Thursdays in Rome were sacred to me. Thursday was gnocchi day. It seems that this varies from region to region, so not all Italians celebrate the tradition. But spend a year and Rome and I assure you Thursdays will become your gnocchi day too. What could be more perfect than a savory dumpling coated with a simple hint of flavor?
Let's start by getting the pronunciation right. It isn't hard. "Gn" is sort of like a "ny" sound. Practice it: gn, ny, gn, ny, gn, ny (said like you are teasing someone). Occhi is pronounced "aoh-ki". Always remember that "ch" in Italian is a "k" sound. Put it all together: ny-aoh-ki, gn-hockey, Gnocchi. Take that tidbit of wisdom and practice saying "bruschetta" at a few times. It ain't "brushetta"!
Here comes the wiki, cause you know that's how I roll:
The word gnocchi means "lumps", and may derive from nocchio, a knot in the wood, or from nocca (knuckle). It has been a traditional Italian pasta type of probably Middle Eastern origin since Roman times. It was introduced by the Roman Legions during the enormous expansion of the empire into the countries of the European continent. In the past 2000 years each country developed its own specific type of small dumplings, with the ancient Gnocchi as their common ancestor. 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 (where they do not contain egg, however, and are known as malloreddus). One variety, gnocchi di pane (literally bread noodles), is made from bread crumbs and is popular in Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. Another variety from Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol is spinach gnocchi, called strangolapreti. This translates to "choke the priest." The use of potato is a relatively recent innovation, occurring after the introduction of the potato to Europe in the 16th century.
While I certainly love a good potato gnocchi, in my opinion nothing compares to the lighter, more pillowy ricotta variety. And you'll be surprised at how easy they are to make. This recipe is interpreted from a blogger compadre at Delicious Days.
Prep time: ~15 minutes Ingredients (for 2): 1 1/4 cup Ricotta 1 egg yolk (M-L) 1/4-1/2 tsp fine sea salt 2 tbsp Parmigiano (or Pecorino), freshly grated 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, extra for dusting the dough/board
Start by removing any excess liquid from the Ricotta by putting it in a fine-mesh strainer. In a large bowl add Ricotta cheese, egg yolk, salt and freshly grated Parmigiano. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Next gradually add the flour and stir in briefly, just until combined - the dough will still be quite sticky. (Of course you can add more flour at this point, but keep in mind, that the more flour you use, the denser the gnocchi become in the end. And you want them to be as light & fluffy as possible, with a velvet-like texture.)
Forming these gnocchi is the slightly tricky step - this is the technique that works best for me: Generously flour a board, take a big tablespoon of the dough and scoop it onto the board. Dust the roll with flour (dust your hands generously, too!), before rolling it into a finger-thick log. Cut it into little pillows (stick the knife's blade into the flour to prevent it from sticking to the dough). Give it a little pinch in the center for shape. I actually learned from my Italian housekeeper (see pervious Spaghetti post) that with potato gnocchi you use your thumb in a downward motion to spin out the shape. These ricotta buggers are too fragile though. Place each gnoccho on a floured board or parchment paper lined baking tray and lightly dust them again. Continue quickly with the next step, otherwise they will get soggy and stick to the paper/board.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous dump of salt and reduce heat until the water bubbles lightly. Add the gnocchi and stir once, so they don't stick to the bottom - then let cook until they start floating on top. Depending on their size this may take 2 to 4 minutes. Remove with a strainer or slotted spoon and serve immediately on a warmed platter. This dish works perfect as a family-style middle-course.
From my perspective, the toppings should be simple. Light and sweet tomato sauce works best (not the one I gave you earlier with the spaghetti). Try Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. I'll give you the recipe tomorrow. Or a simple brown butter and sage works wonders. You might also try a light pesto, like arugula, wild nettle or red peppers.
I'm amazed at how many of you are trying these recipes and replying with your successes (not so many failures......yet). I envision a legion of little zealots bouncing around their kitchens, pumping music loudly (this is the only way to cook) and making their families very happy. This one is gonna rock them!