Knuckling down to Gnocchi; Traditional Italian Dumplings

September 7, 2017

Knuckling down to Gnocchi; Traditional Italian Dumplings

We got used to having pasta as a first course, but how about gnocchi instead? Here’s what we know about this Italian dish that we enjoy so much at Tuscookany.

Gnocchi (pronounced as nyo’kee) are traditional Italian dumplings, which can be made with potato, semolina, wheat flour, cornmeal, cheese or other base ingredients. The dough is rolled and cut into small pieces and then usually pressed with a fork, cheese grater or special wooden gnocchi board.  This way they will later be able to hold sauce to create a more flavourful taste.

Gnocchi are generally served as a first course instead of pasta or, alternatively, used as a side dish. They are boiled in salted water and eaten with various sauces, ranging from simple butter, olive oil or tomato sauce to pesto and meat ragú.

It is believed that the etymology of the word gnocchi comes from nocca  (knuckles), nocchio (wood knot) or Lombard knohha (wood knot or walnut). Wherever the truth lies, the name is just perfect to describe the shape and essence of these little “knots”.

Gnocchi have been known from the Roman times, probably originating from the Middle East. The expansion of the Roman Empire then brought dumplings in one form or another all over Europe.

The Romans made their gnocchi with semolina and eggs, while potato gnocchi, which are so well known and popular today around the world were not introduced until the 16th century, when potato made its way from South America to the European continent.

The classic recipe for potato gnocchi as we know them today was presented in the 19th century by Pellegrino Artusi, the author of the cookbook "The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine Dining", who is now considered to be the “grandfather” of Italian cooking.

While gnocchi were initially associated more with the North of Italy, they are now widespread all over the country and have their own regional variations.

To increase your appetite, here is our chefs’ recipe for these little knuckles:

Tuscookany Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients (serves 6):

-       1 kg (2 lbs) of white potatoes, not too young

-       300 g (3 cups) of flour

-       1 egg

-       pinch of nutmeg

-       salt



Wash the potatoes and boil in a pan of cold water, without peeling. Peel when still quite hot, mash with a potato masher and place on a work surface.

Add flour, salt, eggs, and nutmeg.  Mix all the ingredients by hand to obtain smooth, firm dough.  Flour a work surface and slice the dough into strips that are 2-3 cm (about 1’’) thick, then cut the gnocchi with a small knife and arrange on a tray with plenty of flour.

In a large saucepan (wide and low is the best) bring to the boil plenty of salted water. Pour in the gnocchi, stir gently and cover, stir again after a few minutes and leave covered until all the gnocchi float to the surface. Remove the lid and simmer until the gnocchi are all soft to the touch.

Drain a few at a time using a spoon with large holes. Dress to taste.

Making gnocchi is the essential part of the Tuscookany Italian Cooking Courses. While the dish may be the same, each of our chefs has their own small secrets to share.


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