I believe that talking about food, recipes, cooking is a typical topos of my people, perhaps even a preconception about us Italians.
Thinking of my family, my friends, my previous colleagues left behind in Italy, I know that for most Italians this is not the case. We love to return to the family for the most important religious holidays, but there is no longer a close relationship between traditions and cuisine in my generation than the ones of my parents and my grandparents. Maybe it’s more of a bond for us migrants, a memory that is associated not only with family and childhood, but also with the country we were born into?
Personally speaking, I don’t have many childhood memories of cooking. There are no typical recipes of my parents – and my father worked as a chef! -, nor particular memories with my grandmothers, because we lived in different areas of Italy.
I’m a mother of three girls and I think one of the fun tasks of being a parent is to create memories, so I like to repeat some recipes over the seasons, telling how much I remember of my family or my husband’s family related to that recipe, or when we used to cook it in previous years.
One of these recipes is gnocchi.
The first piece of news about gnocchi, which I tell my daughters to entertain them, is that there is only an hour’s drive between their father’s city and my parents’ city, but the traditional day of preparing gnocchi varies so much!
In my husband’s city, Cremona, the preparation of gnocchi is typical of August, to “try” the first production of handmade tomato sauce. The typical day is August 16th, it is a religious day, the patron saint of the village, once upon a time the peasants rested from the summer harvest and met with their families to cook.
In Verona, where my parents grew up, gnocchi are typical of February, of the last Friday before Lent, the typical Italian carnival week. “Old potatoes” are used.
It is a celebration was born in the sixteenth century when, in a great period of famine, the friars fed many people by cooking gnocchi for everyone. It is a peasant area, where February was a difficult month because there were still no fresh products and stocks were running out.
The choice of the potato is the most difficult part, because the success of the dish depends on the type of potato and its maturity. I use red-skinned potatoes
I use for 5 people:
1 kg of boiled, peeled and mashed potatoes,
300 g of white flour,
a pinch of salt,
Take a part of the dough and spread it with your fingertips to obtain 2 cm thick loaves (to do this, help yourself by flouring the work surface, from time to time, with flour) In the meantime, cover the remaining dough with a cloth to avoid let it dry. Then I cut the loaves into chunks. I pour them a few at a time in boiling salted water; as soon as the gnocchi come to the surface they are considered cooked and therefore ready to be drained and seasoned. I season them with melted butter and Parmesan, or with tomato sauce, or with cheese sauce, or with sugar and cinnamon.