Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!

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Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!

It’s not often that you intentionally try to make a recipe look bad, but that’s exactly what I did with these Malfatti.  Ok, so maybe I didn’t try to make these malfatti look bad.  However, by definition, malfatti means ‘poorly made.’  Nothing like calling a recipe ‘poorly made’ to really get your taste buds watering, right?

In all seriousness, though, malfatti are delicious!  These tender pasta dumplings are common in the Lombardy region (northwest) of Italy, and they’re actually very easy to make.  We’ve got ravioli molds, pasta machines and gnocchi boards stashed away here in our house.  As much as I love using those tools, they all stayed put in the cabinets for this recipe.  All you need is a knife, a big bowl and your hands.  Once you get the malfatti shaped, they cook in just about 3 minutes.  Nice and easy…and delicious!  This is seriously the tastiest ‘poorly made’ recipe I’ve ever had.

Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!

I’ve been a huge fan of gnocchi ever since my first trip to Italy way back when I was in high school.  I learned how to make gnocchi while I was there, and I brought that recipe back home with me.  It took a number of years, but I finally figured out how to make those potato gnocchi not sink like a lead brick.  (The secret was a food mill.)

Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!

Malfatti: Easy Homemade Pasta

Instead of potatoes, malfatti use ricotta cheese as the base.  (They’re fairly similar to this ricotta gnocchi recipe I posted way back in the early years of this blog.)  And while they might mean ‘poorly made,’ malfatti are actually quite attractive when served in a bowl of homemade red sauce.  The fun green color comes from the whole pound of spinach that goes into this recipe. 

On a side note, it’s remarkable how that huge container of spinach reduces down to the size of a fist once it’s cooked and chopped.

Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!

Some versions of malfatti call for the dough to be rolled out and then chopped into little rectangles about the size of your pinky finger.  For this version, I chose to roll the malfatti dough into balls, but either method would work.  All together, this recipe is not only visually appealing, but it’s really tasty, too.  The texture is light and airy (try not to overwork the dough when making the balls) and the flavor is top-notch.  I chose to serve these over my super easy red sauce recipe, but next time I want to try this with a basil pesto sauce.

Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!

Oh, and one last note about the ingredients.  This recipe calls for equal parts all-purpose flour and semolina flour.  Don’t skip the semolina flour!  Semolina flour looks similar to cornmeal, but it’s actually milled from wheat just like all-purpose flour.  Semolina is a bit coarser in texture, and this helps the pasta hold its’ shape during cooking. 

If you’re looking for a unique dish to make for dinner, then give malfatti a shot!  Unlike other types of fresh pasta which can be a labor of love, malfatti are surprisingly quick and easy.  Cheers!

Did you make this Malfatti recipe at home?  Leave a comment!  Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog).

Looking for more tasty Italian recipes?  Check out these other favorites:

Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs
Spaghetti Carbonara
Classic Italian Tiramisu
Quick Caprese Pasta
Shrimp Gremolata Linguine

Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!


Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!
4.88 from 16 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Total Time: 37 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 362kcal


For the Malfatti

For the Sauce


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spinach to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse spinach in cold water.
  • Drain off cold water and use several paper towels to press as much water as possible out of the spinach. Using either a knife or a food processor, finely chop spinach. Place chopped spinach in a large bowl.
  • Add all-purpose flour, semolina flour, ricotta, egg, Parmesan and salt; mix until well combined. (Note: If mixture if still wet, add a couple more tablespoons of semolina flour.)
  • Roll mixture into individual 1½” balls; transfer malfatti to a sheet pan. Repeat process until all of the mixture has been used.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add malfatti and cook until they float to the surface (~2-4 minutes). Remove malfatti with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain.
  • While the malfatti drain, make the sauce by adding olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic, crushed tomatoes, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce to medium heat and continue cooking for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • To serve, add tomato sauce to plates and top with malfatti.
  • {Optional} Garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese before serving.
Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!

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  1. 5 stars
    These definitely don’t look bad…and if anyone thinks they do, I’ll take their share 😉 I’ve never had malfatti before so I’ve definitely been missing out. They sound like total comfort food, which is right up my alley! Can’t wait to give these a go 🙂 Pinned! Happy Monday to ya!

    1. Haha! You make a great point, Dawn. If anyone complains about this pasta being ‘poorly made,’ then I’ll take their plate! Malfatti have raced right up our list of favorite meals…partly because they are so easy, but mainly because they are so tasty! Thanks so much, my friend!

  2. Love malfatti, and they’re some of the best fun you can have making pasta, too.

    PS:I’ve also marveled at how spinach reduces down to next to nothing when you cook it then squeeze them dry!

    1. Yes! It’s crazy how spinach just reduces down to nothing. An entire container just shrinks down to a little ball. But that spinach adds so much flavor to Malfatti! This one has raced up to the top of our favorite recipes list for sure. Thanks, Frank!

  3. 5 stars
    The Italians really know how to name their pastas. I’ve always been a little grossed out by orecchiette, which to me don’t resemble ears at all but whatever. And these! Poorly made couldn’t be less accurate because they look awesome! I love that pretty green color, and since I love spinach too, I know I’ll love these!

    1. Hahaha! Orecchiette really don’t look like ears at all. I find the names kinda fun. I just learned today that there are 310 different shapes of pasta. 310! I guess ’round ball’ must be one of those since that’s what Malfatti are. No matter the name, this is one super easy and super delicious pasta recipe! Thanks, Kelsie!

  4. Hi David! This is one of Gary’s favorite dishes! We had a great Northern Italian restaurant in Stevensville, MI that we would go to a couple of times every summer. Their malfatti was shaped into rolls and served with three sauces. He never looked at the menu because it was what he ordered every time. I will definitely be making this for him. My only problem is I’m not sure where to get semolina flour, maybe King Arthur? I like your really simple red sauce!

    1. Interesting! I loved hearing the story about the restaurant up there in Stevensville. I like the idea of serving malfatti with 3 sauces! What a fun way of serving this delicious recipe. I’m thinking there was a tomato sauce, maybe a cream sauce and then a 3rd type?

      As far as semolina, you could definitely order it online, but check the Bob’s Red Mill product finder ( You’ll have to click into each store in your area to see if Semolina is a product they carry…but in my experience, it’s not too hard to find. Let me know if you have any success! Gary is going to be in for a real treat!! 🙂

      1. Hi David! Correct about the sauces. There was a Bolognese, bechamel and mushroom sauce. The recipe for the dish was a carefully guarded secret, only the head chef knew it. Years ago Gourmet magazine offered to do a cover feature story on the restaurant if they would divulge the recipe. They were turned down!

        1. Interesting! I found it funny how some restaurants guard their recipes like a treasure while other places are happy to share. Would sharing that recipe with Gourmet magazine really have diminished their business? I suspect not. But to each their own! The mushroom sauce sounds like a great addition here. It’s almost lunchtime, and now you’re making me hungry! 🙂

      2. 5 stars
        I found Semolina at the health food store. Neither Walmart, Albertsons or Safeway had it in my area and I was in a hurry to make the Malfatti that night. I live in Cody Wy so maybe a larger area would stock the Bob’s Red Mill.

        1. That’s a great point, Sally Rae! Most health food stores will carry semolina, although I am a bit surprised that Albertson’s didn’t carry it. Either way, glad you found it!

    2. I know the restaurant your speaking of. I used to work there in the 80’s Just last week I found a malfati better. Grato Kensington

  5. 5 stars
    Very interesting! I think I’ve heard the name Malfatti before, but I actually never tried this dish. I love both potatoe and ricotta gnocchi, so I’m certainly going to love these gigantic gnocchi. And you know what’s the best part of the recipe? You don’t need to spend lots of time like when you shape traditional gnocchi. Delicious!

    1. Oh, you’ll totally have to try this recipe, Ben! You’re right that these are basically giant gnocchi. Giant potato gnocchi would be a bit too much, but the ricotta version is totally ok…especially with the spinach. This is a quick and easy recipe that’s packed with flavor. It’s definitely a favorite around here now! Thanks, Ben!

    1. These pasta balls are delicious, Shashi! And the best part? They’re super easy to make. Definitely put these on the dinner menu! 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    David – this is my kind of dish! I can’t wait to try it! I’ve never heard of malfatti, but I have a feeling it might be a family favorite here! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Malfatti were new to us here, too, Laura! But it’s raced right up to the top of our list. Not only are malfatti delicious, but they are super easy to make. Definitely put these on the menu! 🙂

  7. 5 stars
    David, you know what they say, it’s all about the taste. I do love making and eating Malfatti, although I’ve never rolled mine into a ball. I’ll have to give it a try and I haven’t made them with spinach either. So it’ll be a new experience for me. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. So now I have to ask…what shape do you typically make your Malfatti? This is a new type of pasta to us here, and we loved it! In fact, we’ve made this recipe for company already. I’d love to hear a new way to make ’em. Thanks, my friend! 🙂

    1. I’m in the same boat as you, Alexandra! I love pasta, and I think I could eat it almost every night of the week. Even so, malfatti are a new discovery for us…and we love ’em! Definitely put these on the menu. They’re surprisingly easy to make, and they’re so tasty, too! 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    wow those malfatti are called koftay here in south Asia but those are the beef one. never had a spinach ball lol. looking forward to make this at home it looks so delicious and comfortable on the layer of that stew

    1. Interesting! I actually just made some kofta, but on the grill. Super tasty! These malfatti are different in that they’re pasta…but still super tasty. Thanks so much for leaving a comment!

  9. 5 stars
    Cracking up that the name means, ‘poorly made’. If you really were trying to make them look bad, I’m sorry my friend, you did not succeed. 😉

    These remind me of gnudi which we LOVE! I’m definitely going to try this recipe, David.

    1. Haha! Why thank you so much, Marissa. It’s the first time I’ve been happy to fail at a recipe. 🙂 And, yes, these are similar to gnudi! I hadn’t thought about that until you said it. Mmm…now I want gnudi!

  10. 5 stars
    The goodness of spinach … wolaah something we love. additionally, this recipe has no-meat, indeed my kind of recipe as we don’t eat meats 🙂

    1. Spinach really is a fun one to cook with! And I’m always amazed at how much it shrinks down when you cook it. 🙂 I hope you enjoy this recipe, Priya. It’s delicious!

  11. These are the opposite of poorly made — beautifully made, I’d say. I had to do a double take at first because I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that they’re pasta! I’m inspired and intrigued and must try them. 🙂

    1. Haha! Here’s the thing about malfatti…they are silly easy to make! I just rolled ’em up in a ball, but you could go with other shapes as well. And, yes, they are indeed pasta! Seriously delicious recipe, Valentina. Put this one on the menu for sure! 🙂

  12. 5 stars
    I hadn’t heard of Malfatti before. Even in all the Italian restaurants I’ve been in! I love how you continually produce recipes making food I’ve never heard of. And these are quite easy to make too. Nice one David. Thanks again!

    1. I’m with ya, Neil…I wasn’t terribly familiar with Malfatti, either. But now they are definitely on regular rotation around here. These are so easy to make, and they’re packed with flavor. Definitely a good dinner option when you need to mix things up a bit!

  13. Never before heard about malfatti, but i’m definitely making some. They don’t look bad, i love their bright green color.

    1. Malfatti are relatively new to us, too, Azu…but they’ve quickly become a favorite. They’re easy to make, and the flavor is excellent! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

    1. Hey Rob. Thanks so much! I’ve never made this recipe with frozen spinach, but I think it would work just fine. I would recommend using about 7-8oz. of frozen spinach in place of the 16 oz. of fresh spinach. I hope this helps! And if you make this with frozen spinach, let me know how it turns out? Cheers!

  14. I have never made malfati before but I have had them many times. I tried this recipe and added some sage, nutmeg and butter along with a 1/4 cup of gruyere cheese. And my family went nuts over these little treats! So for the first time ever I had to write down what I did because they truly were the best malfati I have ever eaten! Thank you!

    1. Hey Loretta! I’m so glad you and your family loved this recipe – it really is a tasty one. The sage, nutmeg, butter + gruyere sound like tasty additions for sure. I hope you make these again soon! Cheers, and Happy New Year!

  15. 5 stars
    My close friend’s mother in Florence uses hardly any flour and they just melt in your mouth. She explained that malfatti should be like, “the inside of a ravioli.”

    1. Interesting! It sounds like she makes her malfatti almost like ricotta gnocchi then. I bet they are delicious! Thanks for sharing, Joe!

  16. 3 stars
    All proportions are good. Light tasting. I chose to make them as Gnocchi because I thought the balls would be too heavy and doughy. I didn’t like the semolina four because it gave the Malfatti a grainy texture. I will make them again but with all flour.

    1. Hey Bill! You make a good point about the semolina flour here. Semolina does produce a lighter texture, but it is grainier than flour. I suspect all flour might be a bit heavy, although let me know what you think if you try it out. I might err on the side of 3/4 flour and 1/4 semolina, but that’s just me!

  17. I would love to try this. Do you happen to have the recipe in the metric system as well?
    (Unfortunately, I have been experience with converting American recipes into metric recipes myself because every website gives different information on converting.)

  18. Super easy & delicious. Will be making again & again! Wondering if cooked Malfatti that haven’t been sauced can be frozen. Thanks

    1. Hey Karen! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe – it is a fun one for sure. I’m thinking you probably could freeze the cooked Malfatti. However, I might be tempted to try to freeze them uncooked. They cook so quickly that it wouldn’t be too difficult to just cook them fresh each time. If you try either method out, let me know! We usually just eat any extra as leftovers the next night, but now I’m curious about freezing. Cheers!

  19. 5 stars
    I just tried this recipe, but used a different sauce, trying to replicate one that I had found in Florence. It was butter, fresh sage leaves, truffle oil and then a little bit of shaved truffle on top of the dish with a little bit of shaved Parmesan on top. Delicious! Question – I have leftover Malfatti, should I cook then freeze or freeze, thaw then cook? Thank you!!

    1. Hey Fay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. That sauce you described sounds absolutely fantastic – we had some amazing truffle dishes in Florence, too. Now I need to try that sauce with malfatti! To answer your question, I would freeze them uncooked. Enjoy!

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