It is said Malfatti are a creation of Italian immigrant refugees who escaped the destruction of the San Francisco 1906 earthquake for Napa. NPR.org has an interesting article, “Malfatti, The Dumpling That Became A Napa Valley Legend” by Lisa Morehouse if you are interested in the history.
This is Jeff’s Italian grandmother’s recipe. Malfatti are a spinach and ricotta dumpling similar to gnocchi and oddly are sold at different liquor stores in Napa. For our wedding we taste-tested the malfatti from Val’s Liquors and Lawler’s Liquors, deciding to serve the dumplings from Lawler’s.
Set ricotta in a sieve over a bowl and let drain for six hours or overnight.
Bring ¼ cup water to simmer in a large stockpot. Add 6 oz of spinach at a time, letting each addition wilt before adding the next. Continue to cook until the spinach has released all its visible water. Remove from heat and let cool. Working in small batches, squeeze balls of spinach between your palms to remove any excess liquid. Chop spinach finely.
In a large bowl, mix well the ricotta, spinach, and garlic with the remaining ingredients except flour for dusting.
Dust your work surface with flour. Working in batches, take a portion of the spinach mixture the size slightly larger than a golf ball. Roll between your palms to form a ball then roll into a rope ½ thick on the floured surface. Cut the rope into 1 ½ inch pieces. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment. Repeat with the remaining spinach mixture.
Do ahead: Malfatti can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days or six months in the freezer.
When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, add malfatti in batches to boiling water and cook until they float to the surface, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Drain.
Serve malfatti with tomato sauce and grated parmesan.