Malfatti (Italian Spinach Ricotta Dumplings in Napoli Sauce)
Recipe video above. Malfatti means “badly formed” in Italian. These irregular spinach ricotta gnocchi-like dumplings may look a bit wonky, but they taste incredible!Like gnudi except with the addition of spinach, this traditional Italian dish can be served straight after boiling them. But it's really worth a quick 15 minute bake to get a light golden crust on the Malfatti as well as caramelisation on the edges of the Napoli sauce. It really takes it in a deliciously different direction!Servings: This will serve 4 very hungry people, or 5 standard servings.
Keyword: Italian dumplings, malfatti, spinach ricotta dumplings
Saute garlic and onion: Heat oil in a small pot or large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for 3 minutes until onion is softened.
Simmer sauce: Add remaining ingredients plus the stem of basil. Bring to a simmer, then reduce stove to low and cook, stirring every now and then, for 20 minutes. It should be fairly thick rather than a loose runny sauce.
Drain ricotta, if needed: The ricotta should be the dry and fairly crumbly type rather than wet, soft and almost spreadable. If it's wet, see Note 1 for removing excess water (wet ricotta makes Malfatti hard to shape and cook!)
Sweat spinach: Toss spinach with 1/2 tsp salt in large colander. Leave for 20 minutes. Roll up in tea towel and squeeze tightly to remove excess liquid. Roughly chop.
Sauté garlic, eschalot and spinach: Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and eschalot, cook for 1 minute until translucent. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Transfer to large bowl, allow to cool.
Malfatti mixture: Add ricotta and all remaining Malfatti ingredients into the bowl. Mix well to combine. It should be too wet to roll with hands without sticking, but still firm enough to shape into dumplings.
Form dumplings: Using 2 dessert spoons, scoop up about 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture then shape into a football (quenelle) using the two spoons. Place on a paper-lined tray. You should get about 24-30.
Boil dumplings: Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then carefully put 6 dumplings in. Cook for 2 minutes, they should float to the surface. Remove with slotted spoon on to paper towel lined tray. Repeat for remaining Malfatti.
Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.
Assemble: Pour Napoli Sauce into a baking dish, then top with Malfatti. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake 15 minutes or until the Malfatti has a faint blush of gold on the surface (Note 3).
Serve! Sprinkle baked Malfatti with parmesan and basil leaves (tear large leaves). Spoon into bowls and served as-is. No starchy side is required, think of these as like gnocchi. Just add a leafy green salad with Italian Dressing or Balsamic Dressing!
1. Ricotta – The type that comes in vacuum-sealed 1kg baskets is best eg. Casa del Formaggio, Paesanella or from the deli counter at Coles and Woolworths (Australia), or good delis. Do not use Perfect Italiano or brands in small sealed tubs, these are not good enough quality for our purpose. Do not use or any "spreadable" or "smooth" ricotta, they are too loose and wet.We need the drier type of ricotta here, the type you can virtually crumble with your hands. If the ricotta is wet and spreadable, it will be too wet and the dumplings will be too hard to shape. In this case, reach excess water. Either bundle in tea towels and set in colander overnight to drain (best for very wet ricotta), or roll up and squeeze lightly (do this a few times).2. Egg yolk – We need a bit of extra egg to hold the dumplings together, I found that 1 whole egg was not quite enough, but 2 whole eggs made the mixture too loose. Add the leftover egg white in your scrambled eggs tomorrow morning!3. Baking is to get a light crust on the otherwise slippery surface of dumpling. Be careful not to overcook as they will dry out.4. Spinach - Sub with about 200g/7oz frozen spinach, thawed then squeeze out extra water very well.5. Make ahead / storage - Malfatti bake can be assembled to the point prior to baking, ie. dumplings sitting in the tomato sauce. It can then refrigerated and baked when ready to serve. Cooked Malfatti (ie. after baking) will keep for 3 days in the fridge. Best reheated in the microwave.6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings.