A sort of pasta for potato lovers – these are little Italian dumplings usually made from flour, egg, and potato and traditionally shaped into small ovals with a ridged pattern on one side. Gnocchi are traditionally made with buckwheat flour, though, they can also be prepared from semolina flour like they are in Rome.
In Italy, gnocchi are eaten as a 1st course (primo piatto), as an alternative to pasta or soups (minestrone). They are usually home-made in Italian and diaspora Italian households. They can also be bought fresh from certain stores. In supermarkets across the U.S., industrially produced packaged gnocchi are widely available frozen, refrigerated, or dried.
Like many Italian dishes, gnocchi has extensive variation in recipes and terms across different regions. For instance, Tuscan and Lombard malfatti (literally “poorly made”) are made with spinach, flour, and ricotta, as well as the addition of numerous other herbs if needed, similar to Tuscan gnudi that distinctively contains less flour; Strangulaprievete, in Campania, are flour-based gnocchi, just like Sardinian malloreddus and Apulian cavatielli, and so on.
Gnocchi are cooked on their own in boiling salted water and dressed with numerous sauces depending on the type, and recipe used. As I mentioned before, some gnocchi can be made from pieces of cooked semolina or polenta, which is spread out to dry and afterward layered with butter and cheese and finished in the oven.
As someone who comes from one of the most romantic cities in the world – Verona (the home of Romeo and Juliet) – I decided to make my own variation of the recipe, to be precise – to shape the dough in a form of a heart and celebrity the day of love! So, here is my gnocchi recipe:
Cooking Tips, Before You Start:
Choose the right potato
The first, and most important, step to making gnocchi is to start off with the right potatoes. Use ‘old’ floury potatoes such as Desiree, and for even better results, allow the potatoes to sit for a couple of weeks in a cool, dry place before using.
For best results use a potato ricer to mash your potatoes. If you don’t own a potato ricer, use a regular potato masher, then pass the mix through a sieve to ensure it is completely smooth. Alternatively, you can even try grating your cooked potatoes to get a similar result.
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- dash of salt
- …and knife cookie cutter, shape: heart
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel potatoes and add to pot. Cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool and mash with a fork or potato masher.
- Combine 1 cup mashed potato, flour, and egg in a large bowl. Knead until dough forms a ball – add some more flour if needed. Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place the dough on and sprinkle a little more flour on top of that. Then roll it out to a thickness of about 4 mm. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go.
(In case you don’t want to shape them or you don’t have a cutter – you can make classic gnocchi – just shape small portions of the dough into long “snakes”. On a floured surface, cut snakes into half-inch pieces, and then place into the boiling water).
- Next, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop in gnocchi and cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until gnocchi have risen to the top; drain and serve.
Serve gnocchi in a similar way to pasta with a cheese- or tomato-based sauce and freshly grated parmesan. They can also be added to casseroles, stews, and soups.
Note: You can make your gnocchi earlier and freeze them until Valentine’s (or the day you want to serve them) – just remove from the freezer and place them in a hot water for a minute and they will be ready to be served with your favorite potato sauce (or some other sauce by your choice).