Malloreddus Is A Pasta Similar To Gnocchi But Much Smaller

Welcome to Sardinia: an island 120 miles off the western coast of mainland Italy where folklore, craftwork, and hospitality to strangers characterize the scene. In other words, these are the kind of folks you want to be sitting down to dinner with, and in Sardinia, there's a good chance malloreddus is on the menu.

Malloreddus is a ridged pasta-meets-gnocchi shaped into little nuggets. It resembles miniature serrated gnocchi in both its appearance and dense, chewy, toothy mouthfeel. Malloreddus even goes by the name "gnochetti sardi," or "little Sardinian gnocchi." The etymology of the pasta's name is the subject of debate. Some linguists speculate that "malloreddu' comes from the Latin mallolus, meaning "morsel," while others theorize that it comes from "malloru," which means "bull" in the Sardinian campidanese dialect. Whatever you call it, malloreddus tastes just as good going down.

In Sardinia, malloreddus is commonly served at celebrations and on holidays. The pasta is typically homemade, made from a combination of durum wheat semolina flour, water, and salt — no eggs needed (like other pastoral Italian pasta shape strozzapreti). Opt for finely ground semolina flour to make the pasta dough smoother and easier to shape. Some foodies also add a pinch of saffron to the pasta dough for an earthy flavor and golden hue. Hand-rolling works here, a gnocchi board or a sushi mat can prove helpful for rolling homemade malloreddus into long, thin tubes before slicing it into smaller pieces. 

An incredible regional dish

Admittedly, hand-making this tiny pasta is labor-intensive, but it can be a fun way to get the whole family involved in the kitchen. Plus, you can make a big batch of malloreddus at once and freeze it for easy access in future recipes. Store-bought totally works too, for the record. (Rummo makes a great version.)

As you brainstorm sauces to pair with your Sardinian gnocchi, take a cue from the region. In Sardinia, food is all about terroir. Agricultural culture reigns with half the island being covered by natural pastures. Durum wheat, porco sardo (made from locally-raised pigs), and sheep's milk cheese are culinary staples of the region. As such, Sardinian foodies often chow down on Malloreddus alla campidanese, in which the pasta is tossed in pork ragu with saffron and Vernaccia di Oristano, a dry local wine comparable to sherry.

You could also make a flavorful seafood malloreddus with clams, pomodorini, and salty bottarga roe. Or, you could whip up a simple red sauce with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil. Kick it earthy style and coat your malloreddus in an aged pecorino béchamel with wild onions and fennel. For a thrifty dinner, toss 'em in pesto with some canned tuna and smoked Maldon salt flakes. To complete the meal, serve your saucy malloreddus with garlic bread, a Caesar side salad, and a medium-bodied red like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chianti.