One recipe, two names: malfatti (badly made) in Siena, gnudi (naked) in Florence. The result is still guaranteed, whether you want to speak in the language of Tozzi* and feel yourself in the center of the world in the Piazza del Campo, or you want to use the spoken language of Pratolini**, and get lost in the streets of San Frediano. Malfatti, because their characteristic is to be irregular, different, home made and a bit lumpy. Gnudi because they are ultimately the filling for ravioli, without the external dress of home-made pasta!
However they are called, these dumplings of spinach and ricotta are characterized by the same easy execution and certainly by the same deliciousness: they are good and simple, their few ingredients remind us of family dinners, of women around a table who move their hands automatically and wisely, while the words fly and go to pay a visit – in a round of gossip and confidences – to neighbors and relatives.
Ingredients (serve 6):
- spinach, 500 gr previously boiled and squeezed
- fresh ricotta cheese, 500 gr
- eggs, 2
- salt and pepper
- grated Paresan cheese
Whether fresh or frozen spinach, the important thing is that once boiled in salted water you drain them well and squeeze them with your hands (only when they are cold, be careful!). Leave them for a few hours in a colander. Sautée spinach in a pan with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and once cool chop them with a knife finely. Mix spinach with the same weight of fresh ricotta (I used an organic ricotta made with cow milk). Add at least 4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.
Season with salt and pepper, add grated nutmeg, then add 2 eggs to the mixture: mix well to form a soft mass. Now is time to put your hands in action!
Use plenty of flour to shape small balls with your hands – large more or less like hazelnuts – so that flour can make a protective film and prevent malfatti to melt into boiling water. Put them on a tray spaced from each other until you’ve finished.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook malfatti in batches. When they float to the surface – very few minutes, sometimes it only takes one – lift them out a slotted spoon and season them to serve. They are excellent served with tomato sauce and grated cheese, or if you search for something more appetizing…
Try malfatti baked in the oven with grated smoked ricotta cheese (a delicious ricotta cheese from Calabria) and smoked Prague ham, cut into strips or cubes: the delicacy of malfatti suits beautifully with the smoked sensation of cottage cheese and smoked ham.
* Federigo Tozzi, Senese writer 1883 – 1929, is the author of famous works as with Con gli occhi chiusi (With closed eyes) or Tre Croci (Three Crosses).
** Vasco Pratolini, Florentine writer 1913 – 1991, is the author of famous novels (and very beautiful) as Cronache di poveri amanti (Chronicle of Poor Lovers), or Le ragazze di San Frediano (Girls of San Frediano).