Expression gnocco in Italian means “a stupid person.” These induce some food writers to announce that gnocchi, the dish, is responsible for the association. But gnocchi are anything but a stupid dish. Consequently these days all gnocchi made of flour and water are measured “pasta” while all dumplings made of special ingredients are called gnocchi. Gnocchi can be made with the most diverse ingredients, such as squash, bread, and semolina flour; and they can be flavored amalgamating the dough with spinach, saffron, and even truffles. They are boiled in water or broth and like pasta they can be dressed with many sauces such as pesto, tomato, butter and cheese.
Further predictable type of gnocchi includes the Roman recipe for “semolina gnocchi” topped with cheese and baked and the “gnocchi gaudy” (naked gnocchi” from Tuscany made of ricotta cheese and spinach.
Nowadays gnocchi are principally made with potatoes, which have become conventional in Italy. In spite of the long description, gnocchi are very easy to prepare. They can be claded with many sauces, but are especially good with pesto, Americana sauce, Ragu’, four cheeses, butter and fresh tomato sauce, or very simply butter and sage as in our arrangement. 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 complicated menus.
Small dumplings are one of the oldest preparations in the history of food, recorded as far back as cookbooks of the thirteenth century. In a fragment of a book of the 1300s there is a recipe for gnocchi written in the Tuscan dialectal language (1).
“If you want gnocchi” reads the recipe, “take some cheese and mash it, then take some flour and mix with egg yolks like if you make dough. Place on the fire a pot of water and when starts boiling place the mixture on a board and slide them in the pot with a spoon. And when they are cooked place them on the plates and top them with a lot of grated cheese.”
(naked gnocchi) from Tuscany made of ricotta cheese and spinach
Tin order to make potato gnocchi and achieve the best results, it is important to choose the right type of potato. The potato needs to be floury, with minimum water content. The best are old Russet potatoes, low in water and high in starch. Round (white or red) or Yukon potatoes would be too waxy, which would make the gnocchi either too heavy or too gummy, or would cause them to break apart in the boiling water. The addition of egg to the dough, not always necessary, serves the purpose of holding the preparation together better. The choice of the right potato potentially makes the use of the eggs optional.
Potatoes can be baked in the oven, but more often are boiled. In this case do not peel them but boil them with the skin on. This will avoid absorption of excess water. For the same reason, don’t break or pierce them. Too much water will cause the preparation to absorb too much flour and make the gnocchi too heavy. Potatoes for gnocchi can also be baked or cooked in the microwave.
Opt for potatoes free of green spots, sprouts, and “eyes”. Remove them from the potatoes if they are present because they can be toxic. Peel the potatoes while they are still hot. Don’t add egg if you are confident of the result: the dough will be softer. Don’t overdo the dough and don’t add too much flour.
Gnocchi will not keep for long after they are prepared and they must be cooked soon. They can be kept covered on a floured cloth for few hours. Soon after they may start releasing their moisture content and become gummy and sticky. Placing them in the refrigerator will not help since the humidity present there may cause additional damage.
Gnocchi instead can be easily frozen. Drop frozen gnocchi directly in the boiling water without defrosting: they will be ready when they surface like indicated in the recipe