Malloreddus Pasta with Fennel and Sausage

I’ve been to most of the regions of Italy, but not yet to the island of Sardinia (Sardegna in Italian). Owen, one of the long time readers of this blog, requested a recipe for malloreddus, the typical pasta shape of Sardinia. At first I thought I had never heard of them, but then I realized that they are also known as “gnocchetti sardi”, and that DeCecco produces a dry version of them. I did some research and talked online to someone from Sardinia and found out that malloreddus are made from semolina flour and water, and that on Sundays saffron is added to the water (as saffron is too expensive to use on a daily basis).

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I also found out that malloreddus are most famously served alla campidanese, which means with a tomato sauce with Sardinian pork sausage and saffron. Owen suggested a sauce of fennel and sausage, and since this was his idea in the first place I decided to stick with that for my first experiment. I did simplify Owen’s recipe for the sauce slightly, more in line with how I think an Italian would prepare it. The sauce was amazingly flavorful and it would also be great on another type of short pasta or on store-bought gnocchetti sardi by DeCecco. So even if you are not going to make your own malloreddus, I urge you to try the sauce!

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The malloreddus came out well for a first attempt. I do not own the ‘instrument’ that Sardinians use to make them, so I had to make do with a fork instead. Next time I will try to make them a bit smaller and thinner. I want them to be only 2 cm (.8″) when they are cooked. The saffron gives them an amazing yellow color, but it is hard to taste. The saffron is probably easier to detect when it is added to the sauce instead. Of course the appropriate cheese for this pasta is pecorino sardo, sheep’s cheese from Sardinia.

Ingredients

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For 2 servings

150 grams (about 1 cup) semola di grano duro rimacinato (semolina flour)

80 ml (1/3 cup) water, plus a bit more

pinch of powdered saffron (optional)

pinch of salt

For the sauce

2 Italian pork sausages, regular or with fennel seeds, about 140 grams (5 oz)

1 onion

1 fennel bulb

1 tsp fennel seeds

80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine

2 Tbsp olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

freshly grated cheese, preferably pecorino sardo

Preparation

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Dissolve the powdered saffron, if using, in 80 ml (1/3 cup) water.

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Put the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add a pinch of salt (optional).

I prefer to make the dough in the stand mixer. You can of course also knead it by hand.

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Turn on the machine and slowly add the water with the saffron.

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The dough will not yet come together.

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Now very slowly add some more water, just enough to make the dough come together, not more. I added 15 ml (1 Tbsp).

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When the dough has come together, remove the paddle attachment and switch over to the dough hook.

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Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it is very smooth and pliable.

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Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for half an hour.

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When the dough has rested, take a piece of the dough and on a wooden work surface roll it out with your hands to obtain a thin sausage (about 1 cm or 1/3 inch in diameter).

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Cut the sausage into pieces of about 1 cm (1/3 inch) each.

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Press each piece of dough on a fork (or on a ribbed gnocchi instrument if you own one).

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And then ‘roll’ it down so that you end up with a malloreddus that is bent with the ribs on the outside. You could also watch this video.

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Allow the malloreddus to dry for about an hour on a floured work surface.

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To prepare the sauce, cut the fennel and the onion in quarters and then in thin slices.

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Take the sausage meat out of its casing and chop it.

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Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Cook over medium low heat for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and fragrant.

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Add the fennel seeds and the fennel.

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Sauté over medium heat for a few minutes.

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Now add the sausage meat and continue to sauté until the meat has lost its raw color.

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Add the white wine.

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Cook over low heat until the fennel is tender but still firm to the bite. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt and the malloreddus.

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Cook the malloreddus for about 8 minutes or until they are al dente.

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Drain the malloreddus when they are cooked, and add them to the sauce with some freshly grated pecorino sardo.

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Toss to mix.

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Serve immediately on warm plates.

Flashback

Two years ago I prepared leg of rabbit, poached sous-vide in a fresh tomato sauce. Rabbit is often dry or tough, but with sous-vide it will be tender and juicy. Back then I didn’t have a chamber vacuum sealer nor ziploc sous-vide pouches, so I had to freeze the tomato sauce to be able to vacuum seal it.

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28 thoughts on “Malloreddus Pasta with Fennel and Sausage

  1. I have a fennel bulb in the fridge, so will try the sauce. But when do you add the fennel? With the onion or with the white wine? I read it over several times, but I couldn’t spot this info… thanks!

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  2. Another great dish, Stefan. I’ve seen malloreddus but never knew their proper name. “Gnocchi made with pasta dough” never did seem right. 🙂 I love the effect that the saffron had on the pasta’s color. This must have been a very flavorful dish of pasta. I’m sure Owen was pleased.

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  3. I finally got around to trying this recipe and loved it. I posted about my experiences with it this week. Fennel is back up there on my weekly shopping list now – thanks!

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