malfatti

Malfatti with Bolognese

Recipe for The Daring Kitchen
When I first learned about The Daring Kitchen, I was excited to join a group that would provide me with monthly culinary inspiration. This month’s assignment (and my very first with TDK) was created by Steph from Stephfood, our Daring Cooks’ July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with! Steph also encouraged us to make noodles that celebrated our culinary heritage. See Full Gnocchi Feast Menu
Malfatti, despite the aggressive name (“poorly made” in Italian) are a revelation. I first tasted these babies at a restaurant off of the Piazza del Campo in Siena. Trying to get away from the tourist traps lining the heart of the city, we stumbled into Serafino’s, a small family restaurant run by the daper patriarch of the place, Serafino himself. We made fast friends with the owner/head chef and fell in love with his culinary prowess. Sampling the malfatti, dumplings made of spinach and ricotta held together by sheer will, I knew that we’d stumbled upon something special. How the hell were they made?

Returning to the states, I googled malfatti and found a whole lot of nuthin’. I tried the new (at the time) Yahoo Answer for help and asked for someone to proffer up a good malfatti recipe. Someone offered a Spinach Gnocchi recipe, to which I cursed the heavens. I swore up and down that that wasn’t it (and to make matters worse, stupid Yahoo Answer made it the “best answer” not because I chose it, but because it was the only one there). But I eventually relented and said that with nary a recipe, why not give it a go. So I did. And sure as heck, with a little editing, I had something closely resembling my beloved malfatti.

When I decided to do a collection of gnocchi recipes for my first whirl with The Daring Kitchen, I knew my malfati would be on the list. In doing research for the dishes, I found the internet (all of 4 years later) abuzz with talk of malfatti. Apparently, it’s one of many names for spinach and ricotta gnocchi, to include ravioli nudi and topini verdi. Where were you fools four years ago when I needed help? No matter – I was able to recreate my love with some super sleuthing a good while back, proving once again that if you want something, you’ve gotta go get it yourself.

Malfatti with Bolognese

1 lb. of whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 lbs. of baby spinach leaves
1 shallot, minced
2 tbs. of butter
1 c. of grated locatelli
2 eggs
1/2 c. of flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg

3 oz. of pancetta
3 lbs. of ground beef (or blend of beef, pork and veal)
1 onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 c. of milk
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 c. of dry white wine
2 cans of whole San Marzano crushed tomatoes
2 fresh bay leaves
2 tbs. of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
parmesan rind

Place a strainer or chinois over a bowl and line with paper towels. Pour the ricotta over the paper towels and place into the fridge. Let sit overnight to strain the excess liquid from the ricotta.

Make the dough for the malfatti. Heat two tablespoons of butter in a skillet and cook the shallots over medium heat until translucent. Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted. Take all of the spinach and shallot mixture and place in the center of a towel. Squeeze out all of the liquid in the spinach and add the spinach to a mixing bowl. Mix in the ricotta, locatelli, eggs, flour, salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Chill in the fridge while you make the bolognese.

In a pressure cooker, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the pancetta and sauté until it starts to crisp up. Add the ground beef and cook until barely pink. Mix in the onions, celery, carrots and garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the milk, tomatoes, nutmeg, bay leaves, salt, pepper and parmesan rind and stir. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and bring to high pressure. Cook for 20-25 minutes on high, and then let the pressure subside naturally.

Now make the malfatti. Line a cookie sheet with parchment and flour well. Make a mound of extra flour on a plate to roll the malfatti in. The trick with these guys is to make sure that they are coated in plenty of flour – otherwise, they will fall apart when cooked. Flour your hands and roll balls out of two to three tablespoons of the filling. Roll the balls in the flour and place on the cookie sheet. Continue until you use up all of the filling and place pan in the fridge. Save the plate of flour.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Right before placing the malfatti in the boiling water, roll in the flour a second time. Add to the water 5-6 malfatti at a time and allow to cook for a brief 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a buttered dish. Once all have been cooked, top with extra parmesan and place under a broiler. Cook until browned and then remove. Top with bolognese and some more locatelli and serve.

2 thoughts on “Malfatti with Bolognese”

  1. Wonderful job! I have never heard of Malfatti before, but it sounds (and looks) amazing! I think I will have to give this a try!

    1. They're rather amazing – just creamy spinach and cheese ravioli filling minus the pasta dough. I use a bolognese here, but they are equally good with a sage and brown butter sauce or even a simple marinara. Just make sure to flour them very well before cooking or they will turn the boiling water into a sea of spinach and cheese bits. So glad you're going to try them out 😉

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