The Romans made gnocchi thousands of years ago and today most countries in the world offer dumplings in some form or other – all delicious, but only the Italians make gnocchi
Gnocchi are essentially little tiny dumplings and are made from potatoes, wheat flour, semolina or even bread crumbs! The word means lump and comes from the Italian word nocchio – as in Pinocchio – which means a knot in the wood.
When the Romans were making gnocchi thousands of years ago, they were made from a thick, very soft porridgey dough mixed with eggs – similar to some kinds founds in places like Sardinia nowadays and host a various other kinds. Then there is gnocchi di pane which is made more often in Friuli and the Southern regions of Tirol and is something to be experienced to be understood. They are eaten as starters or instead of the soup course or the pasta course and can be eaten with any number of sauces, like butter, tomato, cream, mushrooms, meat and so on – the rule is: gnocchi are never dry. They are swathed in a glorious sauce and never dry. Gnocchi in soup is mind blowingly delicious.
In South America they are popular and are traditionally eaten the day before the month end, the 29th for obvious reasons (nobody has any money left and they are cheap). In restaurants a bank note is often left under the plate to bring good fortune to the giver.
Trentino is the home of gnocchi. In 1550 when the Council of Trent convened for the first time, The Church arrived with armies of talented chefs and cooking turned into an art form from then on but gnocchi has never changed too much. Recipes were created that were intricate, glorious and overdone, however, gnocchi con la ricotta stands out and I will include my tried and tested version here today.
1 kg potatoes, the floury kind
250 flour (all purpose will do)
salt and pepper to taste – remember potatoes always need a little more salt
150 g butter
300 g ricotta (smoked if you can get it)
Boil the potatoes and put through the ricer (or sieve if you have the guts) whilst hot;
Sift flour into the potatoes and mix slowly and gently until you have a smooth elastic dough;
Roll out into long thin sausage shapes (thick as your thumb);
Cut into 2,5 cm pieces;
Put on a fork and nip with your finger to form the required shape;
Put into lots of hot boiling water for about 3 minutes until it rises to the surface and toss in the ricotta cheese and the butter;
Add pepper or parsley as you wish and remember always that the water from the gnocchi, as in pasta, serves to lengthen the sauce and to ensure that it is never dry.
Many chefs all over the world make gnocchi according to the traditions of their countries and Larousse gives us three excellent French recipes for gnocchi – a l’asacienne, a la parisienne and a la romaine. If you don’t have a Larousse, I will be happy to give you recipe here. There is some speculation about who made it next – the Swiss or the French or the Germans, but I would assume that the ones that were the closest to Rome the soonest in those ancient days would have done.
Does it matter?
My apologies, also, for the short posts of late – I have been ill but will resume with new vigour next week. Have a super weekend.