Malfatti with Red Sauce

I think I cheated by picking a recipe from the same cookbook as last time, La Cucina Italiana. It wasn’t planned – I actually chose three different recipes from three different cookbooks. This just happens to be the first of the three that I made.

This is a ricotta-based dumpling dish called ‘Malfatti’. The malfatti get pressed into small eggs, using spoons.

Malfatti- Shaping

Shaping the malfatti into “quenelles” using two spoons.

Unlike other European dumplings I’ve had, these were light and not as dense as I expected. They were, however, filling. Four malfatti were enough for me!! The sauce was a bit of a departure for me – my sauces are usually a bit of a ‘kitchen sink’ concoction where I add a mix of herbs and spices, as many veggies as I can fit, and whatever else I have in the fridge. This sauce was simple, red pepper and tomato being the main ingredients, with oregano and s&p as the only seasoning. I think I showed great restraint by not adding in sautéed mushrooms, chili pepper, or any other herbs. (I did add a few fresh chives to my dish, but I don’t think that counts!!)

Malfatti with Red Sauce

A few grilled scallops and shrimps rounded out the meal. They were a good addition, because they are also lightly flavoured. We considered having rainbow trout, but I think that would have been a little too much alongside the malfatti.

This was a tasty dish, good to make whenever you have a little bit of extra time. It takes a little more preparation than your average pasta meal, but the extra effort is definitely worth it!

Recipe after the jump.

Malfatti with Red Sauce

Serves 4-6, From the book La Cucina Italiana edited by Gabriella Rossi


  • 1 lb fresh spinach, stems trimmed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 14 oz (1 3/4 c) ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 c dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus shavings to garnish
  • grated nutmet, to taste
  • salt and ground black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 14 oz canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 c water
  • generous pinch of dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp light cream


  1. Blanch the spinach in the tiniest amount of water until it is limp. Drain well, pressing it in a sieve with the back of a ladle or spoon. Chop finely.
  2. Lightly fry the onion and garlic in the oil in a large frying pan for 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then mix in the spinach, ricotta, eggs, melted butter, bread crumbs, flour, 1 tsp salt, Parmesan and nutmeg.
  3. Mold the spinach mixture into 12 small quenelles, using spoons to give the dumplings a smooth oval shape.
  4. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Lightly sauté the red pepper and onion in the oil in a saucepan for 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, water, oregano and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the sauce from the heat and blend to a purée in a food processor. Return to the pan, then stir in the cream. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  6. Bring a shallow pan of salted water to a gentle boil, drop the malfatti into it a few at a time and poach them for about 5 minutes. Drain them well and keep them warm in a low oven.
  7. Arrange the malfatti on warm plates and drizzle with the sauce. Serve topped with shavings of Parmesan.