Gnocchi have their origin not in the Venetian cuisine but in the one from Verona, which once belonged to Serenissima Repubblica. Like Carnival, gnocchi has existed in Verona since the 16th century. But only at the beginning of the last century, when Verona was part of the Austro-Hungarian fortified quadrangle and the most important stronghold of the Austrians in northern Italy, was it possible to appreciate the potato gnocchi elsewhere.
Although it had previously been potatoes, but they had been dismissed as “roba da foresti” (food for strangers) or as food for highlanders. Only with the Austrians could they finally prevail.
Even today, there is the custom in Verona that gnocchi be prepared on the forecourt of the basilica of San Zeno Maggiore in huge pots and distributed to passers-by on the last Carnival Friday. This is followed by the parade of Carnival cars through the center of the city. First and foremost is the “Papà del gnoco”, the traditional carnival figure of the city, as a symbol of abundance. He is accompanied by a band of helpers who distribute the gnocchi to the crowd during the procession. The last Friday of Carnival in 2019 is the first of March and, as usual for the “Venardì Gnocolàr”, even in the Verona families, steaming gnocchi are prepared and served at the table.
Today, the Veronese gnocchi of San Zeno Maggiore are an integral part of traditional Venetian cuisine, especially during Carnival.
Ingredients for 6 – 8 people
|For the gnocchi||For the sauce|
|2 kg large, floury-boiled potatoes||1 kg of peeled tomatoes|
|500 g of fine, sieved flour||1 dl of extra virgin olive oil|
|2 eggs||1 big onion|
|salt||some stalks of parsley (or basil)|
|1 clove of garlic|
|plenty of grated Parmesan|
1 1/2 hours
Wash the unpeeled potatoes and place in a large saucepan. Cover with lightly salted water and cook until they are cooked.
Flour dust a work surface (in Venetian, a marble work surface is preferred). Drain the water, peel the potatoes and press through the press on the work surface. Mix the puree with the flour, eggs and salt, then knead well with your hands until you get a light, smooth dough.
Divide the dough into portions and shape about 2 thick rolls with floured hands. Cut these into pieces about 3 cm long and press against the tines of a fork or the inside of a grater. The result is small, ribbed bowls that absorb the sauce nicely.
Place the finished gnocchi on a cloth dusted with flour. They must not touch each other so that they do not stick together.
Prepare the tomato sauce:
– Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, sauté the finely chopped onion in golden yellow;
– add the tomatoes and the finely chopped clove of garlic; salt and pepper;
– as soon as the sauce has thickened sufficiently, add the finely chopped parsley or basil leaves; stir and remove from heat
– taste the sauce.
Bring plenty of salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the gnocchi and, when they come to the surface, remove them with the foam. Drain the gnocchi, spread on plates and add 2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce.
Serve immediately with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.