We all know gnocchi mainly from potato dough. But in Italy’s regions, these delicious little pasta dumplings are also made from various types of flour, polenta or bread. In Venice and in Sicily, people love them with ricotta.Jump to Recipe
Without potatoes is also possible
Before the potato began its triumphal procession into Europe, Italian gnocchi were a festive variant of pasta. As the cookbooks of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance show, the dough consisted of various types of flour, which were often supplemented with other ingredients. The traditional Malloreddus, for example, small Sardinian pasta made from durum wheat flour, are also called gnocchi sardi. As varied as the gnocchi are, so different are the ways in which they come to the table: in sage butter or tomato sauce, topped with cheese or in a broth.
Everything is Gnocchi!
In Piedmont, gnocchi are made from buckwheat and wheat flour, for example. In Friuli and Lazio, eggs are added to the dough; in Tuscany, the dough is made from polenta semolina. In Lombardy, gnocchi are made from stale bread, spinach and eggs. In Trentino-South Tyrol, they are also prepared with stale bread. The Venetians and the Sicilians in turn mix ricotta into it. However, the oldest gnocchi in Italy are from Emilia Romagna. The recipe for pisarei is from the Middle Ages. The gnocchi, made of flour, breadcrumbs and water, are served with beans, onions and tomatoes.
Ricotta made from sheep’s milk is a typical product of southern Italy and Sicily. The most famous one comes from the Sicani mountains between the province of Palermo and Agrigento. This ricotta is also used to make the Sicilian cannoli and cassata. Still today the shepherds move with their flocks over the herb-rich pastures of the Sicani mountains and the sheep are milked by hand. Sheep’s milk used to be one of the island’s most important foods. Some even believed it had magical powers. It was said that women who did not want to get pregnant should drink sheep’s milk before sexual intercourse.
Sicilian Ricotta Gnocchi
- 125 g flour
- 1 egg
- 250 g ricotta high fat content, better if sheep ricotta
- 100 g Pecorino or Parmesan
Spread flour on a work surface. Form a hollow in the middle. Add the egg, ricotta and grated Pecorino cheese. Mix the ingredients with your fingertips from the inside out. Knead the dough only a little. If you knead the ingredients too much, the dumplings will become hard. Some pieces of ricotta must remain chunky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the dough into finger-thick rolls and cut off 2 cm long pieces. Place the dough pieces on a kitchen towel and dust with a little flour. Gradually put them into boiling salt water, reduce the temperature a little and let the gnocchi cook for 2-3 minutes. As soon as the gnocchi float to the surface, remove with a skimmer and drain well.
A simple tomato sauce tastes great with these creamy gnocchi. Its sourness is a fine contrast to the ricotta: fry a clove of garlic in olive oil, remove it, then mix the strained or chopped tomatoes with the oil and let it boil down a little. If you like, add fresh basil for added flavour. Season to taste with salt. The Venetian ricotta gnocchi (fioreta) are served with melted butter and mature, melted cheese.