Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Malfatti, A Delicious Mistake

Labor of Love

From Macaroni Kid Eats

Malfatti, A Delicious Mistake
By: Allison Rebenack

Requests from readers for simple and delicious vegetarian recipes brought me back to my childhood. I have fond memories of sneaking malfatti off of cookie sheets from my Grandmother's refrigerator. A couple times of year, she would make large batches of this Italian dish when all of the family was visiting.
Malfatti roughly translates to "poorly made" or "mistake" in Italian. However, the name in no way reflects the taste or the final outcome of this dish. The primary ingredients are ricotta and spinach. There are many variations of the recipe and I am certain region and time contribute to the different versions of malfatti.
I have a copy of my grandmother's recipe but on the day I set out to the store to collect my ingredients, I could not find my coveted recipe box. A week-long frantic search finally uncovered my recipe box but I already reached out to someone I knew would have a superb recipe for malfatti.  Chef and owner of Villa Locale in Las Vegas, Joe Muscaglione, stepped up and did not disappoint with a family recipe he claims is as old as ricotta itself.
Eager to taste this old world dish, I prepared a batch of malfatti one morning for that evening's dinner.  The result? Perfection - the rustic and flavorful ricotta dumplings speckled with green spinach were devoured by my family.  Topped with a light tomato sauce, malfatti is a simple vegetarian dish that all Macaronis will enjoy.
2 cups fresh ricotta, strained overnight
2 boxes frozen chopped spinach - thawed and drained
2 eggs
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

Strain the ricotta overnight in refrigerator. Coffee filters in a colander can be used for if cheesecloth is unavailable. The final mixture should be as dry as possible. This may be why some recipes include breadcrumbs. Combine strained ricotta, spinach the rest of the ingredients in a bowl with your hands. Kids will be happy to help with this part!
The mixture should be combined thoroughly but not over worked.  Shape into meatball sized dumplings and place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper.  Place pan in the refrigerator and allow to sit a few hours. The longer they sit, the better they are. Bring a large pot with water to just under a boil, add a couple of pinches of salt. Gently drop the malfatti into the water to cook. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon when they float to the surface. Once strained, serve hot topped with a light tomato sauce.
Although they require advance planning, malfatti are easy to make and offer up an alternative to the basic pasta and sauce.