Walking through the streets of Rome, it is not unusual to read this popular expression on the daily menus of traditional restaurants. The complete saying is "Thursday gnocchi, Friday fish and Saturday tripe". It was born after the war, when "the art of getting by" was a must to ration food and fill plates and stomachs.
During the week, the Roman housewives worked hard to organize family meals, both for the lack of food and to follow religious precepts. According to Catholic tradition, Friday was a day of fasting, so-called "lean", when it was not allowed to eat meat; therefore, people consumed fish and legumes. Thus, the habit of preparing gnocchi with flour and eggs, seasoned with tomato sauce, spreads. They were a substantial, tasty and caloric dish to support the lighter meal of the following day.
In the past, in October, the gnocchi were the essential protagonists of the "Roman Ottobrata". During these warm and sunny days, people went out of town for daily trips to celebrate the end of the grape harvest for wine. The tradition, which continued until the early 20th century, involved all the people: the nobles, who opened their sumptuous patrician villas, and the plebeians, who often got into debt by resorting to the Monte dei Pegni pawnbroker.
The Romans remain faithful to this tradition. In the typical trattorias and restaurants of the Capital, especially in Testaccio and Trastevere districts, it is imperative to serve an excellent plate of gnocchi on Thursdays, cod with chickpeas on Fridays, and tasty Roman-style tripe on Saturdays.
Semolina or potatoes: the taste of tradition
Gnocchi are one of the first courses most loved by the Romans and don't need much introduction: simply tasty, genuine, easy to prepare.
A steaming portion of this dish, seasoned with a fragrant tomato and basil sauce or with ragù (meat sauce), is a must, a synonymous, par excellence, with the warm atmosphere of home. This simple and tasty homemade pasta is now a Sunday ritual when the family gathers around the set table for a convivial lunch in the name of the rich Capitoline gastronomy. Even today, children make fun of each other, for an unmotivated hilarity, with the funny and folk saying, "Ridi, ridi, che mamma ha fatto i gnocchi" (Laugh, laugh, that mom made the gnocchi). The nonsense origin probably dates back to the postwar period, when, due to extreme poverty, finding gnocchi on the table was a pleasant surprise.
In Roman traditional cuisine are two types of gnocchi: alla romana, made with semolina, milk, eggs, butter and parmesan, in the shape of a disc and au gratin in the oven; those "del giovedì", made with potatoes, eggs and flour and boiled in water, today the protagonists of creative recipes and gourmet reinterpretations in extraordinary combinations with delicious vegetables, fine cheeses, fish and shellfish, such as the delicate gnocchi with clams of the talented chefs of the Roman coast.
Here are our recipes to choose from according to your curiosity and taste. Otherwise, why not try them both?
Gnocchi del giovedì
• 5kg potatoes
• 125 g white flour
• 2 egg yolks
• 125g melted butter
• 125g grated parmesan
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 a maximum of 1cm in diameter. With a knife, cut the sausage into roughly 2cm segments. 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 them 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.
Gnocchi alla Romana
Ingredients (4 people)
• 1 litre of milk
• 250 g semolina
• 100 g butter
• 80 g of grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 egg yolks
Boil the milk with a dab of butter, a pinch of salt and some nutmeg. When the milk has reached a boil, pour in the semolina, stirring with a whisk to avoid lumps. When it is uniform and thick, turn off the heat, add the butter and mix with a spoon until completely absorbed. Add the egg yolks, always mixing well, and then the Parmesan, mixing everything. Transfer the mixture to an oiled pan and roll it out to a maximum height of 1 centimetre. Let it cool and turn the oven on at 200 °. When the preparation has cooled down, with a pasta cup or a coffee cup, cut into disks of about 4 cm in diameter. Place the semolina gnocchi in a buttered baking dish, brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and then another 5 minutes on the grill. Remove from the oven and serve hot.
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Rome's cuisine: intense and genuine flavors and a strong identity