Thursday, October 11, 2007


You are a sophisticated eater, and you know Italian food is more than just spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, and the occasional lasagna, but you're stymied by a real Italian menu and brutally mispronounce everything past the chicken parmigiana. Sorry, but you make my ears hurt.

Here's something to try. These sublime little potato dumplings are gnocchi, and most well-intentioned Anglo Americans mispronounce them badly. I've heard so-called "foodies" call them everything from "Noshy" to "Ganokey," and even "Gah-NOSH." The correct pronunciation is "NYO-key."
(For audio, click button below*)

People talk about "Comfort Food" and reel off a litany of bland Americana, covered dishes and the like, but for me gnocchi is comfort food. The best I've had, in Italy or America, are made by my mom, who is Calabrese and a first-rate chef. On birthdays, when given a choice of any food for dinner, these were a hands-down winner. The perfect accompaniment would be homemade Italian sausages made by my dad, who is Sicilian. Comfort food? You can have your jello molds and tuna casseroles!

I've made them myself with Mom's guidance, and they're not easy to master. For the basic idea, here's a recipe from Anna Maria Volpe.

come in a wide variety, but these are my favorite, gnocchi di patate -- potato gnocchi. There are also Gnocchi di Semolina, made from Durham wheat, and in Tuscany, there is a beautifully named gnocchi made from spinach and ricotta called Strozzapreti -- or "priest-stranglers." Ricotta, by the way, is NOT pronounced "ree-COTT-uh," but more like "ree-COAT-uh."

While I'm at it, those delicious dipping cookies? They are NOT pronounced "bih-SCOTTIES." Oh, and I'm not an EYE-talian.


*For audio, click the button, and hear a native Italian speaker say: "Gnocco [singular], Gnocchi [plural], Gnocchi di Ricotta."

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