My mother’s mother’s name was Edwige – pronounced EdvEEjay – which was quite an unusual name for a northern Italian child born at the start of the 20th Century. But there you have it: she came from a working class family of five children. My Nonna ‘Vige did not particularly like to cook. The main reason was that she didn’t indulge in eating. Food was a necessity to her. She learned first hand that sometimes food was scarce. She used to catch frogs, as a young girl, to sell as meat and supplement the family income. Later on, as my mom recalls, she used to make umbrellas at home for the same reason. My mom and her two older sisters helped.
Even if – or despite the fact that – my nonna ‘Vige would rather eat “riso e latte” (rice cooked in milk, slightly sweet) or “busechina” (cooked dried chestnuts eaten in milk) any day, she truly made a mean risotto and killer gnocchi.
Gnocchi di patate was a major production at her house. We all had to work quickly: the potatoes were skinned hot, pressed on a bed of flour, and we would quickly fold an egg and salt into the mixture. Then, again quickly, we would shape the gnocchi; my Nonna ‘Vige would make long “snakes” of dough, cut the gnocchi in little rounds, and my brother and/or I would roll them on a fork to give them their classic shape. The reason everything was to be done quickly, now I know, is that heat of the potatoes helps the integration of the ingredients. In order to avoid chewy gnocchi, the dough needs, in fact, to be worked only briefly. The heat enables you to avoid overworking the dough.
Also, another key factor, was the right kind of potato. If you got the wrong one, the dough would never take shape, and you’d need to throw away the whole thing. In Milan, we would go to the local produce stand and ask for potatoes for gnocchi (“per gnocchi”) Here, it has taken me 14 years to learn that I need to use Gold potatoes.
The ingredients are very simple for a very simple meal. I still remember the proportions: “un chilo di patate, 3 etti di farina, un uovo” (“one kilogram of potatoes, 3 hectograms of flour, one egg”)
I had missed my nonna’s gnocchi for many years. Then, one day, it occurred to me that I could try my gluten-free flour and use the same magic proportions. And voila’, my nonna’s gnocchi were back!
At my home we eat them with tomato sauce, or with burro e salvia (melted butter with sage, cooked until the sage slightly darkens) You can add pesto, or simply some olive oil and grated parmesan cheese.
Gluten-free Gnocchi di patate della nonna ‘Vige
Gold potatoes 2.2 lb
Simona’s Flour Mix 2 cups (300 gr)
Egg 1 large
Salt a pinch
Boil the whole potatoes until they are soft (about 45 minutes).
Drain them and use the same pot to boil some salted water that you’ll use to cook the gnocchi.
While the potatoes are still hot, peel and pass through a vegetable mill onto the flour that you already measured on a clean working surface.
Place egg and salt in center and mix the ingredients, kneading gently until a ball is formed.
Roll baseball-sized ball of dough into 3/4-inch diameter dowels and cut dowels into 1-inch long pieces. Because the gluten-free version of gnocchi is less pliable than the original one, I leave them shaped as rounds, without rolling them onto a fork.
Place parchment paper on a baking sheet, and place the gnocchi on it, until ready to cook them.
Drop these pieces into boiling water and cook until they float (about 1 minute).
Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon of skimmer, draining them well. Place them in a bowl, add some olive oil, and pasta sauce if you’d like. Gently stir and serve. Enjoy!