Italian Gnocchi: A Traditional Dish

Apart from pasta, gnocchi is probably one of the most well-known, and traditional types of Italian food. Though gnocchi is commonly made by hand in native Italian and Italian diaspora homes, you can also purchase gnocchi in grocery stores. That said, one of the best ways to try gnocchi is in an Italian restaurant.

What Is Gnocchi?

Commonly served as a first course alternative to soups during a meal, gnocchi are little  dumplings of dough which are typically made from semolina, regular wheat flour, potatoes, eggs, cheese and even cornmeal from time to time. Gnocchi can either be flavoured or not, but you most typically see gnocchi with herbs, vegetables or perhaps sweet items such as cocoa.

The types of gnocchi found in Italy range across the provinces, of course, with ricotta and spinach making up the dish in Tuscany and Lombard, but the creation and cooking methods are typically the same. Once the gnocchi dough is created, it’s rolled out and cut into pieces that are about the size of corks. After that, a fork or grater is used to create the ridges that will hold your sauce of choice.

Gnocchi is then placed in boiling water by itself with a bit of salt, and once done, it’s placed into bowls and sauce poured on top. Common accompaniments include pesto and melted butter with sage. You can also use tomato-based sauces as well as tossing gnocchi with mushrooms and/or mushroom sauce.

Homemade or Store Bought?

Once you’ve tried gnocchi in an Italian restaurant, you might be thinking of serving it in your own home. The question you might be thinking is, ‘should I make my own or just buy pre-packaged gnocchi?’ The answer is this: learning to make gnocchi well takes patience and persistence, and since there are so many possible variations, it can seem overwhelming at first. So for starters, it might help to begin by buying the pre-packaged gnocchi and learning to cook it, and learning which brands have the best gnocchi, which won’t break apart while cooking.

This way you can see the best end result, if you still choose to learn to make your own. It’s not something to attempt on a busy weeknight, so reserve a day on the weekend to give it a try. Potato gnocchi is a classic recipe, so beginning with that might be your best bet.

Even if you ultimately decide that cooking pre-packaged gnocchi—or simply eating at an Italian restaurant—fits your lifestyle better, you can’t go wrong with tasting the many variations of this classic Italian dish.

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