Little balls of spinach, ricotta and parmesan.

Belula November 20, 2019
90° shot of the spinach malfatti on a plate with cream and parmesan cheese

The first time I had Malfatti was a very long time ago, at my aunt Cuti's house. I have to say that she's the best cook on the planet. I swear. Everything at her house is homemade, everything. It's inspiring. Every time we go there, I probably gain a kilo or two 😉 Thank you to my godmother for introducing me to these beauties.

45° shot of a fork digging into the spinach malfatti
90° shot of spinach malfatti with tomato sauce
Overhead shot of the spinach malfatti on a light green plate

Many years later I remembered they excited (sorry Cuti and especially I apologize to you, malfatti, for forgetting about your existence!). It was my friend Sofi who was in Paris for work a few months back who brought them to my attention and made me want to try and cook this pasta dish.

Malfatti, which literally means "badly made" come from the region of Liguria in Italy and originally, they were made in uneven forms, so I guess shape is not the most important thing here. They just need to hold and taste good!

It's a good way to make vegetables taste extra delicious if you have kids (or other family members 😉) who are not vegetable loving people by nature. And it's healthy-ish. Kind off, depending on the amount of parmesan you top them off with!

A hand sprinkling the malfatti with parmesan cheese
Malfatti shaped into small balls

I've been making them over and over, being spinach season and all, and everybody who has had them loved them. Including my baby boy Léon. You can't go wrong. It's a versatile dish because at the same time it is a perfect weeknight dinner option and a great meal to make when you are entertaining. You can prepare it in advance and then just throw it in the oven to bake while you enjoy your aperitive in the living room in good company without having to miss the whole conversation. Win-win.

The ingredients used in all recipes on this site are measured using the metric system. I use a scale to be precise with my measurements and ensure good results. If you would also like to use a scale, here are some: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, France.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition: 290 cal
Cuisine: Italian


  • Spinach (cooked and drained) 450 g
  • Parmesan (grated, a quality one) 150 g
  • Ricota (drained) 250 g
  • Eggs (small) 2
  • Flour 120 g
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Parmesan (optional extra)
  • Cream (heavy, optional)


  • 1. Cook the spinach. You can this in various ways: - A l'italienne : in small batches in salted and very hot olive oil, just for a minute or until you see the spinach is cooked (when it reduces in size almost to 1/10 of what you originally had in volume). - Over a double broiler. - Boiled. - If you choose to use frozen spinach, follow package instructions.
  • 2. Strain and once it has cooled off put the spinach at the center of a kitchen towel, close it and apply pressure by turning the towel (like a tourniquet) in order to remove all the excess water.
  • 3. This is very important, otherwise the spinach will release the water during cooking and the malfatti won't hold and will disintegrate.
  • 4. Chop the spinach as thinly as you can and put in a bowl together with the parmesan, ricotta, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix them well. Make sure the flour doesn't stay at the bottom of the bowl.
  • 5. Prepare a tray with parchment paper. Proceed to make little balls and put them on the tray closely together but not touching.
  • 6. Note: your hands will get sticky, don't get discouraged, this is normal. Just clean them from time to time so you don't end up with he whole malfatti mixture stuck on your palms!
  • 7. Bring salted (slightly) water to a boil in a large pot and cook the malfatti in small batches. They will float to the surface once they are ready (it takes a little longer than one would imagine). Remove using a skimmer.
  • 8. At this point you have three choices: - You can bring to room temperature, freeze them (only if you have used fresh spinach) and eat later! - You can dispose them on a baking tray, cover with tomato sauce and parmesan and bake until golden at 180 degrees Celsius. - You can coat them in a pot with cream and parmesan. I've tried them all. I prefer option number 3.
If you made this recipe I would really appreciate it if you leave a rating or comment below! Also, if you share on social media please use #cookwithbelula, I would love to see what you create!
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Delfina Herrera January 25, 2021

Hi Belula! I wanted to share with you that this has become my top recipe for Malfatti. Amazing!

Belén Gowland
Belula March 23, 2021

HI Delfina! So glad the malfatti have made it into your favorite recipes! Thank you for sharing this with me!

Alice July 10, 2021

Why can you only freeze if the spinach was fresh? What happens if the spinach you used was frozen, packaged spinach?

Belén Gowland
Belula September 20, 2021

Hello Alice! It is because it looses nutrients and the quality of the spinach. That being said, I think its ok if you freeze the malfatti if made with forzen spinach. Thanks for pointing this out!

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