Gnocchi is a simple yet delicious dish of small dumpling usually made with potato or ricotta cheese. They are thick soft dumplings prepared from semolina, all purpose flour or ordinary wheat flour, cheese and potatoes. The smaller forms are called gnocchetti.
The word gnocchi means ‘lump’ and may have derived from the Italian word nocchio which means a knot in wood. In Roman times, gnocchi were made from a semolina porridge like dough mixed with eggs and are still found in similar forms today particularly in Sardinia. Gnocchi di pane is one of the varieties popular in Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige/ Sudtirol regions which is made from bread crumbs. Another variety from the latter region is spinach gnocchi. Gnocchi are generally eaten as entrees in Italy as alternatives to minestrone soups or pasta.
There are different ways of making the gnocchi across different regions in Italy. Gnocchi is a petite small dumpling (usually made with potato or ricotta cheese) that you will usually find in Italian restaurants, tossed and served with pasta sauces or sautéed with butter and herbs. Making traditional Italian gnocchi is not difficult but it is rather time consuming. It involves peeling and boiling the potatoes, baking the cooked potatoes just until dry, pushing the potatoes through a ricer, mixing in flour and eggs, rolling out the dough, cutting the dough into dumplings, scoring the dumplings with a gnocchi paddle or a fork, and boiling in water.
Gnocchi are widely available dried, frozen, or fresh in vacuum sealed packages in supermarkets and specialty stores. Classic accompaniments of gnocchi include tomato sauces, pesto, and melted butter (sometimes fried butter) with cheese. The use of potato is a relatively recent innovation, occurring after the introduction of the potato to Europe in the 16th century. Potato gnocchi are particularly popular in Abruzzo, Ciociaria and other provinces of Latium; they are better prepared with red potatoes.
Gnocchi are very popular and often served dish in coastal Croatia. The name is also used in France in the dish known as “gnocchis à la parisienne”, a hot dish comprising gnocchi formed of choux pastry, and served with Béchamel sauce. Since Gnocchi simply consist of dough shaped in small dumplings and don’t need any special skill or technique to flatten or cut the dough, they are probably even older than pasta. The original flour and water mixture for gnocchi is still used today in many regional recipes in Italy, where they take different names and shapes.
For preparing this delicious and yummy Italian dish Gnocchi (potato dumplings), firstly steam the potatoes with their skins until tender. When they get cool enough (but still warm) to handle, peel skin and run them through a ricer or mash with a potato masher until it is free of lumps. Do not use a food processor because it tends to make the potatoes gluey. Also do not use an electric mixer because it adds too much air to it. Immediately add the flour and salt. Knead on a lightly floured board until smooth. Sprinkle on little more flour if the dough sticks. Form into ropes about the thickness of your thumb. Cut into ¾ inch sections and press down lightly with a fork. Although not essential, I like to press them against a cheese grater to give it a ridged appearance for presentation. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and boil until they rise to the top, about 5 minutes. Do not crowd the dumplings. Drain and place in a bowl. Mix the gnocchi with enough sauce to thoroughly coat them.
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Today, gnocchi are primarily made with potatoes, which have become traditional in Italy. In spite of the long description, gnocchi are very easy to prepare. They can be dressed with many sauces, but are especially good with pesto, Amatriciana sauce, Ragu’, four cheeses, butter and fresh tomato sauce, or simply butter and sage like in our presentation. The taste of the butter – sage dressing is very delicate and will enhance the taste of the potato dumplings. They are also one of the most refined dishes, worthy of the most sophisticated menus.