Recipe for Gluten-Free Malfatti (Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings) with Simple Tomato Sauce (Gluten Free, Vegetarian)

The spinach I’ve been getting in my CSA is gorgeous.  It’s easy to find ways to eat up my leafy greens each week.  One of my new favorite ways uses up a whole pound of fresh spinach in one go–Malfatti with Simple Tomato Sauce.  Malfatti means “poorly made” in Italian.  Or something like that.  They are also ravioli nudi because it’s what you’ll find inside of the the ravioli, except without the pasta.  Or something like that. My recipe for gluten-free malfatti is every bit as good as the real thing.

All I know is that I like spinach and ricotta.  And I really like Malfatti.  Poorly made, naked, or whatever you call it.  I also like it smothered in a chunky tomato sauce topped with more cheese and baked in the oven.

You know what else?  It’s Saturday evening and I’m dreaming of Monday morning when I can bid my two oldest children and my husband good-bye for the day and return to normal activities.  They’ve all been on Spring Break this past week and that has been an exercise in patience and long suffering.  Also, my eardrums are ready for a little Spring Break of their own.  I’m thinking a looooong solo drive up the canyon for some silence might be nice.  Have I turned into one of those mothers who can’t stand her children?  Yes. Maybe. No.  But I do know how much I appreciate those 6 hours of public school a day.  (Also, I don’t know how you school teachers do it!)

This week was a bit crazy and the weekend hasn’t been much different.  So between the crazy Utah weather, my crazy children, and my crazy mood swings (see: crazy weather and crazy children), I was ready for some warm, homey comfort food.  Malfatti is where it’s at, I’m telling you.  I’ve made it twice this week already.

Don’t let the spinach deceive you!  It’s not even a little bit healthy with all the cheese and eggs.  And some more cheese on top.  (And if you eat 1/4 of the pan yourself….)  But you can sort of tell yourself that you’re doing a great job by getting a good dose of leafy greens into your diet and feel a little less guilty for consuming all that delicious cheese.  Oh, that delicious cheese!

And while I’m babbling on about muddy afternoons at the park with three screaming children and two batches of cookies that didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped, and the ungodly amount of Cadbury mini eggs I consumed in the past 6 days, run off into the kitchen and make some malfatti for yourself and the people you love because one thing is for sure–it’s incredibly delicious and doubles as a giant Bandaid for whatever ails you.  Even if it’s just that your mom asked you to make your bed and clean your room and you think it’s the end of the world.  (It’s so tough to be 8 yrs old!)

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Gluten-Free Malfatti (Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings) with Simple Tomato Sauce (Gluten Free, Vegetarian)

Spinach and ricotta dumplings served with a simple tomato sauce. Gluten-free.

  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 mins
  • Yield: 6-8 1x


Units Scale
  • For Malfatti:
  • 1/2 to 1 cup water
  • salt
  • 1 lb. baby spinach
  • 1 lb. whole milk ricotta
  • 2 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (or a mix of both), divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (or regular all-purpose flour)
  • Salted water, for boiling
  • For Simple Tomato Sauce:
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • One 28 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • One 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp. finely minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (oregano and basil)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. For Simple Tomato Sauce: Heat the olive oil in a 3 quart sauce pan or large skillet. Add onion and cook until it starts to soften and turn translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened. Season with the fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to assemble or make ahead of time, cover and chill until ready to use.
  3. For Malfatti: Heat a large pan and add about 1/2 cup of water. Add about half of the spinach and use tongs to turn spinach over as it wilts. Add the remaining spinach and season well with salt. Cook for a few minutes until wilted. Immediately remove and place in a colander to drain and cool. When cool enough to touch, grab with your hands and squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach. (You can also place all of the spinach in a few layers of cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel and squeeze it that way.)
  4. Roughly chop the squeezed spinach. Squeeze again if the spinach is releasing more liquid. Place in a large bowl and add the ricotta, 1 1/2 cups of the Parmesan cheese, eggs, and nutmeg. Mix well and add the flour. Mix again until combined. Cover and chill until ready to boil the dumplings.
  5. Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Working in several batches, drop tablespoon-sized balls of the spinach/ricotta mixture into the boiling water. (It’s super easy if you have a 1 oz. ice cream scoop.) Let cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the dumplings float to the surface. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a 9 by 13″ glass baking dish. Repeat until all the dumplings have been cooked.
  6. To assemble: Top the malfatti with the tomato sauce and sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
  • Author: Lindsey Johnson
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Category: Main, vegetarian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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  1. You are a doll, I’m so glad I came to your cooking class the one Saturday I could. I love your recipes and lots of new ideas instead of just juicing my greens. I don’t eat flour or sugar so I love many of your your great ideas. Thanks Simuch for sharing so willingly , a grateful organic garden member Rhonda Norton

  2. We made these tonight and they were delicious! Even better, my husband started them before I got home and it was easy enough for him. My daughter (who is 3) exclaimed that it was delicious; always a good sign. Thanks for a great recipe. We’ll be making them again.

  3. Hi,

    This recipe looks great! Can I use something to replace the eggs in this? I am trying to remove that from my diet as much as possible!

    1. Hi Rekha! Hmm. That’s a good question. I suppose if you used something else that would help keep it together you could leave out the eggs. Maybe chia would work the best, or adding more flour? I’m not 100% sure about that one since I haven’t tried it myself. Let me know if you give it a try!

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