Sardinian gnocchi, internationally-renowned hearty food
25 / 06 / 19
Malloreddus, one of the region’s most famous pasta shapes, are Sardinia’s traditional dish par excellence, almost a must-have of the most important occasions, from local festivals to weddings.
A speciality included in the list of Traditional Agri-food Products (the Italian acronym being PAT), they are typical of the Medio Campidano zone, located in the central-southern area of the island, where they are made with a very concave shape and a couple of centimetres long. However, they are the same as other smaller types of pasta made with similar techniques in other Sardinian areas: around Sassari they are called ciciones or cigiones, near Logudoro macarones caidos or macarones de punzu and near Nuoro macarones cravaos, though there are also the cassulli typical of the island of Carloforte and the chiusoni in Gallura.
Apparently the name malloreddu comes precisely from their small rounded shape, which in the imagination of inland shepherds was reminiscent of the shape of a small calf (in the Sardinian dialect spoken in the Campidano area malloru means bull). According to other sources, the word comes from the Latin word mallolus, small lump, gnocco.
Durum wheat semolina, water and salt are the ingredients used to make them. For a richer flavour, the traditional recipe also has saffron, another typical Sardinian product that is no longer used in the dough nowadays to make the pasta more ‘neutral’ and suitable for different sauces.
According to tradition, which is well alive in the small workshops or houses on the island, the manual workmanship is still full of charm: durum wheat semolina is kneaded with water on the sa mesa, a wooden table or inside the sa tianedda, a wide and deep terracotta bowl. Rolled-up strips of pasta about 15 cm long are made, cut into small cubes and crushed against the edge of a straw basket called su ciuliri, the sieve, to give the gnocchi their typical grooves.
Among the many recipes that go well with this shape of pasta, the most classic version are the celebrated malloreddus alla campidanese: the sauce is made by browning the sausage in a sautéed mixture of finely chopped onion and garlic to be sautéed with white wine before adding puréed tomatoes and cooking everything for about an hour. The pasta, cooked ‘al dente’, is mixed with the sauce and then sprinkled with grated pecorino cheese. There is a mouth-watering variant where it is thickened with a pecorino cheese cream, made by liquidising grated pecorino with a ladle of cooking water. To get the typical bright colour of this dish, you can add the traditional few strands of saffron ten minutes before the sauce is ready.
Sgambaro Sardinian gnocchi are also delicious with fish (this is how we’ll cook them in September with chef Bruno Barbieri in a Japanese-Sardinian fusion!) and yummy even for kids in the simpler and lighter version with the tomato and fresh ricotta sauce.