My Nonna and my mother were born in Italy. Nonna boarded a boat in 1945 headed to the land of the free with her two young girls, my mother who was 9 and my aunt who was a few years older. They didn’t speak a word of English, but came here to meet my Grandfather who had left Italy 9 years earlier to build a life for them in the US. My mom would be meeting her dad for the first time at the age of 9. With them came some delicious authentic Italian cooking! We loved Nonna dearly, but a trip to her house also meant a wonderful selection of food with the highlight being her Gnocchi. There was no recipe…Nonna just threw all the ingredients together based on memory and it was always perfect. Several years ago, I decided we should get the recipe on paper for posterity. As I helped Nonna, my mom wrote down all of the instructions and measurements and it is now documented for handing down generation to generation. It’s a little time consuming, but worth it. My kids (Samantha-20 and Frank-17) and I have been setting aside a day for years now to make enough to feed an army every holiday season and it is the main dish on Christmas Eve. EVERYONE looks forward to the Gnocchi on Christmas Eve! It will be bittersweet this year as Nonna passed away this summer at the ripe old age of 97 and mom is in a memory care facility at the age of 76, but we take some comfort in carrying on the tradition that honors their heritage. For the record, the Gnocchi I find in most Italian restaurants has no resemblance to Nonna’s traditional Gnocchi. Her Gnocchi is more similar to what many restaurants call Cavatelli or 8 Finger Cavatelli (if it is homemade). And as I find with most Italians, what we here call tomato sauce or red sauce, my Italian family calls “gravy”. This is delicious with your favorite marinara, meat sauce or vodka sauce. ENJOY!
Serves: This recipe really does feed an army. I’ll make the whole recipe, then freeze some of the dough for a later time or, if I have help and the time, make all of the Gnocchi from the dough at once and freeze so it is ready to cook for an awesome quick dinner at any time. You can also halve the recipe.
4 lbs Baking Potatoes
5 lbs flour
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Salt
2 cups water to start
Large cutting board and rolling pin
Non-stick Baker’s Secret cookie sheets
Some additional flour for rolling and forming
Boil potatoes until soft and mash. Mix all ingredients together and knead with hands until dough forms. You can use a bit of oil on hands to make it easier to mix without sticking. (NOTE: Nonna did this by hand, but I use a heavy duty kitchen mixer with the dough attachment to do the work. You can only do ½ at a time in the mixer though, so I split the ingredients roughly into two batches.) If dough is too dry, you can add some additional water as needed. Dough should be a little tacky.
Sprinkle flour on cutting board. Separate section of dough to fit on cutting board after rolling. Sprinkle flour onto dough and roll to a 1/4” or 1/3” thick. Use as much flour as needed to control stickiness. Cut into long strips 1 ½ to 2” wide, then cut strips into thin rectangles as pictured. Take 3 or 4 fingers and press lightly onto strip and pull fingers toward you “rolling” the thin rectangle into a round shape (as pictured). Transfer Gnocchi to non-stick cookie sheet in one layer and freeze for ½ hour to an hour. Transfer into freezer bags and freeze until ready to cook. To cook: Boil until tender, but not too soft (maybe 10-15 minutes depending on how al dente you like your pasta). Stir slowly immediately and periodically. Serve with your favorite pasta sauce.