Friday, October 05, 2007

Malloreddus, or Sardinian saffron pasta

When I saw that Jaden's Steamy Kitchen was having a drawing for saffron, I knew I had to get my name in. I had one teeny-tiny pinch of saffron left, and the chance to win a full ounce of pure gold is verrrrry attractive.
So I decided to put that last pinch to good use.

The problem: what to make? Multiple versions of saffron rice, paella, bouillabaise, risotto, etc. had already been offered up, along with some more oddball entries – saffron tea, saffron cookies ... Hmmm. What about saffron dumplings? I found a couple of recipes for those, and they look good, but then I ran across a new word: Malloreddus.

What the heck is that? Why, it's a traditional Sardinian pasta that looks a lot like gnocchetti (pasta shaped like gnocchi), but with the addition of saffron.

There aren't a lot of recipes for it out there. Most of the ones I found involved prepping the sauce or meat (wild boar is popular), then opening a bag of commercially prepared, dried malloreddus and boiling it.

I did find two recipes for the pasta itself, though. One is Mario Batali's, and one is from Grand Rapids Community College's hospitality program.

You'd think I would want to go with Mario's first, but get this: GRCC has cooking videos for sale, and the clip of the malloreddus video has exactly the bit of info I most needed: how to shape the pasta. And the recipe is about half the size of Mario's so I decided that would get the test-run.

I have to confess: I've never made pasta from scratch before. I'm quaking in my clogs a little. But here we go!
The ingredients are simple: 14 oz. semolina flour, 7 oz. warm water, 1/4 tsp saffron, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tbs olive oil.
First you soak the saffron in the warm water for 10 minutes, then strain out the threads (I used a coffee filter). Mix the water, oil and salt and pour into the flour. Mix together, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface (such as this pink cutting sheet).
The dough looks rough. Then you knead it for 10 minutes, discovering in the process that normal counter height is not very comfortable for kneading. But you persevere and end up with smooth dough, which you cover with plastic wrap and let sit for half an hour.
Then you're ready to roll! Divide the dough into 4 to 6 equal portions and roll out each piece into a quarter-inch snake.

Use your poodle ruler to make sure you've got the sizes even. Don't have poodle ruler? I didn't either, until today. It was a gift from Moonbeam's Mama. Thanks, Beeb!

Then cut each roll into quarter-inch pieces. It doesn't really matter if you make the pieces larger than that, if you want larger pasta; the important thing is that all the pieces are the same size, so they will all cook through in the same amount of time.

Now comes the fun part:
For many years I've had these little wooden paddles in my box of random kitchen gadgets and never known what to do with them. I think they came from my grandmother or great-grandmother, and may have been used for serving salad or vegetables, or something. They have short handles and are very light. When I saw the little video with the gnocchi board, I thought Aha! and pulled them out. They are perfect.

You can roll the pasta off with your thumb, as shown, or turn the paddle and use four fingers, which proved more efficient, since I could do it in one smooth roll. Once you get a rhythm going, you can roll pretty fast.

Mario suggests using a fork to get the ridges. This will work in a pinch, especially if you have a wide, many-tined fork. This fork didn't work so well, but you do get ridges. Just a different look.
Then you have a whole bunch of rolled pasta! Make sure the pieces are separated or they will stick together. Now you're ready to boil.
Depending on the thickness of the pasta, it can take anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes. Make sure to salt your water, and don't crowd the pot. If you want to cook a lot of pasta, use a stockpot.

Et voilà!
This was just a test batch, and I think I made them a little too thick. Have to work on my pressing and rolling technique. And it is clear that they will work best in a sauce, being fairly substantial and able to hold lots of saucy goodness in their ridges and crannies. They are indeed quite tasty!

The saffron flavor was very light. I was looking at Hanne's recipe for Swedish saffron bread that was submitted for the contest and noted that you want to soak that saffron for 12(!) hours. I think I would try that, maybe pulverizing the saffron first and then not filtering the water, so you get more saffron punch – plus pretty speckles – that isn't completely eclipsed by the sauce's flavor.

I got the fixings to make a bolognese sauce, which I'll do tomorrow. We'll see how well the pasta holds up after drying overnight.

Can't make any more malloreddus until I get more saffron, so cross your fingers that I win Jaden's contest!


  1. Those paddles are just too cute! And that pink ruler, too!

    Did you have a lot of yellow strands in your saffron? That may have led to the mild flavor. Honestly though, when too much saffron is used or it is soaked too long or heated when it should not be, I get a chlorine-like taste in the food, which I don't like. So for me, mild is good!

    You sure have a lot of enthusiasm to make pasta from scratch!

  2. Those are gorgeous! I love the paddles.

    I was going to enter Jaden's contest when I got distracted by the fact that someone else had just posted the recipe I was going to link to (Mark Bittman's tomato paella, which I made last week and it was fantastic) and completely forgot to pursue it further. So I hope you win!

  3. Thanks! I think you can submit the same recipe; I see a couple of duplicates there already. And most people did not blog the recipes; they just linked to a recipe on Epicurious or wherever. So go ahead and enter!

    Manisha, there were a couple of yellow threads, but what you see in the photo is what I used. Might not have been enough, since the recipe called for 1/4 tsp. That was a very scant 1/4 tsp. I didn't know that overprocessed saffron would do that (clearly I don't get to cook with it much). More experimenting necessary!

    The making from scratch turned out not as arduous as I thought, apart from all the rolling and shaping. I can definitely see getting into the habit of making simpler forms more often.

  4. Oh, YUM. DH makes a lot of pasta from scratch--I've never done it--and homemade is just the best.

    And I'd cross my fingers for you if they weren't already crossed for me. :-)

  5. They look perfect! Well, hopefully my kids will pick your name...because an ounce of saffron = mounds and mounds of Malloreddus!

  6. There is an Indian grocery on South Parker road that sells saffron for an incredible price. It's past Havana....then around the curve, and it's in the shopping center that has a Wendy's.

  7. Ooh, thanks Groovy! I will have to make a visit over there. It's been a while since I did any ethnic-grocery exploring.

  8. Thank you so much! I was just watching Tony Bourdain show and they were having this pasta, I I couldn't find a good recipe =) this looks great!!

    They are quite simillar to the Orecchiette I think, right?

    Greetings from Argentina =)