Make your own Gnocchetti Sardi (Malloreddus)

Sardinian gnocchi (also known as Malloreddus) are made with a hard durum wheat (semolina) flour and saffron-infused water (no eggs) which gives them a distinctive golden yellow colour. It’s not a difficult recipe, but you may want to rope in some helpers if you have large numbers of gnocchi to make.

The dough

IMG_0122Allow 100g of flour per hearty portion – so 400g if you’re feeding four. Infuse a generous pinch of saffron threads or 1tsp of saffron powder in warm water – you will need between 1/3 and 1/4 of the weight of flour in volume (c. 150ml in this case). Add a little salt.

Make a ring with the flour on a board and pour some of the saffron-water into the middle, and draw the flour towards the middle using a fork. Keep doing this until you have incorporated most of the water and flour into a sticky dough. Knead it lightly, adjusting water and flour until the dough is relatively smooth and elastic.

Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 mins.


Forming the gnocchetti

Once chilled, divide the dough into quarters or more for ease of rolling. Roll these out using your fingers into long ropes of dough about 1cm thick. Cut each rope into thin ‘coins’ and then press each pasta piece against a fork with your thumb, pulling down as you press. This should add the characteristic grooves to the gnocchi. Patience, practice and helpers will win out here.

The little streaks of saffron you can see in the photo are because I didn't let the saffron steep long enough, plus I was a little mean with my
'pinch' of threads. IMG_0129



Either cook straight away, or dust with flour to prevent them sticking while you prepare the sauce. Once in a pan of boiling water, they will float to the surfacewhen nearly done, needing no more than 4-5 mins to be al dente.


I made two sauces, one vegetarian, one not:

Courgette 'pesto'

  • 3 medium courgettes, peeled & cubed
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Large handful of chopped parsley
  • Either thyme or basil to taste (I think thyme works better)
  • 1/2 tub of ricotta
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts (optional)

Fry the courgettes in some olive oil until beginning to colour. Add the garlic and the herbs and stir through. After another minute or so take off the heat and put in a blender. Add the ricotta, parmesan and pine nuts. Blitz to a thick puree. Adjust the seasoning. Serve warm.

Beef ragu

  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 500g tomatoes (skinned, de-seeded and chopped – how I longed for ripe Italian tomatoes when I was trying to skin these rock-hard UK supermarket toms!)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Hanfdul of chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

This is a very simple sauce. Fry the onions in a generous amount of olive oil. When they are soft, add the garlic and stir through. Add the mince and brown it all over. Then add the tomatoes and herbs let it simmer together for a few minutes, after which you can adjust the seasoning to taste. There are lots of ways to customise this (Marsala, red wine vinegar, a little sugar, perhaps some Tuscan red) but this works just fine the way it is.

Add a generous scoop of the courgette pesto to the gnocchetti, ladle on some ragu,and finish with your preferred hard Italian cheese. It may lose some of it's authenticity, but it sure is tasty! Buon appetito!