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Malfatti with tomato, lemon and basil

Australian Gourmet Traveller wine match recipe for malfatti with tomato, lemon and basil.

By Alice Storey
  • 25 mins preparation
  • 20 mins cooking
  • Serves 4
  • Print
Malfatti with tomato, lemon 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.
Celebrate the most Italian of flavours with homemade gnocchi, fresh tomatoes, basil and a light nebbiolo.


  • 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 plain flour (1/3 cup)
  • 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 basil, finely chopped, plus extra to serve (loosely packed)
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon, juice of ½
  • Pinch of caster sugar (optional)


  • 1
    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.
  • 2
    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.
  • 3
    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.
  • 4
    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.


Drink suggestion by Max Allen