Malfatti literally means ‘badly made’ or ‘misshapen’ – an accurate description of this rustic full-flavoured dish. Unlike their dumpling cousin, gnocchi, malfatti are roughly made: hand-rolled in to imperfect little shapes – and that’s exactly why I fell in love with them. Rustic, homemade and delicious.
I read somewhere that they were believed to have been invented by mistake when extra ravioli filling was ingeniously recycled into dumplings.
Made mostly with ricotta they make light and airy pillows. Gnocchi can sometimes turn out a little more dense than you’d like, and require some good kitchen skills to ensure you don’t over-work the dough…. not malfatti. Malfatti are easy to make and hard to ruin.
A perfect combination of the creamy ricotta, earthy silverbeet, bitey parmesan and sweet fresh basil – the malfatti I made for dinner (and recipe below) includes a lovely tomato sauce but they would also be delicious served with just burnt butter and sage.
Malfatti with tomato, lemon and basil
Serves: 4; Prep time: 25 minutes; Cook time: 20 minutes
400g trimmed silverbeet (1 large bunch)
500g firm ricotta
4 eggs, lightly whisked
50g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
50g (1/3 cup) plain flour
For dusting: fine semolina
60g butter, coarsely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
400g vine-ripened tomatoes, halved
¼ cup (loosely packed) basil, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon, juice of ½
Pinch of caster sugar (optional)
– Blanch silverbeet until tender (1-2 minutes), refresh, drain well, squeeze out excess moisture and coarsely chop. Combine in a bowl with ricotta, eggs, parmesan and flour, season to taste.
– Roll walnut-sized pieces of mixture into balls, then dust in semolina, taking care to completely coat malfatti, place on a tray dusted with semolina and set aside.
– Heat butter in a frying pan over medium heat, add onion and garlic, stir occasionally until tender (5-7 minutes). Add tomato, cook until soft (5-7 minutes), add basil, lemon rind and juice, then season to taste, adding a little caster sugar if necessary. Set aside, keep warm.
– Meanwhile, cook malfatti in simmering salted water over medium heat until they float to the surface (2-3 minutes), drain well with a slotted spoon, add to tomato sauce, gently stir to combine and serve scattered with parmesan and basil.