Ricotta and Spinach Malfatti


I have a secret fascination with gnocchi, or dumplings or whatever you want to call them. I think the part that really gets me is the fact that you make a sort of dough and then dump it in boiling water, AND if you do it right, it doesn’t fall apart but cooks and comes out of the water the same shape it went in. Seems crazy that should work at all, right?


In the center shown with slow cooker sauce and sweet potato

Well, since we are on the topic, here’s another one I tried recently. With the fall weather setting in, I am veering over towards more substantial foods, but this one is surprisingly light and delicate, for a dumpling. It’s mostly ricotta after all! Still fascinated that they hold together in the water, although it just occurred to me, duh, that pasta is essentially dough as well, cooked in water. I guess the fact that pasta is much drier and flat never allowed me to make the connection? 🙂 Now granted these are a bit more delicate than Spaghetti, and need special precautions, but as long as you keep the water just below a serious boil, you’re good to go. And they are worth every minute spent on making them. Don’t let the long list of steps scare you off, they are much easier to make than it is to describe how to make them, seriously!


Malfatti which translates literally as ‘ badly made’ are a regional specialty from Italy. I had first seen them on menus and tables back in Europe, then heard about them again when I started reading Robert’s blog, and his recent post on flour-less Malfatti reminded me to finally give them a try. Not flour-less, I’ll leave that for later, since that seems to require a bit more dumpling experience, I hear.


Another thing to keep in mind before running to your kitchen: all the recipes I saw recommended draining the ricotta in a cheesecloth lined colander, in the fridge overnight, some with a weight on it. However my ricotta did not cooperate and drained nothing, so here’s my solution: When ready to make the dough, blot with several changes of paper towels, squeeze and blot several times before placing in a large bowl.


So here’s what you need for the ‘screwed ups’ or Malfatti


  • 2 cups ricotta, drained in cheesecloth in the fridge overnight
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • semolina (or corn meal) for dusting so they don’t stick
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano or other hard italian cheese



  1. Drain the ricotta overnight in the fridge in a cheesecloth lined colander over a bowl or blot with several changes of paper towels, squeeze and blot several times before placing in a large bowl.
  2. Separate the egg yolk from the egg white, reserve egg white for another use, and add the yolk to the ricotta bowl.
  3. Cut the spinach leaves into a chiffonade (roll up a few at a time and slice thinly) then add with the salt to the ricotta. Stir with a fork until mixed.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the ricotta mixture and using a spatula or your fingers, gently incorporate until just coming together.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet with a non stick mat ans sprinkle with semolina.
  6. Generously flour a work surface, turn out the dough onto the surface an knead 4 to 5 times. (Do NOT overmix or the dough will get tough = not good)
  7. In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then reduce heat until just at a simmer and no big bubbly movement can be seen in the water.
  8. Using 2 teaspoons, cut a piece from the dough, shape and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Sprinkle all the Malfatti with semolina while they are ‘waiting’
  9. Gently slide dumplings into simmering water, 5 to 6 at a time and cook until they float to the surface. Scoop out using a wire skimmer and place back on the baking sheet.
  10. Preheat broiler on low and when they are all cooked, sprinkle with the Pecorino and quickly finish the Malfatti in the oven until the cheese melts, they should stay white.
  11. Serve with any sauce that makes you happy.


© 2012 SimpleHealthyHomemade

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