Friday, February 13, 2015

gli gnocchetti di nonna

A type of pasta I often find myself making, is this one here. Gnocchetti. A tiny version of the gnocchi-potato type but without the potatoes, made solely with flour and water.

My grandmother is the one who taught me how to make this pasta.   She'd be balancing the ingredients with handfuls and I'd be asking, how much flour? She'd add the water and I'd still be asking....but much nonna?  Her answer was always the same: just look.  Once she finished kneading, she'd hand me the dough and urge to touch, feel, poke.  In three words, it was smooth, soft, elastic.  She'd then take the dough back, wrap it in a damp towel and say, now you know how to make it.  

That's it.

Not really.

It took some time before I figured it out.  There was always something that just wasn't right. I would do exactly what she would do, I didn't have any other choice if not her simple way of adding a little more of this a little more of that, until finally I got it right.  The problem was that the next time never turned out like the last. 

Through that blunt lesson of dough making, my grandmother taught me more than what I only understood later in time. Balancing flour and water has become, for me, intuitive, rather than a dosage of specific measurements in grams and millilitres.  My hands rely on what they feel as being the right texture through a sort of kneading-memory where hands and dough move in symbiosis and remember.
Today, I can say I've learned how to make this pasta dough.  For how simple it may seem to gather the only two ingredients of flour and water, it's less easier than an egg pasta dough but with a few things in mind it's also less complicated than how I may be describing it myself.

The dough
The gnocchetti can turn out hard even after they're cooked, which doesn't mean, al dente.  They'll still taste good, you might not even notice the difference but you'll have them lying in your stomach for the rest of the day like rocks. This is why my grandmother taught me to mix "hot water" with the flour.  Durum flour (farina di grano duro) to be more precise. Adding the hot water to the flour pre-cooks the flour before it becomes dough and once the gnocchetti are made they are cooked again in a pot of boiling water just like any other type of pasta. When they float, let them boil an extra few minutes and then drain.  They will be, al dente, and most of all digestible.

To give you an idea of the portions: the amount of water used is half the amount of flour used.  Keep in mind that it all depends on how much water the flour absorbs.  Therefore, adding the water a little at a time is the right way to go.  From here, the procedure is that of a homemade egg pasta, form a well in the center of the flour, add the hot water in place of the eggs.  Use a fork to mix the hot water and flour until it's manageable with your hands.  

Once the dough is made, divide it in several portions and roll out long ropes the size of a finger.  Cut small pieces, 1 cm wide, and poke your index finger in each while you roll the piece in your direction.

Just about any sauce can go well with this pasta but the one my grandmother traditionally used is a tomato tuna sauce and it's the one I suggest you use too.  

This is the result.
...and that serving plate used to be my grandmother's.  Old, faded and ruined but it was hers and I love it.

The sauce

500g canned peeled tomatoes (preferably homemade jarred tomatoes, they always taste better)
250g conserved tuna fillets
2 garlic cloves
3 anchovies
hot pepper (optional)
evo oil

In a preheated pan, add 3 - 4 tbsp of evo oil and garlic.  Once the garlic has flavoured the oil, remove it from the pan and add the anchovy fillets.  With the help of a wooden spoon, swirl the anchovies so that they dissolve in the oil.  Add the peeled tomatoes and squish with your spoon.  Salt to taste.  Cook for 20 minutes.


  1. Aahhh le nonne!!! Sono un pò come le mamme "aggiungi quanto basta" e sono anche incredibilmente brave!!! Adoro questo tipo di gnocchi, secondo me sono anche più leggeri e soffici. Il piatto è bellissimo... un abbraccio Elvira!!!

  2. I've never made a sauce with tuna, but this looks delicious. I'll have to give it a try.