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Q: What’s the difference between gnocchi and gnudi? Emily B., St. Louis
A: The first step in any quest for knowledge is proper pronunciation, and these two are tricky. The most effective way to explain the “gn” sound is to equate it to the front end of The Three Stooges’ “nyuk, nyuk,” a rather sideways explanation to be sure, but accurate. So gnudi is simply “nudie” with that prefix; gnocchi is “oaky” the same way.
Gnocchi (below right) are small potato dumplings made from grated (or milled) russets, plus flour, egg, olive oil, and salt. The recipe may sound simple but it’s not: it may, in fact, be the most bungled of Italian staples. The best ones are plump and melt-in-your-mouth while the worst , the majority, are hard, dense, chewy, or soggy, “Italian belly bombers” as I’ve recently taken to calling them. Gnocchi are traditionally boiled, but can also be deep-fried (which adds texture) or cooked in a skillet (which adds another layer of flavor).
There is nothing more satisfying than well-made gnocchi; that’s why I continue to seek them out. Different riffs on gnocchi have appeared in recent years, including variations made with spinach or squash (often pumpkin squash this time of year).
All of which leads us to gnudi. If you were to take gnocchi and replace the potatoes and with ricotta cheese, you'd have gnudi. For this reason, you'll hear gnudi referred to as "ravioli without the wrapper," which makes sense, as gnudi means "nude" in Italian.
The success of either dumpling often hinges on the savory sauces that accompany it (see gnudi below), and while gnudi can suffer from the same heavy-handedness as gnocchi, it tends to be lighter and fluffier (a common descriptor is "pillowy"), so it's usually a safer bet than its often overworked and overcooked cousin.