We have just added a delicious, rustic entrée to our menu… the much adored Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu. We previously offered it as a special for our guests and they loved it so much, we decided to make it a permanent fixture on our menu.
Let’s start with the pronunciation and then we can get to the melt in your mouth goodness that is gnocchi. There’s [nok-ee, noh-kee] and then there’s the Italian pronunciation which is [nyawk-kee.] All are perfectly acceptable. Just as there are many ways to prepare gnocchi, there is a lot of flexibility in its pronunciation too.
Gnocchi is Italian for “dumplings” and they can be made from potatoes, flour or farina (which is a flour or meal made from wheat, nuts, or vegetables). Eggs, cheese and, finely chopped spinach can be added to the dough. Ours is made from flour, garlic, ricotta, parmesan, parsley and a few other simple ingredients.
While we hand-cut ours into little pillow shapes, you can also find gnocchi shaped into little balls. Cooking methods also differ, with some preparations calling for simply cooking the gnocchi in boiling water and serving with butter and Parmesan, sage, pesto or a savory sauce. A variation is that the dough is chilled, sliced and either baked or fried. Ours is first cooked in boiling water, and then browned on the stove delivering a crunchy exterior and a soft, creamy interior.
Gnocchi suffers from the same identity crisis as several other Italian dishes that come from different regions. They all make it their own way, and there are striking variations. For example, in the Tuscan Region, malfatti (literally “poorly made”) are made from flour, ricotta and spinach. In the Pugliese Region, cavatielli are flour-based. Gnocchi, made from potato is perhaps the most popular in Italian American cooking…it is also the most recent innovation, occurring after the introduction of the potato to Europe in the 16th century.
From ingredients, cooking methods, sauces and even the pronunciation of its name, Gnocchi is a dish that is open to many different interpretations. The bottom line is that there is no wrong way, as we recently featured a Gnocchi made with sweet potato! So go ahead, experiment, but by all means try ours. Will it be your favorite? We’re not sure, but we are sure you’ll taste the love.
At Alpine, we our doing our Gnocchi old school as it is one of our Chef’s favorite nostalgic dishes to prepare…rolling it out, cutting it by hand and cooking just enough for one order at a time. We serve ours with a painstakingly slow cooked, flavor filled Veal Ragu. Making Gnocchi and Veal Ragu translates into a serious time commitment… and what our guests have to come expect from us. Frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.