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Perfect match: malfatti with a light nebbiolo

You'll need

400 gm trimmed silverbeet (1 large bunch) 500 gm firm ricotta 4 eggs, lightly whisked 50 gm parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve 50 gm (1/3 cup) plain flour For dusting: fine semolina 60 gm butter, coarsely chopped 1 onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 400 gm vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved ¼ cup (loosely packed) basil, finely chopped, plus extra to serve Finely grated rind of 1 lemon, juice of ½ Pinch of caster sugar (optional)


  • 01
  • Blanch silverbeet until tender (1-2 minutes), refresh, drain well, squeeze out excess moisture and coarsely chop. Combine in a bowl with ricotta, eggs, parmesan and flour, season to taste.
  • 02
  • Roll walnut-sized pieces of mixture into balls, then dust in semolina, taking care to completely coat malfatti, place on a tray dusted with semolina and set aside.
  • 03
  • Heat butter in a frying pan over medium heat, add onion and garlic, stir occasionally until tender (5-7 minutes). Add tomato, cook until soft (5-7 minutes), add basil, lemon rind and juice, then season to taste, adding a little caster sugar if necessary. Set aside, keep warm.
  • 04
  • Meanwhile, cook malfatti in simmering salted water over medium heat until they float to the surface (2-3 minutes), drain well with a slotted spoon, add to tomato sauce, gently stir to combine and serve scattered with parmesan and basil.

The name malfatti literally means "badly made". Or "misshapen". The latter translation better captures the rustic full-flavoured intensity of the dish - like a bulbous, lumpy, overripe tomato still hanging on the vine in late summer. There's an earthiness to the silverbeet, a sweet, intense herbaceousness to the basil, a creaminess from the ricotta, a sharpness from the sauce - heaps of seasonal goodness wrapped up and ready to burst in one dish. The very Italian flavours here would be nicely offset by a young, vibrant Italian-style red wine, and while a bouncy dolcetto, a succulent barbera or a more savoury sangiovese would be good, the slightly more tannic grip, lifted perfume and tart acidity of a nebbiolo is even better. Traditionally, many winemakers have taken nebbiolo very seriously indeed, producing a stern red wine from it - a mouth-coating monster that needs many years in barrel and bottle to soften before approaching maturity (and then needs to be paired with slow-braised meat dishes for best effect). But some smarter grape-treaders are now taking their neb and turning it into much more approachable wines - rosés, lightly wooded and less extracted reds. These are the styles that would match this dish well.

At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

Featured in

Mar 2011

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