Straight from his new cookbook, Just Cook It!, our Culinary Director has a tip for making sure these classic Italian dumplings are light and fluffy.
ricotta gnudi
Credit: David-Malosh

Here at Food & Wine, we’re always on the lookout for dishes that are both elevated and approachable. Lucky for us (and you), Food & Wine Culinary Director Justin Chapple just released a new cookbook, Just Cook It!: 145-Built-To-Be-Easy Recipes That Are Totally Delicious, filled with 145 recipes that are — yup — easy and delicious.

Chapple has eight years of test kitchen experience, not to mention a culinary school degree and a background working in restaurants, so he definitely knows all the shortcuts — and whether or not to take them. On this week’s episode of Mad Genius Live, Chapple, the Mad Genius himself, demonstrated two of his new recipes and shared a bunch of Mad Genius Tips along the way.

We’ve all made peanut butter cookies with those cutesy, old-school hash marks. But of course, Chapple has a tip that outsmarts grandma's way of using a fork to get a perfect crosshatch. For his Gluten-Free Chocolate-Cherry Peanut Butter Cookies, which are labeled as such because they’re flourless, Chapple places a baking rack on top of the dough balls, pressing down to make all of the impressions in one go.

But Chapple doesn’t just have hacks for desserts. When it comes to dinner, Chapple has some expert advice that will turn gnudi, Italian dumplings made from ricotta cheese, into a weeknight staple. Contrary to popular belief, what you don’t want to do is roll out the gnudi dough on a floured work surface, as if making gnocchi. That process lends itself to overworking the dough, which can activate the gluten and result in “little rocks” instead of fluffy pillows.

So, for his Ricotta Gnudi with Spinach & Dukka, Chapple purées the gnudi ingredients in a food processor before using a cookie scoop to portion out little balls of the dough. He pops each one right into a pot of simmering water. Touching the dough as little as possible yields gnudi that is light and airy.

How do you know when they’re done? Chapple says, “Don’t be afraid to sacrifice one.” Pick a gnudi out of the pot, cut it in half, and check to make sure that it doesn’t look raw in the middle. If it looks wet, sort of like the inside of a half-baked chocolate chip cookie, the little pillows need a few more minutes to cook.

If you’re going for smaller gnudi, Chapple has another technique: put some dough into a pastry bag, cut off the tip, and squeeze little bits directly into the pot, cutting them off with a knife.

Whichever method you decide to go with, Chapple cautions that the gnudis will puff up and look a bit shaggy, joking that “They’re not gonna look like Geoffrey Zakarian made them.” But even if the gnudis fall apart a bit, they’ll still taste great.

Remember, as Chapple says, “It’s only food. So Just Cook It!