I was browsing a newspaper website for inspiration for our Friday night dinner and came across a dish called malfatti. It literally means “badly made”, as they don’t look pretty.
Intrigued, I looked at the recipe and discovered it was a type of ricotta and spinach dumpling – some relative of a gnocchi. It seems that Siena calls the dish malfatti whereas Firenze calls it gnudi and the dish seems to be a speciality of Tuscany.
I compared a few recipes and they had different ratios of ricotta to spinach to flour, and some included parmesan and breadcrumbs too. It seemed the idea was to minimise the flour / breadcrumb content to keep these as soft as possible, but to have enough dry ingredients to stabilise the dumpling whilst cooking.
The common theme throughout was to keep the ingredients as cold as possible prior to cooking. We found that towards the end of forming the malfatti, the ingredients were warming up and it was hard to form balls. My hands are quite warm so at the end I had to delegate to my cooler-handed companion to finish!
These are a bit messy but fun to prepare and taste great!
Time taken: 30 min to make the malfatti, 5 min to cook, though ideally you would want an hour to chill the malfatti before cooking.
For the malfatti:
- 500g spinach
- 300g ricotta
- 1 egg
- 60g plain flour (plus some extra for dusting the malfatti)
- Salt, pepper and a bit of ground nutmeg for seasoning
For the dressing:
- 100g butter
- Packet of sage leaves
- Parmesan, grated – to serve
- Cook the spinach – either fry it in olive oil or wilt it in hot water; we chose the latter and if you do, run it through cold water afterwards to cool it down.
- Strain and squeeze the spinach to remove all the water and juices.
- Let the spinach cool as much as possible (we put ours in the freezer for 10min).
- Combine with the ricotta and mix well.
- Add the egg and a bit of salt and pepper and mix again.
- Add the flour and the ground nutmeg, and mix until you end up with a soft and sticky mixture.
- Dust your hands with flour and have flour ready to dust the dumplings, as well as a tray or plate with greaseproof paper; with a teaspoon take a walnut-sized portion of the mixture and then form a ball or cylinder with your hands, dust with flour and put on the tray.
- Once all the malfatti are ready, put them in the fridge to chill.
- Wash and dry the sage leaves.
- Once you are ready to cook, get a large pan of salted water and bring it to the boil.
- In a smaller frying pan, melt the butter over a medium-low heat, and once melted, fry the sage until crispy (or less, if you prefer it not crispy).
- Once the water is boiling, gently lower each malfatto into the water – only put a maximum of 5-6 in the water at any one time to avoid the water getting cold or the malfatti sticking together.
- The malfatti will rise to the top of the water once cooked; gently lift them out with a slotted spoon and once the water gets back to boiling temperature you can put the next batch in.
- Once they are all cooked, drizzle on the sage and butter mixture, grate a little Parmesan on top and season.
We normally would post pictures of the intermediate steps above, but we were so absorbed by the preparation that we forgot to take any! So here’s a final close up for you to see the beautifully crispy and buttery sage, yum!