Most of you will have tried, or a least heard of, gnocchi, the Italian potato dumpling eaten all over northern Italy. But did you know that there is a southern Italian variation using ricotta instead of potatoes, to make a lighter gnocchi dumpling. In Italy’s southern region of Campania, just on the Amalfi coast is a small town called Minori, some of you will recognise it as the birth place of chef Gennaro Contaldo (the second best thing to come out of Minori, after Ndunderi of course).
The Campania region itself has a long history of traditional pasta making spanning back to Roman times and Ndunderi itself has been recognised, and protected, by UNESCO as one of the first forms of pasta made in Italy, therefore this humble dumpling has been around for many, many years, and hopefully will remain so for years to come.
In the 1200’s the first “pastai” (pasta makers) found that The climate of Amalfi was ideal for drying pasta, thus preserving it for longer. It is believed that Ndunderi are a modern day variation of an ancient Roman dish called “farina caseata”, which literally means wheyed flour, and the recipe has changed very little ever since, now being made with flour and ricotta ( a cheese made from the re-cooked whey leftover after cheese making).
I made my own ricotta, as unfortunately in the UK it’s not easy to get hold of good quality ricotta, but making your own ricotta is really easy, see my other blog post for just how easy. A key point when making Ndunderi, make sure your ricotta is drained and as dry possible, otherwise you will end up having to continually add flour, and end up with a heavy dumpling, which is not very pleasant.
Ndundari are traditional eaten on July the 13th to celebrate the feast day of Minori’s paitron Saint “Santa Trofimena”. Legend has it that Trofimena was a Sicilian martyr, who was martyred in her early teens having had visions and dreams and deciding to turn to Christianity. Her ashes were placed in a large urn and thrown into the sea, the currents carried it away and the urn later washed up on the shores of MInori. When the locals found the urn they used two pure white heifers to carry the urn up through the hills of Minori, where the animals finally settled the people of Minoti built a temple in honour of the martyr, the basilica Santa Trofimena.
There are many variations on Ndunderi recipe, but I prefer the traditional Ndunderi in tomato and basil sauce.
200g “00” flour, plus extra for flouring
3 egg yolks
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 tins plum tomatoes
few basil leaves
3 garlic cloves, cut into thick slices
1 red chilli, chopped
(1). In a bowl, mix the flour, ricotta, egg yolks, parmesan, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper together to form a soft, moist dough.
(2). Place on a floured board and knead for five minutes.
(3). Cut your dough ball into four then roll each piece of dough into a long, thin sausage shape and then cut it at right angles into rectangular shapes about 2cm long.
(4). Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Once boiling add a good pince of salt and then add the dumplings. They will rise to the surface again, then lower the heat and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
(5). To make your sauce. Place the tomatoes and basil in a bowl, mush up the tomatoes to a chunky texture, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
(6). Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and chilli, add the tomato mixture and warm through until the mixture is bubbling.
(7). Drain the Ndundari with a slotted spoon and add to the tomato sauce. Mix thoroughly and serve immediately topped with grated Parmesan.