Malfatti With Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce
Malfatti With Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce

Malfatti With Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce

These rustic ricotta and spinach dumplings are similar to gnocchi, but are much richer, speckled green with the spinach and scented with nutmeg. Also known as gnudi, malfatti translates as ‘badly formed’, but don’t hold that against them – it’s nice not having to worry about making them uniform in size and shape.
Photography: DAVE BROWN

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Total Time
1 Hour 30 Minutes
300g of ricotta
30ml of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, diced
225g of spinach leaves, washed
70g of Parmesan, finely grated
½ nutmeg, grated
1 egg
50g of fine semolina
Tomato Sauce
60ml of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x 400g cans of whole, plum or chopped tomatoes
Step 1

Prepare a tray dusted with fine semolina, ready for your finished malfatti. First, strain the ricotta by placing it in a muslin cloth and squeezing it to remove the excess liquid. The ricotta will lose around 10-15% of its overall weight and have a much firmer consistency. Scoop it into a medium bowl and set aside.

Step 2

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until soft and golden, around 7 minutes on a medium heat. Add the spinach, cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spinach has wilted.

Step 3

Transfer the spinach mixture to a colander and squeeze any excess liquid out by pressing it hard with a wooden spoon; otherwise, allow it to cool and just squeeze with your hands until the spinach has lost all its moisture.

Step 4

Finely chop the spinach and add it to the bowl of ricotta along with the Parmesan, nutmeg, egg and semolina. Beat together with a wooden spoon and season to taste. Leave in the fridge to rest and firm for 30 minutes.

Step 5

When you are ready to shape the malfatti, I suggest wetting your hands just a little, as this stops the soft mixture from sticking to them. Shape into walnut-sized balls, placing them on the prepared tray, then slide the tray into the fridge for an hour to firm up (you can leave them overnight if you’d like to prepare them ahead).

Step 6

While the malfatti is chilling, prepare the tomato sauce. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and fry for a minute until fragrant, then add the tinned tomatoes. Cook on a medium-low heat for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Leave on a low heat while you boil the malfatti.

Step 7

Set a large pan of water on the hob and, when the water is boiling, season it generously with table salt. Carefully drop the malfatti into the water and cook for 2 minutes, or until they bob to the surface.

Step 8

Ladle the tomato sauce into four warmed bowls, then, using a slotted spoon, fish out the malfatti and place them into the sauce. Alternatively, you can scoop them directly into the pan of sauce and gently mix them together before plating – it’s up to you. Finish with a basil leaf or two and a generous grating of Parmesan.

Tip: These soft dumplings are delicious served in a simple slow-cooked tomato sauce, as I have done here, or tossed in sage butter. I find them quite filling, so you could serve four each to six people as a starter.

Recipe courtesy of Pasta Masterclass by Mateo Zielonka (Quadrille, £20.85, was £26)

Photography: Dave Brown

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