RICOTTA GNUDI WITH OXTAIL RAGU

Winter is for slow braises and spending time by the warmth of the stove. To me, there's nothing more comforting than curling up on the sofa with a steaming bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine and this dish was inspired by that exact feeling and desire. I used Buffalo ricotta in these gnudi, which are essentially the filling of ravioli, without the pasta. Buffalo ricotta has a wonderful richness and such a creamy texture. Cow's milk ricotta would work equally as well, but just avoid the smooth ricotta you buy in tubs from the fridge section – it's often far to watery! In saying that, ricotta varies immensely, depending on the style and even the season, so you may need to add a little extra flour to help the mixture get to the point where it is just workable. Be careful not to add too much, otherwise you'll end up with rubbery dumplings, instead of light and pillowy gnudi! Short ribs or another stewing cut would work well in the sauce instead of the oxtail, if it wasn't available. 

SERVES 4-6

FOR THE SAUCE

Olive oil

1kg oxtail

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

150ml red wine

630g tomato passata

1 fresh bay leaf

1tbsp Balsamic vinegar

 

FOR THE GNUDI

400g Buffalo ricotta

zest of 1/2 lemon

1/2 small nutmeg, freshly grated

40g parmesan, finely grated

2 eggs, lightly whisked

75g plain flour, plus extra

Rice flour, for dusting

 

Parmesan cheese, to serve

 

1. For the ragu, heat a large pot over a medium flame. Drizzle in a good splash of olive oil and add the oxtail to the pot. Brown the oxtail on all sides – you want a nice golden crust. Remove oxtail from the pot, set aside, and drain all but 1 tbsp of the oil.

2. Add the carrot, celery and onion to the pot, reduce heat, and saute until soft and translucent (approx 10 minutes). Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to lift any of the flavour from the base. Return the oxtail to the pot along with the passata, bay leaf and a generous splash of balsamic vinegar. Add some water, but not too much – the oxtail should be just covered. Simmer, covered for about four hours, or until the sauce has thickened and the meat is tender and falling of the bone. 

3. Remove the oxtail from the sauce and when cool, separate the meat from the bones and return the meat to the sauce. If the sauce is still a little thin, continue to simmer, uncovered until the desired consistency.

4. Meanwhile, for the gnudi, combine the ricotta, lemon zest, nutmeg and parmesan in a bowl. Add the lightly whisked eggs and mix in. Gently stir in the flour, a little at a time, until the mixture just begins to come away from the bowl and has a less sticky appearance. You may need a little extra flour, but less is best! Set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.

5. Dust a tray with rice flour, and with rice-floured hands, take a walnut size piece of the mixture and roll into a ball and place on the tray. Repeat until all mixture has been used. 

6. Cook gnudi in a large pot of generously salted water being careful not to bother them too much in the pot, as they are very delicate. They are ready when they have risen to the surface and then let to cook for one minute more. Have the sauce ready in large pan over a medium heat and scoop the cooked gnudi from the pot directly into the sauce to coat. A little of the pasta water will help if the sauce is too viscous. Serve with lashings of parmesan. 

Usually we won't eat this whole amount in one sitting – The gnudi freeze really well as does the sauce.