Malfatti in Parmesan Broth

Traditional Italian malfatti are delicate dumplings made mostly of mild cheese; here, 2021 F&W Best New Chef Trey Smith of Saint-Germain in New Orleans makes them with a blend of cream cheese, lemon zest, egg, and spices. "Finding great ingredients and letting them shine is a philosophy that many cooks share," Smith says. "Being a small tasting-menu restaurant, we are able to really push this ideal. This Malfatti in Parmesan Broth was built around some particularly delicious Parmesan that we came across. It was a natural idea to season dumplings with it to focus on the nutty richness of the cheese. We then found that making a broth with the remaining pieces and rind highlighted its acidity and umami." To create a richly savory Parmesan broth for the fluffy, creamy malfatti, Smith uses coffee filters to transfer the flavor of the cheese into a water broth without leaving any melted rinds behind.

Malfatti in Parmesan Broth
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell
Active Time:
2 hrs
Total Time:
3 hrs
Servings:
4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Parmesan cheese (as 1 single wedge or multiple wedges)

  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 small lemon), divided

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper, plus more to taste

  • teaspoon freshly ground whole nutmeg (about 10 grinds)

  • 1 ½ cups Italian-style 00 flour or all-purpose flour (about 6 3/8 ounces)

  • ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh chives

  • 4 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, divided

  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. Using a Microplane grater, grate 11/2 loosely packed cups (about 11/2 ounces) of the Parmesan; set aside. Cut remaining Parmesan, including rinds, into 11/2- to 2-inch cubes; set aside.

  2. Beat cream cheese, egg, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, white pepper, and nutmeg with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce mixer speed to low; gradually beat in flour. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat until mixture forms a thick and tacky batter, about 3 minutes. Add chives and grated Parmesan; beat on medium speed until grated cheese is incorporated, about 1 minute. Scrape mixture into a piping bag or a heavy-duty ziplock plastic bag. Cut a 3/4-inch opening in one corner of bag. Let batter rest at room temperature 1 hour.

  3. Divide Parmesan cubes evenly among 6 (12-cup) coffee filters. Working with 1 coffee filter at a time, gather filter up and around cheese cubes; secure with kitchen twine to keep from opening. Place cheese bundles in a 3-quart saucepan; add 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium. Reduce heat to low; gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until you can smell the aroma of Parmesan, about 1 hour. Pour Parmesan broth through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Gently press on cheese bundles in strainer using back of a spoon; discard bundles. (If desired, freeze Parmesan cubes, and use to make another broth.) Stir sugar, 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt into strained Parmesan broth. Set aside until ready to use.

  4. While Parmesan broth simmers, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high. Carefully pipe batter straight down into boiling water, cutting into pieces at 3/4-inch lengths using scissors and piping in batches of about 15 malfatti (batter pieces) at a time. For clean cuts, dip scissors in boiling water as needed. Cook until slightly firm but set, about 3 minutes per batch. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer cooked malfatti to a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Let last batch of cooked malfatti cool 5 minutes.

  5. Transfer cooked malfatti to a large skillet; add butter and remaining 1 tablespoon water. Cook over medium, gently stirring occasionally, until malfatti are heated thr-ough and lightly glazed in butter mixture, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Season with additional salt and white pepper to taste. Divide malfatti evenly among 4 shallow bowls; top evenly with hot Parmesan broth.

Note

Source high-quality aged Parmesan cheese. If using a less flavorful cheese, add a few drops of lemon juice to the broth before serving to give it a boost.

Suggested Pairing

Herbal, medium-bodied Italian white: Villa Bucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore

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