A Spicy Perspective

Malfatti (Gnudi) Ricotta Dumplings

Pan-Seared Ricotta Dumplings Recipe – Gnudi (AKA Malfatti) is a classic Italian dish that features gnocchi-like pillows of spinach and cheeses served in a simple, vibrant tomato sauce.

close view of Malfatti in a bowl with tomato sauce and shaved parmesan

Malfatti vs Gnudi – What’s the Difference?

These two recipes are technically the same thing, just with a few subtle differences. Both are Italian cheese dumplings made with ricotta and semolina (or flour). They are typically vegetarian dishes, like this recipe, and are enjoyed with tomato or butter sauces.

Malfatti tends to be on the rustic side (usually made with spinach) and is often rolled into little balls and boiled.

Gnudi, however, is often pressed or rolled into little pillows, slightly larger than little gnocchi dumplings. It can also be shaped like balls, and then boiled.

top view bowls of tomato sauce and Gnudi ricotta dumplings

Classic Spinach Gnudi

Today we share our favorite Gnudi Ricotta Dumplings recipe, made with fresh spinach and basil. We also include quick steps to make a simple, scrumptious tomato sauce.

I decided to make small pillow-shaped dumplings for ease. Then I skipped the boiling and pan-fried these little beauties instead. This gives the dumplings extra flavor, texture, and visual appeal. The outer crust helps the texture to shine, served with the thin tomato sauce… Perfezione!

fork holding piece of half bitten spinach dumpling to camera

Ingredients You Need

To Make the Gnudi:

  • Fresh baby spinachwashed and dried
  • Ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheesea perfect combination of sweet, salty flavors
  • Semolina flouror all-purpose flour
  • Eggsan essential binder to make Malfatti
  • Fresh basilchopped
  • Spicessalt, garlic powder, ground nutmeg
  • Olive oilto pan fry the dumplings

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Tomato sauce
containers of ricotta, parmesan, semolina, spinach

How to Make Pan-Seared Malfatti with Tomato Sauce

First, set a large saucepot and a large skillet on the stovetop. Also set out a large mixing bowl and a medium mixing bowl.

Chop the baby spinach and place it in the medium bowl. Add the salt and toss. Then allow the spinach to rest and sweat off its moisture for at least 15 minutes.

Heat the saucepot over medium heat. Add the butter and onion wedges. Sauté the onions for 3-5 minutes, then pour in the tomato sauce. Turn the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer the sauce for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and allow the sauce to rest.

Meanwhile, in the larger bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, semolina flour, egg and extra egg yolk, chopped basil, garlic powder, and nutmeg.

bowl with cheeses, flour, spinach, spices

Mix well. 

Once the spinach looks like it has wilted down, pour off the juices. Move the spinach to a large paper towel and squeeze out the rest of the moisture. Then mix the chopped spinach into the ricotta dumpling mixture.

ingredients mixed together in a large bowl with spatula

Move the dumpling mixture to a clean work surface. Press into an even rectangle, ½ inch thick.

Gnudi dough pressed out on a wood board

Then use a sharp knife to cut the dumpling mixture into one by 1 x 1 ½ inch pieces.

Get the Complete (Printable) Ricotta Gnudi Recipe Below. Enjoy!

hand with knife cutting the spinach Malfatti dough into long strips

Next, it’s time to pan-fry the Gnudi.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil into the large skillet, and heat the skillet over medium. Once the oil is hot, move half the dumplings to the skillet. You do not want to overcrowd the pan or they won’t get perfectly fried.

Fry for 1-2 minutes per side until the crust is golden brown. If needed, lower the heat to medium-low to keep the dumplings from burning.

skillet with pieces of spinach ricotta dumplings pan frying

Move the cooked dumplings to a holding plate, then repeat with the remaining olive oil and dumplings.

close view of dumplings frying in a cast iron skillet

Serving Suggestions

Once all the dumplings are cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove the large onion chunks from the tomato sauce.

Spoon tomato sauce into the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with 8-10 Malfatti dumplings.

Serve warm, sprinkled with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.

two bowls of ricotta gnudi with tomato sauce and shaved parmesan

Recipe Variations

  • You can make Malfatti balls if you like. They will just take longer to cook, with more rotating in the skillet. Approximately 6-8 minutes per batch.
  • Fresh spinach is a classic ingredient to make this recipe. However, you can omit the spinach if you prefer. Same goes for the basil.
  • Serve homemade ricotta dumplings with other preferred pasta sauces. The delicate pillows are delicious with a heartier marinara sauce or light lemon butter sauce.
  • Gnudi can be boiled if you do not want to pan fry. Place them in a saucepot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, and do not stir. Remove with a slotted spoon as soon as they float to the top of the water.
side view two bowls of Malfatti with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make this a gluten-free Gnudi recipe?

Use your favorite gluten-free flour alternative to easily make Malfatti without gluten. Use a GF baking flour that can be swapped in 1-to-1 ratio.

What dishes go well with Malfatti?

This homey, comforting Italian dish is delish with simple sides. Serve with a fresh green salad or Caesar salad for a complete meal that isn’t too heavy. Or carb it up with a side of fresh-baked garlic bread!

How long do leftovers last?

Homemade ricotta dumplings will keep well for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Store in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator. To reheat, lightly pan fry again in a bit of oil until warm throughout.

fork taking a Malfatti ricotta dumpling from a bowl of tomato sauce

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Pan-Seared Malfatti (Gnudi) Ricotta Dumplings
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Pan-Seared Malfatti (Gnudi) Ricotta Dumplings Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
These pan-seared Gnudi ricotta dumplings (Malfatti) are gnocchi-like pillows of spinach and cheeses served in a simple, vibrant tomato sauce.
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the Malfatti Recipe:

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion peeled and cut into wedges
  • 45 ounces tomato sauce

Instructions

  • Set a large saucepot and a large skillet on the stovetop. Also set out a large mixing bowl and a medium mixing bowl.
  • Chop the baby spinach and place it in the medium bowl. Add the salt and toss. Then allow the spinach to rest and sweat off its moisture for at least 15 minutes.
  • Heat the saucepot over medium heat. Add the butter and onion wedges. Sauté the onions for 3-5 minutes, then pour in the tomato sauce. Turn the heat to medium low, partially cover, and simmer the sauce for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and allow the sauce to rest.
  • Meanwhile, in the larger bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, semolina flour, egg and extra egg yolk, chopped basil, garlic powder, and nutmeg. Mix well.
  • Once the spinach looks like it has wilted down. Poor off the juices. Move the spinach to a large paper towel and squeeze out the rest of the moisture. Then mix the chopped spinach into the ricotta dumpling mixture.
  • Move the dumpling mixture to a clean work surface. Press into an even rectangle, ½ inch thick. Then use a sharp knife to cut the dumpling mixture into one by 1 x 1 ½ inch pieces.
  • Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into the large skillet. Heat the skillet over medium. Once the oil is hot, move half the dumplings to the skillet. Fry for 1-2 minutes per side until the crust is golden brown. If needed, lower the heat to medium-low.
  • Move the cooked dumplings to a holding plate, then repeat with the remaining olive oil and dumplings.
  • Once all the dumplings are cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove the large onion chunks from the tomato sauce.
  • To Plate: Spoon tomato sauce into the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with 8-10 Malfatti dumplings. Serve warm, sprinkled with extra Parmesan cheese if desired

Notes

You can make Malfatti balls if you like. They will just take longer to cook, with more rotating in the skillet. Approximately 6-8 minutes per batch.
Homemade ricotta dumplings will keep well for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Store in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator. To reheat, lightly pan fry again in a bit of oil until warm throughout.

Nutrition

Serving: 9pc, Calories: 323kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Sodium: 1415mg, Potassium: 763mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 2868IU, Vitamin C: 18mg, Calcium: 297mg, Iron: 3mg
Course: Main, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Author: Sommer Collier

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5 comments on “Malfatti (Gnudi) Ricotta Dumplings”

  1. I rarely comment on posts but being from Napa, I couldn’t keep quiet. If Napans are proud of one thing, it’s our malfatti! This article shows what they look like. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/10/08/494569112/malfatti-the-dumpling-that-became-a-napa-valley-legend

  2. OMG, these were absolutely magical! My family gobbled them up!

  3. This is my new favorite thing to make! SO FREAKING DELICIOUS!

  4. This is so good!! Such a delicious meal any night!

  5. these dumplings have got to be my most favorite and flavorful dumplings that I have ever made! thank you for sharing this recipe!