Zucchini Malfatti with Stewed Tomato

Zucchini Malfatti with Stewed Tomato

These rustic Italian dumplings are called malfatti, which literally translates as “badly made”—thus giving us permission to be very imperfect cooks. Whip up a loose dough, lob a spoonful in a mound of flour, and drop it in the pot. No shaping, rolling, or fussing. Who said pasta from scratch was intimidating?!

Malfatti are traditionally made with ricotta and spinach, but the zucchini gives such a delicate fragrance that it’ll be a permanent substitute in this household. The dumplings, once cooked, form a doughy outer shell, but retain a lovely oozy center. Paired with barely stewed ripe tomato and sweet basil, you’ll think you discovered a forgotten land of savory dessert.


Zucchini Malfatti with Stewed Tomato

Serves 2–3 as a main course.


For the malfatti
1 medium zucchini (~8 oz)
1 cup ricotta
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 egg
Scant 1/2 cup flour, plus more for shaping
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the stewed tomato
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 or 2 basil leaves, slivered, for garnish


  • Grate the zucchini and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2–3 minutes, covered. Place in a colander and run cold water over the zucchini to halt the cooking. Press out as much of the moisture as you can, sprinkle a little salt over the zucchini, and set aside to continue draining.
  • Set a large pot of salted water on the stove and heat to a low boil. In a second, medium-sized pot over medium heat, drizzle the olive oil and saute the onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, so that the tomatoes are barely simmering. Cook until tomatoes are tender, but still have some structure, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, give the zucchini a really good final squeeze. You’ll find that the salt helped to release even more liquid. When it’s as dry as you can get it, combine the zucchini with the ricotta, parmesan, and egg in a large bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper. (The flavors are really delicate, so you don’t need much salt!) Gently mix in the flour until it’s all absorbed. The dough should be very wet—much wetter than a biscuit dough even—but not seem liquidy. Depending on how wet your ricotta and zucchini was, you may need to add a tad more flour.
  • Spoon a golf-ball-sized lump of dough into a bed of flour and roll around until all covered. (It will not look like a golf ball, and certainly will live up to its name—badly made.) Test the dough’s consistency by dropping the first dumpling in the gently boiling pot. If it holds together, you’re good to go. If it disintegrates, add a bit more flour to the dough before you proceed with making the rest. You should come up with about a dozen dumplings.
  • Cook the dumplings on a gentle boil, stirring once to make sure none stick to the bottom of the pot. When they float to the surface, give them another minute before you take them out. If you like firmer dumplings (less creamy filling), allow to cook for several minutes more.
  • Serve immediately on a bed of stewed tomatoes with basil leaves strewn on top.