Malloreddus are small, adorable looking gnocchi from Sardinia and traditionally made with semolina flour, saffron, and water. Saffron is a typical ingredient used in many recipes in Sardinia and helps to give the gnocchi a beautiful yellow color. Because of the semolina flour, these gnocchi have a delicious toothy texture. In fact, I think they’re my favorite pasta shape thus far. The recipe comes from Jenn Louis’s book, Pasta by Hand. If you’re interested in learning new handmade pasta shapes, I highly, highly recommend!
Traditionally, they’re paired with a hearty meat ragu, but as I didn’t have any meat available I made Marcella Hazan’s classic tomato butter sauce. Use the best canned tomatoes you can find here (I love Bianco diNapoli!), for a super special dish.
Malloreddus with a simple tomato butter sauce.
Recipe: Malloreddus (Sardinian Gnocchi) with Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Butter Sauce
For the malloreddus: Makes 10 servings
- 400 g 1 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 tsp saffron threads
- 795 g 4 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp semolina flour, plus more as needed and for dusting
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the tomato butter sauce: Makes 6 servings
(I’d double it if you’re making the full 10 servings of malloreddus above!)
- 2 lbs fresh ripe tomatoes (OR 2 cups canned San Marzano/Italian tomatoes (cut up or crushed by hand, with their juice)
- 5 tbsp butter
- 1 onion (peeled and cut in half)
- Fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley), optional — this isn’t part of the original recipe, but I had some lying around so I added them in
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese, for garnish
For the malloreddus:
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat. In a small bowl, steep the saffron in the boiling water for 10 minutes. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the semolina, salt and olive oil.
- Set a fine mesh strainer over the large bowl. Pour the saffron water through the strainer into the bowl, pressing the threads with your fingers to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the saffron threads. Knead with your hands on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough is cohesive. Karishma’s tip: I find semolina dough much more difficult to get into a smooth ball compared to an egg dough. Be prepared to put some work into this — you may even need to knead longer than 10 minutes. The dough is done when there are no longer any dry or sticky bits and it’s mostly smooth all around. If the dough is too dry, it will be very hard to roll and form the gnocchi.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce (see below).
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with semolina flour. Make sure your dough can be handled. If it’s sticky, knead in more semolina, 1 tsp at a time. Cut off a chunk of dough about the width of two fingers and cover the rest with plastic wrap. Roll the chunk in semolina to lightly coat. On an unfloured work surface, use your hands to roll the chunk into a log 1/4in (6mm) in diameter. Cut the log into 1/2-in (12-mm) pieces. With the side of your thumb, gently push each piece against a gnocchi board or the back of the tines of a fork, rolling and flicking the dough to make a curled shape with an indentation on one side and a ridge surface on the other. Put the malloreddus on the prepared baking sheets and shape the remaining dough. Make sure that the malloreddus don’t touch or they will stick together. Karishma’s tip: I’ve got a video demonstration here!
- To store, refrigerate on the baking sheets, covered with plastic wrap for up to 2 days or freeze on the baking sheets and transfer to an airtight container. Use within one month. Do not thaw before cooking.
For the tomato butter sauce:
- In a medium sauce pot or small dutch oven, combine the tomatoes with their juice, butter, and onion over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a simmer then reduce to a low simmer for 30 – 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should thicken and it shouldn’t be watery anymore.
- Once the sauce is done, discard the onion (you can save it for another use — a sauce, spread on toast, or puree it back into the sauce). Turn the heat off until ready to serve.
- When the tomato sauce has finished cooking and the pasta has been made, bring a large pot filled with generously salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the malloreddus and simmer until they float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes more, until slightly al dente. Meanwhile, turn the tomato sauce pot back on to a very low simmer.
- Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and transfer to the pot with tomato sauce. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water to the pot, stirring continuously until the sauce has reached the desired consistency. You want the sauce to cling to the gnocchi nicely. Once done, season again with salt and pepper and grate with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!