What is gnocco fritto?
Gnocco fritto is a delicious appetizer typical of Emilia Romagna. It is a fried bread made from flour, water, yeast, and lard and usually accompanied by cold cuts or cheeses or served plain.
Soft, puffy, and tasty, this fried dumpling is a specialty with unmatched goodness. It seems to have been handed down to the Emilians by the Lombards during their domination, and depending on the area of the Emilia region, it takes on a different name: In the Modena and Reggio-Emilia areas, it is simply called gnocco fritto (al gnòc frétt, in dialect); in the Bologna area, it takes the name of crescentina; in the province of Ferrara, pinzino; in Parma, torta fritta; and in Piacentino, chisulén.
How to prepare gnocco fritto
Like with any traditional recipe, there are several versions of gnocco fritto. Some prepare gnocco fritto without lard, and others even prefer baked gnocco for a lighter version.
The recipe below is the original Emilian gnocco fritto recipe as tradition dictates. It is a very easy preparation kneaded by hand without any use of a mixer. Just prepare a pre-dough batter and let it rise, which will result in a light and digestible product, then knead in additional flour and the lard. If you prefer a lighter version, you can replace the lard with butter or extra-virgin olive oil. After the dough has risen a second time, roll it out, cut the gnocchi into rhombuses or squares, and then fry them.
How to serve gnocco fritto
Perfect as an appetizer, gnocco fritto is usually stuffed with Italian cheeses and cold cuts. It is usually served with the delicious cured meats of its area of origin, such as prosciutto crudo di Parma, salame Felino, coppa Piacentina, and the delicious Culatello di Zibello, just to name a few.
But it is also perfect to serve instead of baked bread, a bit like the Neapolitan zeppole di pasta cresciuta.
- 500 grams all-purpose flour
- 200 grams water
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast
- 70 grams lard or butter or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 12 grams salt
- oil or lard for frying
How to make fried dumplings
- Make a batter by mixing 60 grams of the flour with the dry yeast, the sugar, and 50-60 grams of the water.
- Cover with plastic film and let rise at room temperature or, if the weather is too cool, inside the oven, until it doubles and many bubbles form on the surface, usually about 1 hour.
- Then add the rest of the flour and water.
- Knead by hand until all the liquids are absorbed. If the dough is too hard and there is still flour around the bowl, add another tablespoon of water, just enough to combine everything.
- Gradually add the lard: add a piece, knead, then add another piece of lard.
- The dough should be smooth and soft. Add the salt, then knead again.
- Form a ball and cur a cross in the top.
- Cover with plastic film and let rise in a warm place (about 80°F) until it triples in volume, about 2 hours.
How to cook gnocco fritto
- Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, sprinkling with a pinch of flour above and below.
- Form a rectangle about 3 millimeters thick.
- Cut into 2-inch-wide strips, then cut them diagonally, so as to obtain rhombuses.
- Heat a saucepan with plenty of oil.
- When the oil reaches frying temperature, dip one or two pieces at a time, wait for the dumplings to swell, and turn them. Cook for a minute, then drain on a paper towel and place on the serving plate.
- Serve hot or cold, perhaps with a sprinkling of flaked salt and accompanied by or stuffed with cold cuts and Italian cheeses.