Lazy Person (LP), my short-order cookin’ AND barista mixin’ alter ego, grabbed the ATM card and made a “milk run” over to Vicenza’s Gastronomia il Ceppo.
Gone for about an hour, he returned home, out of breath, with only two items in the tote, and the following brief exchange ensued:
Me: Only two items?
LP: Hey, you want quantity or quality?
Me: Quality, of course.
End of discussion.
Inside the tote was a bottle of white wine along with the star of today’s “What’s Burning” post, a small aluminum tray filled with potato dumplings known as gnocchetti, the petite version of gnocchi (from Italian gnoccho, meaning a knot found on the bark of a tree).
These are green gnocchetti due to the fresh baby spinach leaves that were added to the potato, flour and egg mixture to form the dough. And, when these little “knots” are tied around the creamy-smooth goodness of the melted gorgonzola dolce cheese, you’ll be glad you postponed starting that summer diet until domani (tomorrow) or dopo domani (after tomorrow).
Popular all across the Bel Paese, these light little dumplings, served as a first-course dish — like pasta or soup — have a variety of names and various styles, with or without potato, depending on which region, city, town or hamlet you reside.
Here in Vicenza, part of the matriarchal region that is the Veneto, the locals call them gnocchi/gnocchetti from their dialect word gnòco (meaning something that protrudes, a lump). Over in the Lombardia region they’re called nocchie (knuckles). There’s not enough time or space on this blog to list all the regional expressions, but if you order gnocchi/gnocchetti in most restaurants across the country that’s what you’ll see written on the menu.
Knots, knuckles, lumps or whatever, I love gnocchi/gnocchetti, like just about everyone else who calls the province of Vicenza home.
Dating back to the Roman Empire, gnocchi slowly ebbed into the culinary lexicon of greater Europe as legions of the Caput Mundi marched in, conquered, reestablished order then moved on to the next nation-building exercise.
Over the past two millennia, each country developed its own specific version of dumplings, with the ancient gnocchi as their common ancestor.
In Roman times, gnocchi were made from a semolina (durum) flour-based, porridge-like dough mixed with egg. That same recipe lives on today and can be found in similar fashion, particularly the oven-baked gnocchi alla romana one finds in the Eternal City and other parts of the Lazio region.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that the spud found its way into Europe, brought over from South America by the Spaniards. No sooner was the first sack unloaded by the conquistadores that the potato quickly became THE ingredient in gnocchi/gnocchetti.
Okay, enough history. I’m starving.
Grab an apron and we’ll head into the kitchen and get these lumpy, knotted-up knuckles underway.
Step-1: Fill a medium size pot with water, cover and fire the heat to HIGH and let boil.
Step-2: In a small skillet, add the cream and the cheese, pre-cut into small pieces.
Step-3: Fire the heat under the skillet to LOW and begin warming the cream and melting the cheese until the two combine to form a thick, creamy sauce. Remove from heat, let it rest and wait for Step-6.
Step-4: Water is now boiling. Uncover, add the salt and drop the gnocchetti down into the boiling water.
Step-5: When the gnocchetti rise to the top of the boiling water — about 2 min. — they’re done. With a handheld strainer, skim the gnocchetti and shake dry. Turn off the heat underneath the pot.
Step-6: Fire the heat to MEDIUM HIGH underneath the skillet. Add the gnocchetti to the cheese and cream sauce, stir gently in the sauté for about 1 min. Turn off heat.
Step-7: Plate the gnocchetti, top with 1-2 cranks of freshly ground black pepper (optional), and serve.
Step-8: BUON APPETITO!
Recommended Wine Pairing: Sanct Valentin Alto Adige Sauvignon DOC – Kellerei St. Michael, Appiano/Eppan (BZ), Italy – This wine pairing recommendation comes from Maria-Giovanna, one of the two certified sommelier on staff at Gastronomia il Ceppo. She chose wisely again as this vino bianco complimented nicely the gnocchetti verdi in the gorgonzola cream sauce.
St. Michael’s Winery, located along the prestigious Weinstraße (Wine Road) in the town of Appiano/Eppan in Italy’s northernmost region of the Trentino Alto Adige/South Tyrol, was selected “Winery of the Year for 2000″ by the Italian wine publication I Vini d’Italia. And, for good reason. This winery produces and markets three distinct lines — Sanct Valentin, Cru and Classic — totaling 34 different blends and varietals. It is within the Sanct Valentin line that we uncork this enjoyable Sauvignon.
Sanct Valentin Alto Adige Sauvignon DOC is a wine that enchants by its varietal alone. Light green in color, this Sauvignon’s bouquet is rich with aromas of wild elder blossoms, figs and understated spices.
Convincing on the palate, it’s fine, dry, balanced and long lasting. Partially aged and refined in oak casks, Sanct Valentin Alto Adige Sauvignon DOC stands alone as a superb aperitivo, and compliments well a variety of appetizers, vegetable dishes, fish entrees, sushi and cheeses.
Best served chilled between 8-10 °C.
©The Palladian Traveler | ©Tom Palladio Images
Simple and delicious, two excellent things.
Thanks, Janet. Grab a plate and fork and dig in. 🙂
Ah, all my favourite things in one meal, but best of all, that gorgonzola dolce! 🙂
Meredith — I knew I could count on you for a reply to this post. You’re the reason why I added Gorgonzola Dolce to the recipe 🙂
Ha ha! That predictable, am I? I’d have enjoyed the sauvignon too – those fresh northern Italian whites are terrific. Now, if I weren’t lingering here in paradise … 🙂
Love gnocchi! I didn’t know they were names after a tree knot. Thanks for that trivia!
Thanks for dropping a note, Ruth. There’s an historical footnote for probably every kind of pasta here in Italy, and I plan to track them all down, one strand at a time, and blog about ’em. I hope you’ll read them all, too. 🙂
Can’t wait! 😉
I arrive Vicenza tomorrow from Ferrara. My mouth is watering! Thanks.
Suzy — Welcome to my fair city and thanks for reading my blog post.
I think I just died and went to heaven with this gnocchi. One of my most favorite foods.
Emily — If you recreate the dish in your kitchen, then you will be in Heaven!