Gnocchi, who doesn't like them, especially fresh home made. Gnocchi are at the heart of the Italian American Kitchen. When my girls were small I think they would have been them as a standard weekly dinner. What's not to like? Pure carbohydrates: flour and potatoes combined into one delectable pillow of delight: a double dose of feel-good carbohydrate comfort food. But, in truth, we never had “gnocchi.
The word "gnocchi" seems to derive from the Latin "nucleus." "Nucleus" in Latin had not yet developed into our modern understanding. In those times, the meaning was a bit more simplified. It meant something more like "kernel" or even "nut." While the ancient world probably had some form of flour dumpling boiled in water they did not have our modern version. Gnocchi as we know them are based on potatoes, and potatoes are a product of the New World that did not arrive in Italy until after Columbus. (Yes, there are also all kinds of other gnocchi, but potato is the foundation.
I must say that I don’t ever remember the word “gnocchi.” We had what we called “gahv-ah-deels”, the common pronunciation of “cavatelli.” Back in the day, we called them "lead sinkers."
"Lead sinkers" is a fishing term. Now, lead sinkers are the pyramidal shaped weights that were attached to a fishing line to be sure that the hook, with its bait, was pulled down into the water to catch blues and weakies. I know them well, and all their sizes and weights from when I sold them at the fishing pier in front of our house. I don't remember having “gahv-ah-deels” (cavatelli) except in summer. I don't know why that was. But, I do remember that that they could often be those heavy lumps, the "lead sinkers."
While I can still see the gnocchi being made in the kitchen, I don’t recall anything about the recipe or the method. Even my mother does not recall exactly how they were made, although she did show me how to roll them off the back of a fork. The recipe I offer is something I've developed only after my own time living in Italy and by doing extensive research.
As I mentioned, when growing up, I only remember having them in summer, gnocchi (or cavatelli) work in any season. Of course, in summer, they are enhanced by using fresh chopped tomatoes.
San Marzano Tomatoes
At any other season they also work perfectly well with a good quality San Marzano canned tomato.
Then too, you can serve them in simple butter sauce laced with a bit of nutmeg and sage. Gnocchi are also a confection that allow variations. Instead of regular potatoes, try sweet potatoes. If you do, use a butter and sage sauce. Then too, leave the potatoes out altogether and use pumpkin or squash. In this case, you need to bake the pumpkin of squash and scoop out the meaty flesh. Here too, use a butter sauce but this time adds cinnamon and nutmeg with a nice finish of cream. Gnocchi are a simple generally quick and most delightful preparation. The most important part of making light and fluffy gnocchi is to use as little flour as possible. Quantities of flour and potato are best done by eye and by touch. There are too many factors involved, such as the size of potatoes and the humidity that will alter your results. But, to be relatively assured, even a gnocchi on the heavy side can be a real pleaser - what we used to call as kids "lead sinkers." But here is one of the best things about making gnocchi. This is the ideal recipe for having children participate. When mine were small, we covered the kitchen table (and floor) with flour and set to work. Often neices and nephews joined in. Each child could easily cut and hand roll their own gnocchi. Forget the Playdough - this is the real thing. They couldn't have a happier afternoon. And then to have their own creation as their dinner... well, what more can you ask?
Gnocchi are a simple generally quick and most delightful preparation. The most important part of making light and fluffy gnocchi is to use as little flour as possible. Quantities of flour and potato are best done by eye and by touch. There are too many factors involved, such as the size of potatoes and the humidity that will alter your results. But, to be relatively assured, even a gnocchi on the heavy side can be a real pleaser: those summer gnocchi that we used to call as kids "lead sinkers."
What you need
2 Large mixing bowls.
Ridged gnocchi paddle (or) fork.
(Google image of Gnocchi paddle)
Large pot for boiling.
Large pot or wok for sauce.
Kitchen spider. (strainer)
Salt and pepper.
Sauce of your choice.
Boil the water. While you are forming the gnocchi set a very large pot of water to boil. Salt the water well.