“Gnocchi di Patate” (Homemade Potato Gnocchi) are yet another very humble treasure of Italian culinary tradition that can be eaten in its many different regional variations all across the “Bel Paese”. In Italy they are often sold at local bread bakeries, along with many different kind of fresh made pastas and ravioli, and also are very well represented on the mass market in their prepackaged, usually much drier version. Because of the simplicity of the ingredients used in the preparation of Gnocchi, many believe it to be a dish that was mostly prepared in the country by farmers; truth is that, because potatoes were introduced in the European diet only after the Americas were discovered, the original roots of this dish are not really easy to trace. When we talk about Gnocchi however, we usually refer to the shape and texture of the “round bites” that are cooked in boiling water, the same way we prepare pasta; they used to be be made of many other ingredients like stale bread, ground almonds, milk, seasonal vegetables and different kinds of flour. For some reason though, the Potato Gnocchi was the one that easily found home in everybody’s kitchen and has become a standard in the Italian Food Culture… all other kind of gnocchi have been forgotten, to the point that if you encounter them in a restaurant’s menu, they most likely will be sold to you as a “Nouvelle Cuisine” item.
When I was growing up in Italy, my grandmother Lola would often keep me busy on Sunday mornings, working on the recipe you’re about to try; because of the amount of rolling and cutting that is required to prepare a feast of gnocchi, this is one of those recipes I was actually “forced” to learn; I still remember begging my grandmother to leave me alone and let me run out in the garden on my bicycle. The few tricks I am sharing with you today, are coming straight from her kitchen!
Make sure you have some “Old Potatoes” around, otherwise you’ll have to go grocery shop and came back in here in a little more than a week.
The secret of this recipe is not in its execution, but in the choice of your ingredients: the right texture (firm but not thick) of the gnocchi you are about to make only depends on that, and it should be your only worry. Preparation is much easier than making fresh pasta, it’s a good kid’s playground (for a few minutes), and it is extremely simple and ego-rewarding. In case you decide to play safe though, I suggest you start with a creamy sauce rather than the traditional sage and butter sauce: this way, in case your gnocchi come out too thick, you can still enjoy them with a sauce that soften them a bit. Eating a whole serving of thick gnocchi dressed only with a spoon of butter can be an awful and enduring task to accomplish.
Have fun with it!