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Granda Menna’s Kitchen: malfatti or gnudi

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.

gnudi or malfatti

Gnudi or malfatti

5 from 1 vote
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 21 minutes
Course Vegetarian
Cuisine Tuscan
Servings 4


  • 250 g spinach, previously boiled and squeezed
  • 250 g fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmigiano
  • Nutmeg
  • Flour
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  • Whether fresh or frozen, boil the spinach with some salt, drain and press it dry.
  • Sauté spinach in a pan with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and once cool, chop it finely with a knife. Mix the spinach with the same weight of fresh ricotta and add at least two tablespoons of grated Parmigiano.
  • Season with salt and pepper and a good pinch of grated nutmeg, then add one beaten egg: mix thoroughly.
  • Now make the malfatti. Use plenty of flour to shape small hazelnut-size balls with your hands. The flour will work as a protective film, preventing malfatti from melting into the boiling water.
  • Arrange them on a tray well spaced from each other.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook malfatti in batches.
  • When they rise to the top – it will take just a few minutes, sometimes it only one – lift them out with a slotted spoon and season them.
  • They are excellent served with butter and sage, or with a simple tomato sauce and a good sprinkle of grated cheese.
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* 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).

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This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. These are just beautiful. I have made similar spinach balls before, but the overall presentation of them prepared this way is inspiring. GREG

  2. These look fantastic, I can see you are going to encourage me to make my own gnocchi or pasta soon. I need to get back to Italy, we have friends in Florence and it’s definitely our turn to visit them next.

  3. I have never heard of this dish before! It sounds amazing. I’m glad that they don’t have to look perfect, because I’m sure mine won’t!

  4. Hello, Juls. Can I use frozen spinach for this recipe? As I am not sure I can fiind it fresh anywhere around here. Thanks!

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