Saffron Gnocchetti Sardi (Malloreddus) & Squid Ragu

On a grey day (and isn’t it so grey now?), saffron on your plate can brighten your heart as well as your dinner plate. Golden yellow and joyful, delicious too. Sure it is expensive, but it is used sparingly, and it is always worth having some in your cupboard. This grey weather is tough, it needs sunshine, however we find it.


I love to make pasta at home when I can carve the time for it. Some pasta takes no time at all. A favourite speedy homemade pasta is malloreddus aka gnocchetti Sardi. Southern pastas like this can be fast and straight forward. Just flour (semola di grano duro) and water with a little salt, combined and kneaded until supple, then rested before being shaped. Some shapes are easier than others, and all with practice become a speedy and therapeutic thing. Gnocchetti Sardi is the perfect example of this. Shaped traditionally on the lines of wicker baskets and more commonly now on gnocchi boards, you can use a fork if you don’t have one of these. I have used a comb once purchased at a corner shop near a friends in Ireland when we decided last minute that we quite fancied a fun cooking session. 


Squid ragu first grabbed my attention at the now (sadly) closed Koffman’s. Pierre Koffman’s squid ragu was deeply savoury, wrapped around tender strips of squid in place of pasta. I had never thought about squid in a ragu before then, and I loved the idea of squid as pasta, I have had make squid ragu on my recipe list ever since (a gargantuan dynamic file that I dip in and out all the time). While it may have taken me a few years to action that, I finally did here. 

I did not use squid as pasta here, but I did add the squid in two phases as Koffman did. The tentacles and the wings at the side finely chopped first and cooked for half an hour with tomato, chilli and garlic. This base sauce tasted brightly of the sea, so gorgeous, why it had taken me so long to explore this? While the pasta was boiling, I added the remaining squid, chopped into fine rings and cooked only for a few minutes. 

This will cheer your spirits. It is soothing to make and completely delicious. Enjoy! 

NOTE: You can use a gnocchi ridger to shape these (I bought mine at Sous Chef for just £4), but I have used a butter paddle, a fork, even a comb for these. And I have seen people use sushi mats online also. 

Saffron Gnocchetti Sardi with Squid Ragu
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Saffron Gnocchetti Sardi with Squid Ragu


    malloreddus / gnocchetti Sardi
  • 200g durum semolina flour (semolato di gran duro)
  • 100ml tepid water + more as needed (flours vary)
  • good pinch of saffron
  • pinch of sea salt
  • gnocchi ridger, fork or sushi mat to shape the pasta
    squid ragu
  • 2 squid with tentacles
  • 400ml tomato passata
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • chilli to taste - one fresh, I like to use a teaspoon of Korean gochugaru which is mild and fruity (Aleppo pepper works very well too)
  • olive oil for frying
  • sea salt and pepper
  • Garnish: I have used pea shoots here which I love the flavour of, flat leaf parsley and finely chopped spring onion work very well also


  • First make the gnocchetti Sardi (malloreddus). I use my mixer with dough hook but this is straight forward by hand also, and it is very satisfying.
  • Toast saffron threads in a little foil parcel on a dry hot frying pan for a minute. Crumble into the water and allow to infused for 5 minutes.
  • If doing this using a mixer, put the flour, some salt and the saffron water in your mixing bowl and knead with the dough hook. Add water slowly of required. If by hand, combine the flour and a pinch of 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.
  • Prepare your ragu while the pasta rests. Heat a tablespoon of oil over a medium heat. Sauté the garlic and chilli for a minute, add the passata and then add the finely chopped squid tentacles and wings. Cook for half an hour, adding water if it looks like it is drying out (not too much). This is a good time to shape the pasta.
  • Shape the pasta by rolling it into a log and pinching off small balls of roughly the same size. Shape them by pushing the balls against the ridges. This will shape them as they roll. Leave on a single layer on a wooden chopping board covered with a clean tea towel.
  • Boil some salted water to cook the pasta. Add the squid rings to the ragu at about the same time as you add the pasta. They will cook in roughly the same time frame. Once the pasta floats it is ready. Add to the ragu and stir through for a minute or so. Season to taste and serve immediately.



    Written by Niamh
    Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.