The famous “Ottobrate Romane” were outings that usually took place out-of-town, referred to as “fuori porta”, during October (‘ottobre’ in Italian). This was because the warm, sunny days of October in Rome and rural harvest festivals have always attracted Romans to the vineyards of nearby castles and the thriving countryside. Since the 18th century foreign visitors passing through Rome have been struck by the joyous atmosphere of celebration on Thursdays and Sundays.
This involved the people to such an extent that they would fall into debt to take part in the Ottobrate, and then appeal to the Monte di Pietà pawnbroker. On foot or in a type of horse-drawn nutshell-shaped cart known as a “carettella”, Romans would go out dressed to the nines bound for the countryside on the city outskirts at the Milvian Bridge, San Giovanni, Porta Pia, San Paolo, Monte Mario and Monteverde, which until the middle of the 19th century were full of orchards and vineyards. Yet the district of Testaccio was by far the preferred venue because from the 17th century cellars were created in the base of the artificial hill formed by an accumulation of broken amphorae and debris, providing the ideal temperature for storing wine. The festival programme included equestrian games, greasy poles, cross-country running, bands, songs, dances such as the typical saltarello and of course great feasts with wine in abundance. Menus for the country outings never failed to offer gnocchi, tripe and suckling lamb, either baked or “scottadito” which literally means ‘burnt fingers’, otherwise known as grilled. Remaining with tradition, we can suggest a dish that reminds us of the festival atmosphere of the Ottobrate Romane and out-of-town trips, and represents festivity, good company and joy: gnocchi.
The famous version is “Gnocchi alla Romana” made with semolina, while the ‘simpler’ dish made with potatoes is “Gnocchi del Giovedì” meaning ‘Thursday gnocchi’, so called because their appearance on the menu was traditionally reserved for this day of the week.
Recipe: Gnocchi del Giovedì Ingredients •5kg potatoes •125 g white flour •2 egg yolks •125g melted butter •125g grated parmesan • Salt to taste
To prepare Wash the potatoes and boil in their skins in lightly salted water. Peel and mash them, then mix in the flour and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks and add to the potato mixture, mixing well until it is completely absorbed. Once this is ready, take a handful of the mixture and flatten with your hands on a floured work surface. Form into an oblong sausage shape of maximum 1cm in diameter. With a knife cut the sausage into roughly 2cm segments, and place the pieces on a clean tea towel for around 1 hour to dry. Once dry, immerse them in a large pan of boiling water, leaving to cook for about 2 minutes, or until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a large serving dish. Pour over the melted butter and sprinkle the parmesan to taste.
Where to eat gnocchi
• Felice, 29 Via Mastro Giorgio, Rome. Tel +39 065746800
• Grappolo d'Oro, 80-84Piazza della Cancelleria. Tel. +39 066897080
•L'Asino d'Oro, 73 Via del Boschetto, Rome. Tel. +39 0648913832
• L'Osteria di Monteverde, 163 -165 Via Pietro Cartoni. Tel. +39 0653273887
•Osteria dell'Angelo, 24 Via Bettolo, Rome. Tel. +39 063729470
•Palatium, 94 Via Frattina, Rome. Tel. +39 0669202132