A Gateway Fresh Pasta for Those Who Want the Project, but Not the Fuss

If you’ve never made your own pasta at home, then this recipe from chef Josh Cohen is a good place to start.

March 26, 2020
Photo by Josh Cohen

When I want fresh, homemade pasta—but don’t want the fuss of an elaborate cooking project—I turn to my favorite Sardinian pasta shape: malloreddus (1). Also known as gnocchetti sardi, this shape requires neither a rolling pin nor a hand crank, and the process of making them is so simple that it can become a truly relaxing, even meditative, cooking project.

Most traditional fresh pastas are made using eggs and finely ground white flour. The malloreddus dough, on the other hand, is comprised of water and durum wheat semolina flour. If you don’t have a lot of experience making homemade pasta, then this eggless malloreddus dough is perfect practice because it’s exceedingly forgiving and utterly affordable.

Making malloreddus is similar to shaping gnocchi. After the dough has been kneaded and allowed to rest for about 30 minutes, one small handful at a time gets rolled into a long, thin snake shape about ¾-inch thick. This snake then gets chopped into little pillow shapes using a bench scraper (or a sharp knife).

Plush pillows get shaped into malloreddus, thanks to a ridged wooden board. Photo by Josh Cohen

The malloreddus are formed by lightly pressing down on each pillow with your thumb and then gently pushing the dough forward across a ridged wooden board. If you don’t have a board, then simply do this same process on any flat surface. (If you want the ridges, then just use the tines of a fork.) Without the ridges, your finished product will resemble a pasta shape called cavatelli rather than malloreddus, but in terms of taste and texture these shapes are nearly identical, so really it’s all good.

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Top Comment:
“I just used my standard pasta recipe: 2 c AP flour 1/2 tsp kosher salt 1/2 olive oil 3 eggs They are delicious and a perfect vessel for marinara. And yes, with all this time at home very therapeutic ... I just get into the zone while making them. ”
— Susan D.

In Sardinia, you’ll likely see malloreddus served with a long-simmered meaty ragu. At home, though, I like to boil the malloreddus, then toss them in brown butter with a squeeze of lemon juice and a heaping handful of grated pecorino for a near-instant pasta fix. Recently, I’ve been enjoying malloreddus in homemade broth. This preparation takes a little more time, but the bouncy bite of the pasta shells swimming in a rich homemade broth is unbeatable and utterly comforting. Served this way, the malloreddus are almost reminiscent of chicken and dumplings.

Serving malloreddus in broth is completely untraditional, but alone in my home on a chilly evening, it just feels right. One night, on a whim, I added a pinch of saffron to the broth, which gave the dish a subtle, aromatic complexity. It also serendipitously happens to nod to traditional malloreddus preparations, which will sometimes use saffron either in the pasta dough itself or in the accompanying ragu. (If you don’t have saffron, then feel free to skip or add a tiny pinch of turmeric for that musky egginess, and the color of course.)

Both the broth and the malloreddus can both be made days in advance. The broth benefits from being made in advance, actually, because it allows you to easily skim away any excess fat that congeals on the surface (save this fat and use it to make eggs in the morning). Meanwhile, the malloreddus can be frozen immediately after they are formed, and then when it’s time to cook them, simply drop them into a pot of salted boiling water.

The dish comes together nicely, with shredded chicken thighs (used to fortify the broth earlier) and sauteed Lacinato kale (to bulk up the soup), making this a hearty and substantial meal in one single bowl.

If you’ve always wanted to make fresh pasta but you’ve never given it a try, this recipe is the perfect opportunity for you to get started. Even an inexperienced hand can make beautiful-looking malloreddus—and if they happen to look a little askew, they’re guaranteed to taste great anyway.

Photo by Coral Lee

Saffron Brodo With Malloreddus, Chicken & Kale

Serves: 3 to 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

  • 2 pieces bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 pound)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil (or any high-heat neutral oil)
  • 1 sweet vidalia onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 dried or fresh bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 cup durum wheat semolina flour
  • 3 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and sliced into bite-size pieces
  • Finely grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish (optional)


  1. To make the broth, lightly season all sides of the chicken with salt. Set a large pot over high heat and add the canola oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken skin-side down and the onion cut-side down. Reduce the heat to medium and let the chicken and onion cook undisturbed for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken skin is deeply golden brown and the onion is beginning to char. Flip the chicken and onion, and continue cooking for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the flesh side of the chicken also begins to caramelize.

  2. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, stirring regularly, to let the flavors of these aromatics bloom in the rendered chicken fat. Next, add 7 cups of water, along with the saffron and a pinch of salt. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot, releasing any caramelized bits that are stuck (these caramelized bits add lots of flavor!). Let the brodo simmer gently for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then shut the heat and transfer the chicken to a mixing bowl.

  3. Strain the brodo using a fine mesh strainer. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones. Shred the meat and add the meat back to the brodo. Now, at this point, you can refrigerate the brodo overnight, which will allow the excess fat to congeal, and then you can easily remove the excess fat the following day. Or, if you’re in a rush, use a ladle to skim off some excess fat. The brodo can be made up to a few days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. If you’re not refrigerating your brodo overnight, then you should make the malloreddus dough while the brodo is simmering.


  1. To make the malloreddus, add the semolina flour to a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the semolina, and add 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water to the center of that well, along with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Use a fork to mix the semolina with the rest of the ingredients. When a dough has formed, transfer to a flat surface. If there are little bits of dried flour left behind in the mixing bowl, discard these rather than trying to incorporate them into the dough. Begin kneading the dough. If the dough sticks to your palms, add 1 tablespoon of semolina at a time, until you can knead the dough without it sticking to your palms. Knead for approximately 10 minutes (or, you can transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook). Stop kneading when the dough becomes smoother and tears less easily during the kneading process. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.

  2. After the dough has rested, tear a small piece of dough (about the size of a golf ball) and roll it into a thin snake shape, about ¾ inch wide. Cover the remaining dough with plastic wrap. Use a bench scraper to cut the snake of dough into little squares, about ¾ inch big. The dough should look almost like gnocchi at this point. If you have a ridged wooden gnocchi board, take a square of dough, place it on the board, and press down with your thumb gently while also rolling the dough forward slightly along the board. You should end up with a ridged, shell-looking shape. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough, storing the finished malloreddus on a rimmed baking sheet.

  3. When all of the pasta is made, you can either toss it in a handful of extra semolina flour and freeze it in an air-tight storage container (these can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer for up to a few months), or if you’re ready to eat the brodo now, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the malloreddus to the boiling water, and stir gently to prevent them from sticking. Quickly, the malloreddus will rise to the surface of the boiling water. When they’re all floating at the top of the water, cook for two additional minutes, then remove them from the boiling water and set them aside for a moment. Toss them in a tiny drizzle of olive oil so that they don’t stick to each other.
The bouncy bite of the pasta shells swimming in a rich homemade broth is unbeatable and utterly comforting. Served this way, the malloreddus are almost reminiscent of chicken and dumplings.


  1. To finish this dish, set a large pot over low heat and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil along with the garlic. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook the garlic, stirring occasionally, until it begins to caramelize, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the kale, and stir regularly until it has just begun to wilt. Add a pinch of salt, and continue cooking for 1 more minute.

  2. Add the brodo with the shredded chicken, along with the cooked malloreddus. Cook until everything is steaming hot. Taste the brodo, and adjust with more salt as needed. Serve immediately.

What pasta dish would you like to see Josh make next? Let us know in the comments below.

(1) Hundreds of years ago, shepherds in Sardinia thought the crumpled shape of this pasta looked similar to that of a baby newborn calf—so in one Sardinian dialect, malloreddus loosely translates to "calves."

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Terry
  • BeNeWe
  • Marie Taylor
    Marie Taylor
  • Jeanette T Gates
    Jeanette T Gates
  • Peggy Mislock
    Peggy Mislock
Josh Cohen

Written by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.


Terry January 16, 2022
Can I make these in the morning and save them to cook for dinner? Do I refrigerate them while I'm waiting to cook them or do they sit out all day?? Want to make these tomorrow!
Josh C. January 17, 2022
Hi Terry, if you make the pasta in advance, please store it in the freezer. Once frozen, you drop the pasta directly into boiling water and cook until tender. The pasta can be safely stored in the freezer for months.
BeNeWe April 23, 2020
I made this exactly as described with the brodo and the kale. Perfect combo of healthy and homey. It just made me happy. Thank you!
Josh C. April 23, 2020
Thanks so much for this great feedback!
Marie T. April 19, 2020
Can these be dried like other homemade pasta? At the moment freezer space is a premium.
Jeanette T. April 19, 2020
I would say yes. There are no eggs in it. But I’m not a pro.
Goditi la tua pasta. 🇮🇹
Josh C. April 19, 2020
Hi Marie, I've never tried to dry these - my concern is that they would oxidize and/or develop an unpleasant texture on the outside. That being said, I you think drying them out might work, give it a try and let us know how it goes!
Jeanette T. April 19, 2020
I made a batch this morning. A few questions. I understand that I can freeze these babies. Do I leave them on the Semolina or lay on pan with no flour? Do I cook them straight from the freezer? How long may they stay frozen?
Thanks Josh
Josh C. April 19, 2020
I'll freeze them on a sheet tray lined with semolina for a few hours, and then transfer them to a freezer bag once they're fully frozen (to save room in the freezer). Drop them straight from the freezer into boiling water to cook. Freeze for up to a couple months - after that they might begin to develop an unpleasant texture.
Peggy M. April 18, 2020
Good Morning and I hope everyone is staying safe. My Greek grandmother used to get together with her immigrant neighbors (Mexican, Hungarian, Italian, etc) to make batches and batches of this in the Spring and again in the Fall. The ladies didn't have your tool to score them, but they did use the back of a fork.
Susan D. April 18, 2020
I had found my little board a few weeks ago in my drawer, I must have bought some time ago. So I decided to make something similar to these, I thought they were cavatelli.
I just used my standard pasta recipe:
2 c AP flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 olive oil
3 eggs
They are delicious and a perfect vessel for marinara. And yes, with all this time at home very therapeutic ... I just get into the zone while making them.
Emily April 18, 2020
Hi Susan! Please edit the amount of olive oil. I’d love to try this!
Susan D. April 18, 2020
Oops 1/2 tsp olive oil! Sorry 🙃
Emily April 18, 2020
Jeanette T. April 17, 2020
Josh, I have a garganelli board but I haven’t used it. It’s raw wood. Should I oil it with boos wood oil to keep the pasta from sticking or will it cure as it is used? I noticed that yours is darker than mine. Thanks
Josh C. April 18, 2020
I believe that you don't need to oil the wood. I think that my garganelli board is untreated wood and it works great having never been oiled - over time it "cures" as it is used. I'm not 100% sure about all this, but I feel 99% sure that you should only oil your gnocchi board if you're trying to restore damaged wood.
Vanessa B. April 17, 2020
I would love to make this and would need a GF recipe...any recommendations? Thanks!
Diana W. April 17, 2020
Use GF flour and Xanthan gum
Vanessa B. April 17, 2020
Hi! Newbie to GF and will be purchasing xanthum gum. How much of each? Thanks!
Diana W. April 17, 2020
Try 2 1/3 c of GF flour such as cup4cup or other brand. 2 tsp of Xanthan gum
Vanessa B. April 17, 2020
Ok, thank you for your guidance! Thrilled to try it!
Diana W. April 17, 2020
To make it even easier if you don't have a board use the back of a fork. That's what I had my high school students use at home for their pasta project.
KS April 17, 2020
I'm with Kayla--I might have a bit of KAF french bread flour left. Some coconut flour, tapioca, chickpea, potato. Nothing else, and only empty shelves to gaze sadly at in the shops.
[email protected] April 17, 2020
Can you use different types of flour? I don’t have any semolina unfortunately.
Josh C. April 17, 2020
You can use a.p. flour as a substitute for the semolina flour, but I'm not sure if it would work with bread flour or some of the other alternative flours that KS listed above - I think it would likely not work.
Julie M. April 17, 2020
You can use any flour if you want, but durum semolina gives pasta that "bite" that helps it stand up to the heaviest sauce! Any sifted hard wheat flour will do (all flours list ingredients and show hard or soft wheat used). Or... if you're needing that homemade comfort NOW, use all purpose! But semolina is best. Amazon has small bags...
jacqlynhb April 17, 2020
You said in your pasta direction for those who have a rigid board but then didn’t give any instruction for those that didn’t. What do you do then? Did I miss something?
Josh C. April 17, 2020
Hi jacqlynhb, if you don't have a ridged wooden board, you can press and roll this pasta shape on a flat counter or tabletop - the resulting shape will just be more like "cavatelli" rather than "malloreddus"
mudd April 17, 2020
Use the back of a fork, the tines .
Carmen J. March 29, 2020
We made these last night with a beyond meat bolognese and ate every last one! Very happy to find an eggless recipe. I was determined to make the beautiful shell shapes without a gnocchi board, and I found that the grips on the sides of my xo peeler worked like a charm! Thanks so much for this great recipe and video!
Josh C. April 17, 2020
Thanks for your feedback, so glad you enjoyed this pasta!
witloof March 28, 2020
I just made and devoured a batch of these {half is in the freezer for later}. They came out beautifully, delicious and chewy, and the shape was charming and surprisingly easy to master using a fork and my thumb. Just wondering about the accuracy of the liquid measurement? One third of a cup plus two tablespoons of water was very, very, very wet. I had to add quite a bit of flour before I could even begin to start kneading.
Josh C. March 29, 2020
I wonder if different brands of semolina flour require slightly different amounts of liquid to form a dough? When I made this recipe recently, I started with 1 cup semolina flour to 1/3 cup water (this resulted in a very dry dough), and then I added two more tablespoons of water and the dough felt perfect to me.
witloof March 30, 2020
Quite possibly! My semolina came from Kalustyan's. Anyway this was a perfect project and I will definitely be making it again.