For such an amazingly good dish it has such a pessimistic name: malfatti. In Italian, malfatti translates to "bad made." That doesn't sound very promising, does it? Kind of like the outstanding hazelnut meringue cookies we had the other night at Spinasse called "Brutti ma Buoni" (ugly but good). Contrary to their name, these little malfatti were about the prettiest little things ever - so much so that I think we should rename them belfatti (pretty made).
Unlike gnocchi, their dumpling cousin, malfatti are more "roughly" made: hand-rolled, then crudely cut without much thought to uniformity or perfection. But that's precisely what makes them so lovely - their provincial form and handmade taste. Because they're made mostly with ricotta and contain no flour (other than the flour used to roll them in) they result in light and airy pillows, a feat not so easily achieved in gnocchi making. In fact, if you've ever made gnocchi you'll find that more times than not they turn out more dense than you'd like, and you have to concentrate fiercely on the task at hand, making sure to not overwork the dough. Malfatti, on the other hand, are easy to make and hard to ruin. You can actually do other things as you gingerly roll and cut, like sing along to the opera piping out of your Bose and take sips of your Super Tuscan.
1 cup cooked, well-drained, chopped spinach
1 ½ cups Ricotta cheese
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs or panko
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup minced green onions
1 tablespoon basil, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
Approximately 10 sage leaves
Drain cooked spinach and squeeze out extra liquid until very dry. Combine with all ingredients, except flour. Refrigerate 1 hour. Bring pot half full of salted water to a simmer. Drop spinach cheese mixture by tablespoons into flour and roll each lightly into long logs. Cut into 1.5 inch dumplings. Drop dumplings into the gently simmering water. When they rise to the top, remove with a slotted spoon (approximately 3 to 5 minutes). In a saucepan, heat butter and sage leaves until both are browned and sage leaves are crisp. Spoon butter over malfatti and top with the crisp sage leaves. If preferred, top with more Parmesan cheese.
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