Russell Norman, founder of POLPO, shares a recipe for spinach and ricotta malfatti from his new book, Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking, a love letter to the city that inspired his restaurant group and debut cookbook
I am not a show-off in the kitchen. I am not a professional chef and my technique tends to have clumsy inelegance that distinguishes home cooks from the restaurant variety. These malfatti (literally ‘badly made’) are so-called because they too, like me, are clumsy and inelegant. But the method of getting them to that state involves swirling a wine glass above your head in a slightly eccentric manner. Children love it and I have even had dinner guests helping me. That way, everyone gets to share the blame when the wonky dumplings come to the table, shimmering in that delicious butter and sage sauce.
- 520g baby spinach leaves, washed
- 50g ‘00’ flour
- 250g ricotta
- 1 large free-range egg, beaten
- 200g grated Parmesan
- flaky sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon freshly
- grated nutmeg
- 200g semolina
- 100g butter
- a handful of picked sage leaves
- Steam the spinach for three minutes, then drain away the excess water and chop the leaves very roughly. Set aside. Mix the flour and ricotta in a large bowl until it resembles lumpy, moist breadcrumbs. With a wooden spoon, stir in the egg and three-quarters of the Parmesan. Add a good pinch of salt, a decent twist of pepper, the nutmeg and the spinach, and combine everything thoroughly.
- Take a large, stemmed wine glass and drop in a dessertspoonful of semolina. Using a separate, clean dessertspoon, dollop a glob of the mixture into the glass. Swirl around for a few seconds until you have a walnut-sized dumpling. Place on a generously semolina-dusted tray. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. When you have finished, you should have 24 or so little malfatti.
- Fill a large pan with cold water and bring to a hearty boil. Drop in the malfatti as quickly as possible, bring back to the boil, then continue to simmer for about three minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter and add the sage leaves. When it bubbles, reduce the heat to very low.
- The malfatti will float to the surface when they are ready. Turn off the heat, remove the malfatti with a slotted spoon and drain the excess water on a clean tea towel. Evenly distribute on to four warmed plates, pour the butter and sage over the top and finally scatter over the remaining Parmesan.