This pasta is from Sardinia, one of Italy's large islands. There, its also called malloreddus, and no surprise here, there are arguments about the derivation of the name. Whatever you decide to call it these little pasta bits are super satisfying and easy to make. Traditionally rolled over reed baskets to get those signature ridges, most today are shaped over gnocchi boards. With those ridges and perfect little cup shape, its the closest to homemade shells you'll get without a pasta extruder!
This shape is great because its so easy to change up! If you don't have a textured gnocchi board you can roll them over any food safe textured surface. Try rolling them over the inside of a cheese grater for a polka dot pattern, over a sushi mat for similar ridges, or even over a meat pounder to get different textures. I would classify this shape as EASY, so its really good for beginners. With the success of this shape, you'll be ready to tackle more challenging ones to come!
one recipe of semolina dough
gnocchi board or textured surface of choice
flour or cornmeal
spray bottle or damp cloth
Do not dust your table with flour before shaping this pasta. Unlike egg dough that relies on a smooth dry surface to prevent sticking, this dough needs to be a little wet while you work with it. The stickiness is what allows these shapes to be dragged and stretched along the table, adding flour will make it slide. If you have a ceiling fan on and your dough begins to dry out and just slide along the table use a spray bottle to mist it and the surface you're working or get your hands damp and rub them on the dough. Make sure to keep unused dough covered while you work.
To start, cut about 1/4 of your dough, wrap the rest in plastic and keep covered so it doesn't dry out. Roll the dough into a log, about a 1/4 of an inch wide, and cut the pieces into either inch long pieces or little pillows like for the orecchiette. This is going to help determine the final shape of your gnocchi sardi, a long rectangle will give you a longer finished pasta, tapered edges will give you more of a shell shape. I like to start with little squares and experiment after that.
Rest your spindle shape on the table so its parallel to the edge, place your scraper at the tip, at a 45 degree angle to both the table and to the dough (confusing I know, it'll make sense when you try it) Apply pressure and drag the scraper both up and over, making an arc shape. Changing direction will change the type of spiral you get, going almost straight up will make smaller tighter spirals, going straight across is more likely to get you a cavatelli (aka no spiral). A good arc to follow is that of a circle, if you think about it in terms of a clock face follow the edge of the circle from 9:00 to 12:00. Thank goodness for video! There are two below that should be helpful along with some extra advice.
Tips and Tricks
If your dough just slides around the table it needs to be a little wetter, keep a spray bottle handy to mist your hands or the dough from time to time, or occasionally dip your fingers in water and rub your hands together. Too much water isn't good either, start with a little at a time.
Changing the angle of the scraper and the path you take when dragging it will effect the shape. experiment to get the type of spiral you find the most appealing - I like them a little wider, Garrett prefers a tight spiral.
If you don't have a kitchen scraper you can use a flexible piece of plastic, like a credit card or gift card. I have tried it! It isn't as easy, but it works!
Practice makes perfect with this shape, try to stick with it. If you don't have the time or patience don't feel bad though, this dough makes plenty of other (equally tasty) shapes!
Check out the videos below to see the making in action.
Store the finished trofie on a dishcloth dusted with either flour or cornmeal, don't let them touch or they may stick together. When I'm about halfway through my dough I stop and bring my water to a boil. When it's time to cook them I pick up the whole cloth and funnel them directly into the water, this way they don't get squished together like they might if you pick them up by the handful. Make sure to liberally salt your water once it comes to a rolling boil.
These cook up really fast, typically it takes around two minutes depending on the quantity. Once it looks like the majority are floating, scoop one up, give it a taste - it should be good to go. I've made these with a bunch of different sauces, traditionally they're served with pesto.