We're going to make gnocchi with an Italian chef this evening. One of the secrets to making good Italian food is using fresh local ingredients--so we'll be heading to the market. Start with some good potatoes--that's key. We'll need the perfect balance of potatoes and flour--too much of one is a disaster. Like Keith Richards says, "You need rock AND roll," which explains not only the gastronomical balance of potatoes and flour but also the attitude you need to make gnocchi.
You need rock AND roll
After we make some gnocchi we'll take a walk through a market in Catania, Sicily. No, gnocchi didn't originate in Sicily, but regionalism means less nowadays and gnocchi are enjoyed wherever Italian food is eaten from the trattorias of Rome to the seaside tables of Cinque Terre, from the osterias in the chilly north to the family-run restaurants of the sun-baked south. And maybe your neighborhood, too.
The Roman legions introduced gnocchi to the far-flung corners of the empire, so isn't it about time you encountered these delicious cloudlike dumplings? In our Italian American household (should I say Calabrese/Sicilian/American household?) we've enjoyed these plucky little pillows for as long as I can remember. For birthdays we got to pick our favorite meals, and my choice was always gnocchi. Mom is the expert and she still makes them by hand, several varieties from Gnocchi di Semolina to potato gnocchi (my favorite). When non-hyphenated Americans talk about "comfort food" they usually mean bland, familiar meals like roast beef and mashed potatoes, but gnocchi top my comfort food list. Oh, and they're pronounced "NYO-key."