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Russell Norman’s Spinach and Ricotta Malfatti

by Russell Norman from Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking

Love the look of the light and creamy balls of spinach and ricotta Russell Norman cooked on Saturday Kitchen? This easy-to-follow recipe is a delicious dinner party dish.

From the book

Russell Norman


I am not a show-off in the kitchen. I am not a professional chef and my technique tends to have that clumsy inelegance that distinguishes home cooks from the restaurant variety. But when there is fun to be had in the kitchen, I do like to share it.

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.

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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 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
200g semolina
100g butter
a handful of picked sage leaves


Steam the spinach for 3 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 3 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.

More Recipes from Venice

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More Recipes from Venice

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by Russell Norman from Venice

Swordfish Puttanesca

by Russell Norman from Venice


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From the book: Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking

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