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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