Enjoy it.
Plop 6-8 ravioli on a plate and pour a bit of your magical butter over it. Add a hunk of bread, and enjoy.
The texture is surprisingly solid, yet it still tastes like it ought to be a ravioli filling. It’s almost too easy to make, yet could easily impress as a fancier dish for a dinner party. In other words, these little cheese balls may be among the world’s most perfect dishes. You should try them. They’re fantastic.