One of my most favourite fresh pasta dishes to make at home is the rather wonderful Malloreddus (Gnocchetti Sardi) with Sausage & Arugula ragu. Tiny hand shaped pasta gnocchi coated in a wonderfully flavourful and simple sauce of sausage and tomato and arugula! The simplicity of Italian food is an wonderful thing, I'm often amazed just how delicious such humble dishes can be with so few ingredients. My Malloreddus recipe is one such delight.
What does Malloreddus mean?
Malloreddus (or Malloreddos) hail from the Island of Sardinia and in the local dialect the word translates as "fat little calves". Across Italy, Malloreddus are often referred to as 'Gnocchi Sardi' or 'Gnocchetti Sardi' i.e. Sardinian Gnocchi. They are small (and I mean small) ridged pasta gnocchi, not to be mistaken for the classic, bigger and also delicious, potato gnocchi.
The gnocchetti pasta are created using Durum wheat, Semola Flour (semolina flour) and water, the shape is typical of Sardinia - the dough is a more rustic and a cheaper version of fresh egg pasta and is very easy to make at home - Semola flour is simply mixed with water and sometimes a little salt, to create a dough that can be moulded into a variety of shapes. The Malloreddus are the most common in Sardinia - small balls, about the size of a chickpea, typically ridged by rolling over a gnocchi board or traditionally on the bottom of a wicker basket. They can also be made without ridges by rolling on a flat surface. The ridged variety are the most successful in my opinion as they create traps for the ragu sauce, giving each mouthful extra flavour!
Shaping Malloreddus Gnocchetti - a labour of love.
I love to create home made pasta shapes - I know I don't have the dexterity of a Pasta Granny, but I love to take a seat in the kitchen, pop on a podcast and slip into a pasta shaping trance until all my dough is finished. Using the gnocchi board is easy and I suggest you get hold of one - they're inexpensive and make all the difference to the finished pasta. If you don't buy on - just have a hunt around the house for anything with a ridged surface! See in the video below just how easy shaping Malloreddus is. There's something very very satisfying about creating home spun pasta shapes. And I don't really need to say that the taste and texture is superior, but I will... THE TASTE AND TEXTURE IS SUPERIOR.
These little pasta gnocchi are surprisingly light and have a splendid amount of chew to them - I so desperately wanted to use another word other than 'chew' as I don't want to put anyone off, but in truth they have just the right amount of firmness and give in them. Their texture ensures that they don't just slip into the background and act as only a vessel to carry the sauce - they have a wonderful personality all of their own.
Sausage & Arugula Sauce - the perfect partner to Malloreddus
The star of the show in my opinion is not really the sauce, it's the Malloreddus themselves so the sauce is simple. That's not to say it's not utterly delicious! I just love a good quality Italian pork sausage, simply cooked in a little tomato sauce. Outside of Italy the quality of 'Italian' sausage can differ wildly. I suggest hunting out the best quality you can find. Try your local farmer's market or Italian deli. In Italy, the flavour of sausage is dominated by fennel - one of my most favourite flavours. If you can find a pork & fennel sausage - great news, use that! In my recipe, you'll see I add a little fennel seed to bring out the authentic flavour - it all really depends on how 'fennely' your sausages are, so you might want to skip this ingredient or add more. You decide. The sauce is finished with a fresh peppery hit of arugula/rocket - it brings the right amount of freshness to lighten the sauce.
Serving Suggestions and other great Italian recipes
Malloreddus gnochetti are great as a lunch or dinner - with a simple salad to accompany perhaps. I often change up the sauce. If I make a Bolognese style meat sauce I'll mix that through, I also sometimes use the AMAZING lamb ragu from my Lamb Ragu with Papardelle recipe. If I'm making this for vegetarians or vegans I'll use my mushroom ragu from the Mushroom Ragu with torn Pasta or for a simple lunch, the Cavolo Nero & Almond sauce I love so much! Essentially, these gnochetti will pair with most, if not all, pasta sauces.
If you're in the mood for something else Italian, why not give one of my other Italian recipes a whirl.
Combine the flour with water, little by little until it just comes together to form a dough (between ½-1 cup). Knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth. If it feels too wet, knead in a little flour and too dry, wet your hands a few times to knead in more water until it feels like the consistency of play dough. It shouldn’t stick to your hands or the countertop.
Cover the dough with a small bowl or wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.Once rested, cut the dough into quarters and cover three quarters. Pinch off small pieces (about the size of a garbanzo bean (chickpea))
With a gnocchi board, using your thumb, gently press dwnwards and roll one of the small balls away from yourself to create a gnocchetti.Place onto a waiting sheet pan or board that's been generously floured. Continue this process until you run out of dough.
When you’re done, cover the Malloreddus with a tea towel. You can set these aside for up to 3 hours before cooking.
To make the sauce
Bring a large pan of generously salted water to a boil. Reduce the heat so that it’s gently simmering while you prepare the sauce.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat until hot. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add the sausage meat and break into small pieces. Let this fry for 3-4 minutes before adding the tomato and then the stock. Add salt & pepper then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes, while you cook the pasta.
Turn the heat back up on the pasta water to bring back to a rolling boil. Tip in the gnocchi and cook for 3-5 minutes. The gnocchette will float to the surface. Cook for about a minute when this happens - it's actually pretty hard to overcook them so you don't need to be exact. Using a hand sieve or slotted spoon, fish out the Malloreddus and tip straight into the waiting sauce.
Add the rocket and carefully stir everything together until it's wilted a bit. Add a handful of Parmigiano Reggiano and 1-2 spoons of the pasta water to loosen the sauce, stirring well to mix everything. That’s it! You’re ready to portion up and serve.
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