Homemade Malloreddus (Gnocchetti Sardi) with Bacon, Peas, Chilli, Courgette & Parmesan
Fresh pasta is such a faff, right? You always want to do it but the stuff you get in the shop is just as good, right? I mean, who has that much time?
All of the above assumptions are incorrect. Fresh pasta is really quite straightforward and it is so much better (unless you are spending a lot of money on your dried pasta). It takes time but a lot of that time the dough is just resting and waiting for you. You make the dough – which depends on the pasta type, generally dough in the North is made with 00 pasta flour and eggs, and with water and semolina flour (a coarser grind of durum wheat) in the South – this usually takes 5 – 10 minutes. You let it rest as you have just beaten it about the place and it needs to unwind. Then you roll and shape it. Even hand rolling tagliatelle does not take that long, but some of the smaller shapes are super speedy, with practice. Of course this is a generalisation, but I use it just to give you an idea.
The peculiarly named malloreddus (it originates from the Latin mallolous, meaning small morsel, however, every time I say or read it I see malodour, anyone else?!) originates in Sardinia. It was traditionally shaped on wicker baskets, now more commonly using a grooved piece of class called a ciuliri or a gnocchi ridger. I have a gnocchi ridger so I use that (I bought mine at Sous Chef for just £4), but I have seen people use sushi mats too online.
I have been a little obsessed with this pasta shape. I have made it in several different sauces, all of which I loved. I would like to do a couple of traditional ones (like malloreddus alla campidanese, a saffron malloreddus with sausage and tomato) and I have some nice ideas for some seafood dishes.
Lets start with something bright and summery but with a punch too: malloreddus with bacon, peas, chilli, courgette and parmesan. Try and find small courgettes, they have more flavour. Use fresh peas if you can. You can use pancetta or guanciale which would both be wonderful (and guanciale is my favourite bacon of all). However, I do also love proper bacon, and I especially love smoked streaky, which I think is just perfect with the sweet peas and courgettes.
Now, that is all well and good right, but what about the pasta? Isn’t that the hard bit? No. A 5 year old with a passion for play dough could make this. If you have a 5 year old, test it on them! You need semolina flour (semolata di gran duro). This is available in any good Italian deli and also easy to source online. Just 200g of flour makes more pasta than you need for two servings, just dust it in extra semolina and let it dry out a bit on kitchen roll or a clean tea towel before freezing it on a single layer to use again whenever you want it. You can also keep it in the fridge for a few days, in the same way.
Come back soon for a lovely one that I made at a cooking school in Rome last weekend which had a deeply savoury vegetarian sauce. Yes, veggies, you will love it! So will the omnivores. Even the meatheads :)
RECIPE: Homemade Malloreddus (Gnocchetti Sardi) with Bacon, Peas, Chilli, Courgette & Parmesan
Malloreddus (Gnocchetti Sardi)
200g durum semolina flour (semolato di gran duro)
100ml tepid water
pinch of sea salt
gnocchi ridger or sushi mat to shape the pasta
400g fresh peas in the pod, podded
2 small courgettes or 1 normal one, halved lengthways and sliced into small slices
a generous pinch of good dried chilli or 1 fresh chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (personal taste will dictate how hot you like it, naturally!)
a sprinkle of good dried oregano (not too much as it is quite strong)
2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan
5 thick slices of smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, rind removed and finely sliced
First make the malloreddus. You can do it in your food processor if it has a dough blade or in a mixer, but it is very satisfying by hand. Combine the flour and salt and put on a wooden chopping board or pasta board (I only have a little one, I aspire to a great big Italian pasta board but I have a very small kitchen). Make a big well in the centre and add the water. Using a fork, slowly pull the flour into the water moving around in a circle. When the flour and the water are combined, test it with your fingers. If it sticks to your fingers it is too wet and needs a little more flour. If it is not entirely together yet, it needs more water. It is just right when it is a ball of dough that doesn’t stick to your fingers. Knead it until elastic, about 5 minutes. You will know it is ready when you pull it and it doesn’t fragment but stretches a bit. Wrap the ball in cling film and leave it in the fridge for half an hour to relax.
Divide the dough ball into 4. Keeping the parts that you aren’t using under cling film while you work, roll the first quarter between your palms or on the board, dusted with a little extra flour, until it is 1 cm in diameter. Using a knife cut it into small portions 1 cm long. Roll them on your gnocchi ridger or sushi mat with a quick motion. See, isn’t that so easy, and aren’t you really impressed with yourself? We will use half now and you can save half for another meal.
Dust with semolina and leave to the side until you need them.
Now the sauce. Sauté the bacon in a dry frying pan over a medium heat – it has enough fat and doesn’t need extra. When starting to brown add the courgettes, peas, chilli and oregano and cook until the courgettes and peas are tender, you still want them both to have bite.
Boil some salted water and cook about half of the malloreddus until they rise to the top, this just takes a few minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce with some of the cooking water. Add the parmesan and stir quickly to form a sauce. Season and serve immediately.
Simple as that!