/Gnocchi di Patate

Gnocchi di Patate


On Thursday mornings pasta shops in Rome are abuzz preparing gnocchi di patate (potato gnocchi), the canonical primo of the day. Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit Pasta Fresca Mea in Piazza Testaccio to see how they are made. Mea has been in business since 1947 and supplies many of the zone’s best trattorie with their fresh pasta. The sign on their doorway proclaims “modern methods, historic traditions”. Their pasta production is semi-industrial; gnocchi dough, for example, is mixed and kneaded by hand, then fed into a machine that cuts the dough into small pieces. The gnocchi are dusted with rice flour to prevent them from sticking together, then sold from the store’s display case or delivered to local restaurants.

At Pasta Fresca Mea, the gnocchi are made in the traditional Roman fashion, that is, with potatoes and flour (farina di grano tenero). There is often a dispute over what defines a traditional Roman gnoccho. The confusion lies in the fact that the dish gnocchi alla romana is made with flour dumplings baked with butter, milk, and parmesan. This recipe, however, is of northern Italian provenience and the alla romana bit is a misnomer.

Potatoes have been an ingredient in Rome’s gnocchi recipe for over 200 years. Though potatoes came to Europe from the New World in the 1490s, the humble tuber was largely ignored until the 18th century. By then, they were growing in many fields and trendsetting peasants in the Roman countryside begin incorporating them into their gnocchi recipes. The variety of potatoes that grow in central Italy have a low water and high starch content. That means less flour needs to be added to make dough. Less flour means less gluten, which results in a tender and enticing piece of pasta.

The recipe for gnocchi di patate is simple enough. To start, boil potatoes, peel them and put them through a ricer while they are still steaming so that as much moisture as possible is released. Let the potatoes cool, then add flour (approximately 1 cup of flour for every pound of potatoes) a little at a time until it is incorporated. Roll the dough into ropes around 3/4 inch thick and cut into small pieces. To cook, add to boiling water. When they float to the top, they are done. Serve with a simple tomato and basil sauce or with the sauce left over from cooking spuntature (pork ribs) in tomatoes.

2016-01-07T14:37:32+00:00 November 13th, 2009|Categories: Culture, Gastronomic Traditions, Rome & Lazio|9 Comments


  1. Hande November 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Ok, so my information that gnocchi alla romana are made with semolina was right, it is just that gnocchi alla romana are not “di Roma”! 🙂 Thanks for putting that right!

  2. shayma November 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    i like the historical background you gave us. Katie, is this the fresh pasta shop which is next to the “dollar shop”? i think the street is called via aldo manuzio.
    sadly, i have never been able to eat gnocchi, i just find them too “heavy”.

  3. Katie November 14, 2009 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    @Hande that’s correct! one little preposition changes everything!

    @shayma its the place in piazza testaccio on the southeast side of the market. that may be via aldo manuzio but i am totally lost with street names in testaccio. i also have a hard time navigating the grid plan, strangely enough. I can handle medieval chaos but fascist order eludes me.

  4. shayma November 15, 2009 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    hmm, may be a different one. the one i know of is at the Southwest corner if approaching from the marmorata. their pasta is so good, i wonder how Volpetti (with all due respect, my fave tavola calda in Rome) is able to sell fresh pasta- why would anyone buy from them when this place is just around the corner. and yours must be wonderful, too. i get lost in the medieval chaos, but in testaccio, i felt at home 🙂

  5. Katie November 15, 2009 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    i think we are talking about the same place. it is the only one on the piazza and it is on the left hand side of the street when approaching from marmorata. i have trouble with cardinal directions. on the subject of tavole calde, there is a place off viale aventino that blows volpetti out of the water. it is amazing and you MUST come back to rome soon to try it ou.

  6. Carmelita December 1, 2009 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Gnocchi alla Romana are widely eaten here in Bologna and Romagna. Speculation: were they once called Gnocchi (al modo di)Romagna?

    Properly made gnocchi are not at all heavy, melt in the mouth light is more like it.
    The secret is to add as little flour as possible, just what is needed for them to form a dough. And no egg, ever – it makes the mix wet and so you add flour and then you get what I call “rubber bullet” gnocchi.

    Unfortunately “rubber bullets” are what many restaurants serve, and invariably what you get at supermarkets.

    Love the idea of the pork rib flavoured tomato sauce, I also like simple sage butter on gnocchi, with lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano of course.

  7. Christmas Eve Dinner at Casa Bleve December 6, 2009 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    […] Gnocchi di patate fatti in casa con frutti di mare, fiori di zucca e basilico Homemade potato gnocchi with mixed seafood, squash blossoms, and basil […]

  8. Kathleen December 10, 2009 at 5:21 am - Reply


    I have just purchased a “Pasta Fresca” machine & was wondering if anyone has a recipe for Potato Gnocchi that can be made in the machine. The book has the basic pasta recipes only.

    Many thanks

    • Katie December 10, 2009 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Kathleen, I don’t think you can make gnocchi in a traditional pasta machine. I have only ever made it by hand. Larger industrial machines have fittings for making gnocchi dough and cutting it, however.

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