Mallor … what?
Malloreddus, also known as gnocchettii sardi (sardinian gnocchi), is a typical pasta shape from the Italian island of Sardinia. The rather unusual name is Sardinian dialect for baby calves. In the north of Sardinia they sometimes write it as malloreddos. You can buy them dried (produced industrially), semi-dried, or you can make them fresh at home. Obviously, the latter is the more traditional.
The base ingredient is semola di grano duro (semolina flour). This is mixed with a small amount of oil, a pinch of salt, and enough water to bring it together into a smooth dough. You can add saffron (a typical product of Sardinia) to make yellow malloreddus. If you are using saffron stamens, you should dissolve them in a tablespoon of water. Alternatively you can use saffron power which you can find in Italian delis. Traditionally you eat a mix of yellow and white ones.
The ingredients for enough malloreddus to serve four people are:
- 300g (2 1/2 cups) semola di grano duro (semolina flour)
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 sachet of saffron powder
The ridges on the malloreddus were originally made using a wicker basket. Today people use a gnocchi board, a wooden paddle with grooves cut in it, rather like a butter pat. You can find these in Italian shops or online.
Mixing the dough
To make the dough, place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix together. Then add the oil and mix through with a spoon. Make a hole in the middle and add water, little by little, until the flour comes together into a dough roughly the consistency of plasticine. The exact amount of water depends on the flour you are using and the humidity where you are. The dough should not be wet but should be a little sticky. If the dough is too wet add a little more flour.
Kneading the dough
Turn the dough out onto a wooden board and knead for about ten minutes until it’s smooth. If you have used the right amount of water, you shouldn’t need to put any extra flour on the board. Otherwise, sprinkle a small amount of flour before kneading.
Add the saffron
If you are using saffron, at this point, cut the dough in two. Wrap one half in clingfilm, put it back in the bowl, and cover with a tea towel. Flatten the other half and sprinkle the saffron powder on top. Fold it over and continue to knead for about another five minutes or until the dough is an even yellow colour. Then wrap this in clingfilm and put it to rest in the bowl with the other half for at least an hour.
When the dough has rested, cut each piece into three equal parts. Then, using the palms of your hands, carefully roll each part into a long sausage about a centimetre (1/3 inch) in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut each sausage into 1/2 centimetre (1/6 inch) pieces. Take your gnocchi board and place one piece on top. Using your thumb, squeeze the piece of pasta gently and then roll your thumb away from your body in the direction of the grooves. As if by magic, you will have your first malloreddu.
Place your malloreddus to dry on a clean tea towel. Try not to let them touch each other or they might stick. Leave them to dry for a couple of hours. At this point you can either cook them or freeze them for later.
To cook your malloreddus, bring 3 1/5 litres (7 pints) of water to the boil and add a tablespoon of salt. Add the malloreddus to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 1 minute after they have risen to the top.
The simplest way to serve malloreddus is furriaos, tossed vigorously with grated Sardinian pecorino cheese (pecorino sardo). You can also eat them with a tomato sauce, mushroom sauce, or with other vegetables. The most famous way is alla Campidanese, with a sausage, tomato, and saffron sauce. I will be publishing this recipe in the next couple of days.