In our family everybody loves pasta, especially Gnocchi! Pasta! Gnocchi! You might ask, doesn’t sound very South American. In fact because of the large number of Italian immigrants in South America pasta is a big part of peoples diet.
Pasta and our Gnocchi tradition
In Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, eating gnocchi is a popular tradition on the 29th of every month. We have been following that tradition all our lives but never asked why. We asked family but no one is quite sure why this custom came about, so we decided to do some research so we can enlighten you all. Google search to the rescue and with a few hours of reading we found several different stories so we are still not quite sure. But here is a couple of our favourites and we linked a few more if you are interested.
Some Gnocchi history
This story going back to the year 1690 tells of the small town from Piamonte, Italy where the wheat crop had been spoiled. Even though potatoes were a food of the poor or used to feed animals, misery was so rampant and food scarce that it became a popular food source. The locals cooked the potatoes and mixed it with flour, and that is how Gnocchi originated.
As far as why Gnocchi is usually a meal eaten on the 29th of each month we found this. At least in this story it is said that at the end of the month people in those days had less resources and got paid at the beginning of the following month. So they had to be creative to make it to the end of the month by using less expensive ingredients. Potatoes and flour are not expensive so that’s why they were used to make Gnocchi. This tradition is very old but it’s still used to this day. To check out some more stories both in English and Spanish check out this link, Gnocchi Stories.
We do know for certain that Gnocchi was a recipe brought to South America by Italian migrants during the great Italian emigration of 1876-1926. It was one of the largest modern emigrations any country has seen. An estimated 8.9 million Italians settled in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay as well as Venezuela and Peru. Hence the great influence of Italian cuisine in South America.
- 1 kg of white potatoes ( you could use red ones)
- 1 egg ( if you double the recipe use extra yolks)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups of plain flour(a bit more for surface)
- 1 can of crushed tomato(800 grm)
- 2 brown onions
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 4-5 sprigs of flat Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste,
- Pepper , salt, oregano to taste
- Cubes of red meat
- Peel potatoes and cut into 3cm cubes boil the on salty water.
- Drain and transfer to a bowl and
- Mash until smooth, finish with a fork to remove any lumps.
- Set aside to cool.
- Add the egg, oil, sprinkle pepper and salt to taste to pure .
- Gather dough into a ball.
- Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth
- Divide dough into portions and roll each into a log about 2.5 cm thick cut into 3cm pieces .
- To shape the gnocchi roll a piece of dough down the inside of the tines of a fork using your thumb which will create an indentation on the other side.
- Bring a large wide saucepan of water to the boil.
- Cook gnocchi in 2-3 batches, until they rise to the surface about 3 min
- Drain and mix with tomato sauce, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese
- To make sauce
- Fry the onion, garlic, parsley then add the meat until brown.
- Add the tomato and tomato paste
- Add 1 can of boiling water ( use the empty can)
- Salt and herbs and simmer for 30 min
Hope you enjoy it as much as we do, comment below and why not start a new family tradition.
Chau abuelas Silvia and Graciela