Yesterdish’s Gnocco di Vittoria

Hi friends, it’s Dori again.

A few days ago, our Aunt Vittoria passed away. She was 87 years old.

The day before she passed away, my mother was cleaning out some old papers and found the gnocco recipe scrawled on the back of a grocery receipt. I’m so glad that she found it so we can preserve it with our other family recipes. I know I will always think of Vittoria when I make it.

Growing up, I didn’t get to see Vittoria very often because, like most of my relatives on my mother’s side, she lived in Italy, in a suburb of Modena called Magreta. The family operates a vineyard there producing balsamic vinegar.

While everything was still getting set up, she motioned me over and gave me one fresh from the oil, wrapped in a paper towel. It was like it was our little secret.

I guess I should mention that, while I called her my aunt, she wasn’t really my aunt. My mother’s cousin, Valentina, married a wonderful man named Marco. Vittoria was Marco’s mother.

Adam and I met Vittoria when I was 8 and he was 10. Our parents took us on the most amazing trip around Italy. Neither of us spoke much Italian beyond “can I please have a glass of water?” (Since then, I’ve mastered the obviously useful phrase, “Where is the town square?”). But we had our mom there to do the translating and about a hundred Italian relatives that were eager to use pantomime to fill in the gaps in their English.

[I’m not sure I’d call it pantomime. It was more like emotive sign language. I’m not strictly sure what any of it was about but I know precisely how everyone felt about whatever it is we were talking about. — Adam]

Boccia, Vittoria’s husband, was in charge of the family vineyard. He was especially talented at cross-lingual pantomime and quickly became my favorite person. I followed him everywhere, deciphering his gestures to help him collect eggs and perform other tasks around the farm. He passed away a few years ago and I still miss him. I still have a bottle of his balsamic vinegar because I haven’t found an occasion worthy of it.

Of all the amazing food we ate on that trip, my favorite meal was one very large family meal that was orchestrated and directed by Vittoria. There were so many guests that the meal had to take place outdoors, on picnic tables lined up end to end. I think there were 10 of them. Vittoria stood at the helm, pointing and cooking.

There was so much wonderful food that night: pizza, chicken, pastas, olives… everything… but the food I always remember first from that meal is Vittoria’s gnocco. She was frying them right outside. I still remember the smell! While everything was still getting set up, she motioned me over and gave me one fresh from the oil, wrapped in a paper towel. It was like it was our little secret. It. Was. Amazing.

Gnocco is a fry bread. It’s somehow light and airy and crisp and chewy all at the same time. I like it with salt and garlic (but I like almost everything with salt and garlic). It also makes a wonderful sandwich. [Ordinarily gnocco have more salt in them, but Marco likes his with Nutella, so Vittoria’s recipe is a bit more sweet/savory neutral. — Adam]

Almost every type of cuisine has something like it, right Adam? [Many of them, anyway; for example, Indian fry bread; puri from India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries; mekitsa from Bulgaria; Canada’s own Beavertails; and if you define the category broadly enough, even things like sopaipillas and beignets. — Adam] I think that it’s just one of those foods that is perfectly simple and perfectly delicious.

I know that cooking and feeding people made Vittoria happy, and I’m so proud to carry on that tradition.

So this is the recipe for Vittoria’s gnocco. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


From Yesterdish’s recipe box.

Yesterdish’s Gnocco di Vittoria

4 cups all purpose flour
1 envelope (2-1/2 tsp.) yeast
1/2 cup [warm] milk
3 Tbsp. butter (or lard or Crisco)
1/4 tsp. salt

[UP TO] 1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp. milk [warm]

2 quarts oil for frying

Mix dough–rest until doubled. Divide in 20 balls.

Stretch out thin–poke a hole in the middle (the belly button!)

Fry after resting the dough for 10 minutes.


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