When you’re looking for new recipes that are healthy, but also insanely delicious, look no further than Sardinia, Italy. This traditional recipe for Sardinian gnocchi with meat sauce takes some time. But believe me, it’s worth it.

Sardinia, Italy is one of the healthiest places on the planet. It is home to one of the highest rates of active centenarians, and the life expectancy of men in this region is particularly high compared to the rest of the world.

In addition to a glass or two of wine every night with friends and family, an active life with delicious, traditional diets are part of the secret.

Cooking Italian food requires at least one recipe for making homemade pasta. Here, we tackle gnocchi. And although the tomato sauce in this recipe is relatively simple, we highly encourage you to try a local tomato sauce recipe used in Sardinian pizza.

The following recipe comes from a treasure trove of over 2,000 traditional and regional Italian recipes from the cookbook, La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy

This recipe will take some time, both to prepare the gnocchi and to simmer the meat sauce. Set aside a couple hours for the first attempt if you are less familiar with creating your own pasta.

First, you must prepare the gnocchi!

Add 3 cups of Semolina flour to a large, flat workspace or a large mixing bowl. Using the back end of a measuring cup, press down in the middle of the mound of flour to create a crater in the middle.

Semolina Flour for Small Sardinian Gnocchi

Add 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the crater and gently mix with a fork.

Making Small Sardinian Gnocchi

Gently start pulling flour into the center mixture from the sides and mixing together. Use your hands after the liquid is used up to mix in all of the loose flour. You will mix for a while until you are left with a fairly smooth ball of dough. If you stick you finger in the middle, it should come back out clean and the dough should not be sticky. If it is sticky, add in a tablespoon of flour and repeat the mixing and finger test. Repeat until your finger passes the test.

Then, it’s kneading time. Wash and dry your hands and move the dough to a clean, flat work surface.

Using the palm of your hand, press into the center of the dough mound and press away from you. Fold the dough in half, and rotate it one quarter. Now repeat. So, again, press and mash the dough together, fold, and rotate (always rotate in the same direction so as not to undue your work).

Ready for your upper-body workout? Repeat this process for 5-10 minutes. Your dough is ready when it gets a leathery feel to it.

To form the Sardinian gnocchi, cut the dough into manage-able pieces and roll them into pencil sized rolls.

Rolled Semolina Flour for Small Sardinian Gnocchi

Cut the long rolls into 1/2-inch pieces. Then, using a fork, press into them until ridges form.

Using Fork to Make Small Sardinian Gnocchi

Using your hands, roll them so the ridges are facing outwards and it is hollow on the inside. Don’t stack them on top of each other – they may stick together! Lightly dust with whole wheat or all-purpose flour.

These are the malloreddus (small Sardinian gnocchi).

Now it’s time to make the meat sauce.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep pan and saute 1 finely sliced, medium onion and lardo (pork fatback – although this adds a traditional element, you can choose to omit this if you’d like).

Then, add in the meat. Traditional recipes call for about 4 ounces of ground veal and 4 ounces of ground pork. You can choose to exchange this for other meats, like ground beef, or simply leave out the meat altogether.

Next, add 1 sprig of flat-leaf parsley and 1 sprig of rosemary. Add in 3 cups of tomato puree and 1 cup of water.

Simmer slowly for about 1 hour, adding more water as necessary.

Meat Sauce for Small Sardinian Gnocchi

Next, cook the malloreddus. 

Add them to lightly salted boiling water until they float to the top (they’ll tell you when they’re done!). Scoop them out, drain, and add to the sauce.

Add 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese, and serve hot.

Small Sardinian Gnocchi with Meat Sauce - Bowl

Pair this Sardinian gnocchi and meat sauce with a glass of granache wine. We recommend pairing the cooking time and meal with loved ones. The key to making the long cooking process enjoyable is sharing the time with friends and family, filling the kitchen with amazing smells along the way, and the delectable reward of a delicious, healthy meal for your hard work!

If you enjoy this recipe, try a recipe for Sardinian pizza. And if you’d like try some other healthy and delicious recipes from Ikaria, Greece, you won’t be disappointed!

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