What Are Gnocchi?
Let's start off with the basic notion that gnocchi indicate a round, tapered, or cylindrical shape of dough meant to be cooked in boiling water.
What it means. The most probable etymology of the word is from the ancient Lombard word knohha and mixed with the Venetian word gnoco. Translated, both words mean knot, like in wood. This is also the root-word of nocca (knuckle) and noce (walnut). Visually speaking, all three words recall the shape of a piece of gnocchi. In fact, they are responsible for the name we now use today for these delicious pieces of dough.
Remember, when speaking of gnocchi, we usually refer to them in the plural and hardly ever in the singular gnocco as it would mean just one single piece of dough.
Gnocchi Are the Ancestors of Pasta
Gnocchi are the ancestors to the pasta we know and love nowadays. Some of the oldest examples would be gnocchi made of semolina flour and water (like malloreddus, gnocchi alla romana) and also white flour and water (like gnocchetti, gnocchi di farina). There are numerous regional preparations with the same ingredients, where you will often find they are called gnochetti, or 'small gnocchi'.
Fun fact. Since the heart of flour and water gnocchi would remain hard when cooked, housewives in the past got creative and solved the problem in two different ways. By dragging their gnocchi on the working board and creating a thin, concave shape that also worked perfectly at capturing the sauce. By precooking the flour and then using it to make gnocchi of different shapes. Simply genius!
We now see all other kinds of ingredients in gnocchi. Vegetables (pumpkin, potato, beetroots, cauliflower), sometimes flavored with cheese, sometimes made with leftovers like stale bread, cuts of meat or offal, fish, rice.
The general term gnocchi is often associated with just potato gnocchi. In this Guide, you'll see how there is so, so much more than just potatoes. Welcome to the vast and fascinating world of gnocchi!