Gnocchi is a small dumpling that comes from the Italian word gnocco, which means “lump”. Gnocchi are one of the oldest preparations in the history of food, as they are recorded in cookbooks from the thirteenth century.

Gnocchi can be made of starch, potato, semolina (durum wheat), flour or ricotta cheese (with or without spinach). One variety, gnocchi di pane, popular in Friuli and Trentino-Altho Adiege/Suditrol regions, is made from bread crumbs.

Because gnocchi have a close link with pasta, it is sometimes difficult to tell apart what is considered pasta and what is gnocchi. Although gnocchi can have different ingredients and modes of preparation than traditional semolina Italian pasta, they can’t really be called pasta. Most gnocchi dishes cook faster than normal pasta and can fall apart if overcooked.

The classic accompaniments of gnocchi are a tomato sauce, a brown butter and sage sauce or melted butter and cheese.

In the Tuscan area of Italy, spinach-and-ricotta flavored gnocchi are called strozzapreti, or priest-stranglers. According to popular local legend, a priest chocked and died after eating too quickly, because the gnocchi were so delicious.

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