Baked Tuscan Gnudi (Malfatti) with tomato sauce.

Baked Tuscan Gnudi (Malfatti) with mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce.

In this baked Tuscan gnudi (malfatti) recipe, melt-in-your-mouth spinach and ricotta dumplings from Tuscany are cooked in a delicious homemade tomato sauce with mozzarella.

Baked Tuscan gnudi (Malfatti)

Gnudi al forno.

Tuscan spinach and ricotta gnudi are a type of gnocchi or dumpling from Tuscany. In parts of Tuscany, like Siena, they also call them malfatti, meaning badly made. Malfatti are also eaten in Lombardy. Gnudi or malfatti actually started life as the filling for a type of ravioli or tortelli but became a traditional dish in their own right. Written reference to these  delicious dumplings actually dates back to the 16th century!

Baked Tuscan gnudi (Malfatti) with homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella

Different ways to serve Tuscan Gnudi

These melt-in-your-mouth ricotta based gnocchi are traditionally made with spinach and eaten with a browned butter or a sage butter sauce. However, baked Tuscan gnudi (malfatti) are divinely delicious too, especially with a homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella! I like them served both ways, so I have included the recipe for sage butter gnudi as well! You can choose to serve yours in two different ways.

Tuscan gnudi or malfatti with sage butter
Tuscan gnudi or malfatti with sage butter

Making baked Tuscan Gnudi (malfatti).

The ingredients for gnudi or malfatti are simply fresh spinach, good sheep or cow ricotta, fresh eggs, plenty of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or aged Pecorino Toscano, flour and salt. Many people also add a pinch of nutmeg. If you are preparing baked Tuscan gnudi (malfatti), you will also need the ingredients to make a tomato sauce and some mozzarella.

ingredients for Baked Tuscan gnudi (Malfatti)

Although Tuscan spinach and ricotta gnudi are pretty easy to make it’s important to get the consistency right. If the ingredients are too ‘wet’, you’ll need more flour and the resulting gnudi will be too heavy and floury. So, it’s essential that you drain the spinach and ricotta well. Both can actually be squeezed out in a cotton tea towel if necessary.

eggs, ricotta, spinach, Parmesan in white bowl for Tuscan gnudi (malfatti)

Tuscan gnudi al forno takes a little longer to make than if you are serving the dumplings just with browned butter or sage butter. However, you don’t need to bake them for very long and you can make the tomato sauce while the gnudi mixture is resting in the fridge.

uncooked Tuscan gnudi (malfatti) on floured baking paper

Gnudi can be made the day before.

Some people cook gnudi or malfatti immediately after making the mixture. However, many recipes recommend refrigerating it for at least 2 hours. This is what I do, when I make them. Also, some Italians say that gnudi or malfatti need to be used the day they are made. The ones I used in this baked Tuscan gnudi recipe, I had made the day before.

Some I served with sage butter for guests the same day as making them. The others I boiled and baked the following day. Just as yummy!  So if you need too, you can prepare the raw gnudi the day before and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

Baked Tuscan gnudi (Malfatti) with homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella

Two recipes in one.

You can use this recipe to cook Tuscan gnudi (malfatti) two ways. First way: Make the gnudi, cook them in boiling water and serve with some sage butter (melted butter with sage leaves cooked in it until crispy). Second way: follow all the recipe instructions and serve your baked Tuscan gnudi al forno in a homemade tomato sauce with melted mozzarella! If you make extra gnudi (malfatti) you can do like I did and eat them both ways! Twice the deliciousness!

Baked Tuscan gnudi (Malfatti)

If you make this baked Tuscan gnudi (malfatti) recipe or just serve them with sage butter, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Please write a comment here on the blog, email me or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback is really appreciated!

Buon Appetito!

Other Gnudi recipes on The Pasta Project

Ricotta Gnudi with black truffles.

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Tuscan spinach and ricotta dumplings gnudi

5 from 18 votes
Baked Tuscan gnudi (Malfatti)
Baked Tuscan gnudi (malfatti) with homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Resting time
2 hrs
Total Time
1 hr 30 mins

In this baked Tuscan gnudi (malfatti) recipe, melt-in-your-mouth spinach and ricotta dumplings from Tuscany are cooked in a delicious homemade tomato sauce with mozzarella. 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Central Italy, Italian, Tuscany
Keyword: baked pasta recipe, gnocchi, gnudi, homemade gnocchi, malfatti, ricotta, spinach
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 400 g fresh ricotta (14 oz) sheep or cow's ricotta
  • 400 g fresh spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 100 g Parmigiano Reggiano (3.5oz) grated or hard cheese without rennet for vegetarians
  • 60 g All purpose flour (2oz) or Italian 00 flour
  • 1 pinch nutmeg grated
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
For tomato sauce and mozzarella
  • 350 g Tomato passata (12oz) I use Cirio rustica. It's chunkier.
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • 6-8 basil leaves
  • 400 g fresh mozzarella (14oz)
For sage butter
  • 6-8 sage leaves
  • 100 g butter (3.5oz)
Make the gnudi (malfatti)
  1. Wash your spinach and boil in a little salted water for about 8 minutes, then drain and leave to cool a bit, wring out well and chop finely.

  2. Drain the ricotta of any liquid and put it in a bowl with the spinach, 2/3 of the grated Parmigiano, the egg, the egg yolk and the flour, after passing it through a sieve. Grate a little nutmeg into the mixture. Add salt and pepper as required.

  3. Mix everything carefully with a fork. You can also use your hands but you don’t want to knead this dough, just make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it to rest for at least 2 hours in the fridge. 

Make the tomato sauce if baking your gnudi
  1. Peel the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic, once it starts to soften add the tomato passata and basil leaves. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove the garlic cloves when the sauce is ready.

  2. Drain the mozzarella and cut into small slices or cubes.

Finish the gnudi
  1. Place some baking paper on a tray and sprinkle with flour. Take about a flat tablespoon full of gnudi mixture and form into a ball. You can use wet hands to make the balls. I use an ice-cream/melon scope or a tablespoon to get the same quantity of gnudi mixture for each ball. Place the gnudi on the tray and roll a little to cover each ball slightly in flour. 

  2. Put a pot of water onto boil. Cook the gnudi in the boiling water for 2-4 minutes, when they come to the surface, allow a few seconds and then remove with a slotted spoon. The time it takes your gnudi to rise to the surface will depend on how big they are. 

If serving with sage butter
  1. If you are serving with sage butter while the water is boiling and the gnudi are cooking, melt the butter in a skillet or frying pan. Add the sage leaves to the butter and cook until they start to crisp. Both the butter and the sage need to be a little brown but not burnt. Plate the gnudi and pour over the sage butter. Add some grated parmesan and black pepper if required.

If baking your gnudi
  1. If you are making baked Tuscan gnudi, put the tomato sauce into an oven dish. Place the cooked gnudi in the sauce. Add the pieces of mozzarella. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and bake in a preheated oven at 180 ° until the mozzarella has melted and the top has just started to brown. 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately! 

Recipe Notes

The number of gnudi (malfatti) you make will depend on the size. Cooking times will also vary depending on the size of your gnudi. 

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baked Tuscan gnudi (malfatti)

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  • Avatar
    E Colomo
    June 25, 2020 3:55 am

    Wondering about freezing the extra gnudi. How should I defrost if frozen?

    • Jacqui
      June 25, 2020 10:07 am

      Hi, thank you for your comment. Gnudi can be frozen after they have been boiled and cooled. You can then bake them from frozen. If you defrost them, they get too soggy!

  • Avatar
    December 20, 2019 3:26 pm

    I love this recipe! Such a great family-pleaser. And it gets everyone to eat spinach. Win-win.

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    December 20, 2019 3:22 pm

    This baked Tuscan gnudi malfatti will make a festive Christmas Eve dinner. I love the bright colors from the spinach and homemade tomato sauce.

  • Avatar
    December 20, 2019 2:57 pm

    Love this recipe! My whole family enjoyed it and it’s definitely one that I will make again and again!

  • Avatar
    December 20, 2019 12:33 pm

    Oh wow! I love the combination of flavours here and how rich and delicious they sound. The photo showing the dish before it is cooked is spot on for me to follow. Thanks!

  • Avatar
    Heidy L. McCallum
    December 1, 2018 3:52 pm

    I love this recipe! Perfect for our family of pasta lovers.

  • Avatar
    November 30, 2018 11:45 pm

    This looks so good. I love the sauce. I bet it’s super flavored. And that melting cheese on top. Is just irresistible. I must save this recipe to try.

  • Avatar
    November 30, 2018 10:48 pm

    Yum! I love vegetarian dishes and this looks so good. The combination of spinach and the cheeses is awesome. I could eat a massive bowl of these and that tomato sauce – yum!

  • Avatar
    Andrea Metlika
    November 30, 2018 10:38 pm

    These sound wonderful. I definitely am going to try them.

  • Avatar
    November 30, 2018 10:36 pm

    I’m not familiar with gnudi but looks like a crowd pleaser. My Italian food lovers will be in heaven.

  • Avatar
    Veena Azmanov
    November 30, 2018 9:29 pm

    I have never made gnudi myself, always only order it in a restaurant. I didn’t know it was so easy. Saving this so I can try later.

  • Avatar
    Morgan B. Eisenberg
    November 29, 2018 8:41 pm

    I have never tried these before but they seem right up my alley! I have to make them!!

    • Jacqui
      November 30, 2018 11:31 am

      Thanks Morgan! I’m sure you’ll love these traditional Tuscan dumplings! They are so yummy!

  • Avatar
    Catherine Brown
    November 29, 2018 8:18 pm

    Those ingredients look fabulous… I can almost taste that tomato sauce right now! and what an excellen way to eat cooked spinach… something I usually don’t care for. Nice job!

    • Jacqui
      November 30, 2018 11:32 am

      Grazie Catherine! I love this way of cooking spinach but you can also make these with other greens such as chard, if you prefer!

  • Avatar
    November 29, 2018 6:59 pm

    I am going to have to give this baked Tuscan gnudi a try! This is cheesy goodness right here! Everything dreams are made of!

    • Jacqui
      November 30, 2018 11:33 am

      Thanks so much Sherri! You are going to love these baked gnudi. This dish is classic Italian flavours but prepared in a unique way!

  • Avatar
    November 29, 2018 4:41 pm

    These gnudi look delicious, especially with that tomato sauce and mozzarella. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Jacqui
      November 30, 2018 11:36 am

      So glad you like this recipe Julia! The gnudi really are so yummy and go so well with the tomato and mozzarella! Classic Italian flavours!

  • Avatar
    November 29, 2018 4:32 pm

    This is my first time hearing of Tuscan spinach and ricotta gnudi – I need to try this soon – it looks delicious!

    • Jacqui
      November 30, 2018 11:37 am

      I hope you’ll try these gnudi Shashi. I’m sure you’ll really enjoy them!

  • Avatar
    Danielle Wolter
    November 29, 2018 4:10 pm

    I’ve never heard of these before. Loving the idea! I def want to make these it sounds incredible 🙂

    • Jacqui
      November 30, 2018 11:38 am

      Grazie Danielle! Yes this dish is incredible but actually not so difficult to make! Hope you do try it!

  • Avatar
    November 29, 2018 4:00 pm

    What a fabulous dinner idea! Adding it to the menu for next week!

    • Jacqui
      November 30, 2018 11:39 am

      Thanks so mush Kim! Am sure your family and guests will love this dish!

  • Avatar
    November 29, 2018 3:35 pm

    Never knew these were so easy to make at home. And I love that they can be made a day ahead. I am going to try this recipe in December!

    • Jacqui
      November 30, 2018 11:41 am

      I’m so happy to hear you plan to try this recipe. Do let me know how it turns out Marisa!

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