Gnocco Fritto is one of the most popular recipes of the Emilian cuisine: rich in history and taste! This delicious fried bread is frequently paired with cured meats and cheese, and served during family gatherings, pheasant festivals, and special occasions! Gnocco fritto can be an exquisite appetizer or a main dish; it is delicious even as dessert spread with Nutella! A must-to-try: easy to make and authentic Italian!
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ORIGIN OF GNOCCO FRITTO
The Gnocco Fritto recipe is an excellent example of the evolution of Northern-Italian cuisine. This recipe is rooted in the Ancient Roman and Etruscan culinary cultures – rich into bread and flatbread recipes – and the Longobard tradition, symbolized by the lard and the frying technique.
The Longobard Invasion, started from the XI Century, brought several changes and new behaviors. Speaking of cuisine, the Longobards introduced In the North part of Emilia-Romagna the pork meat as the most important source of proteins.
The Gnocco Fritto is popular, with different names and little variation, in almost all the counties located in the lowland part of the Emilia region, called Pianura Padana. For centuries, the local farmers used to fry little pieces of bread dough into melted lard. Until the Sixties of the XX Century, the Gnocco Fritto was served on the table instead of the ordinary bread!
Nowadays, the Gnocco Fritto has become a special delicacy, frequently served for the Sunday lunch, special gatherings, of public festivals.
DIFFERENT NAMES AND RECIPES OF GNOCCO FRITTO
As I said, Gnocco Fritto is just one of the names of these delicious fried dough puffs and called in this way exclusively in the Modena county. Here the most popular versions of this Emilian dish:
- In Bologna, they are called Crescentine, and made with a vegan mixture made with water, yeast, and flour, then fried into vegetable oil. Sometimes, water is replaced by milk.
- In Parma, Gnocco Fritto is named Torta Fritta. The recipe is pretty similar to the Modena’s version: sometimes, inside the mixture, vegetable oil is preferred to the lard.
- In Piacenza, and more specifically in the village of Fiorenzuola d’Arda, the fried dough is called Chisolino. The Chisolino is frequently prepared empty, but also previously stuffed with pork shoulder ham before frying.
- In Reggio Emilia is traditional the Chizza Fritta: very similar to the Piazenza’s Chisolino, but stuffed with herbs, greens, onions, lard, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
GNOCCO FRITTO PAIRINGS
In Pianura Padana, fried dough like Gnocco Fritto is typically served along with cured meats and cheeses, which vary depending on the county.
The typical Cheese and Meat board for Gnocco Fritto include Salame, Prosciutto, Coppa, Capocollo, Mortadella, Pancetta, soft cheese like Stracchino, and Gorgonzola, and aged cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano.
Concerning the vegetables, it is traditional serve vegetables preserved in vinegar like Giardiniera.
At the end of the meal, the last Gnocco Fritto is often eaten along with a spoon of Nutella spread over the fried dough!
Besides the classic pairings, every county has some particular food served along with fried dough:
For instance, in Bologna, the Crescentine are typically served with a great variety of Salumi and cheese, and particularly with Mortadella and Squacquerone, a traditional soft cheese similar to Stracchino.
In Ferrara, where the Gnocco Fritto is called Pinzino, the perfect pairing is with a traditional local Salame flavored with garlic, called Zia Ferrarese (literally the Aunt from Ferrara).
In Piacenza, the Chisolino is served along with Gorgonzola cheese and Pork shoulder ham.
Concerning the wine, the most famous wine served with Fried Dough is certainly the Emilian Lambrusco, that helps to equilibrate the fried flavors thanks to its sparkling taste.
TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
THE DOUGH – The Authentic Gnocco Fritto requires milk and lard into the mixture. Otherwise, a very popular version in Bologna of fried bread is made just with water, salt, sugar, and yeast: a decent alternative for who prefer to follow a vegan diet.
RAISING – To rise the Gnocco Fritto mixture properly, you want to melt the yeast into lukewarm water and add the salt only in the middle of the process. Preparing the dough is every time different: depending on the humidity, the room temperature, and the variety of the ingredients, you want to add less or more liquid into the mixture.
FRYING – In origin, the Gnocco Fritto was fried exclusively into melted lard. Nowadays, several persons prefer to use vegetable oil.
GNOCCO FRITTO RECIPE
- 4 cups (500 g) bread flour
- 4 tbsp (50 g) lard
- 1 quart (1 liter) vegetable oil or melted lard
- 1 bag (7 g) active yeast
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) sparkling water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp table salt
- GNOCCO FRITTO DOUGH
First, pour the lard in a little bowl, then place the bowl into the turned-off oven with the light on until the lard results soft and workable.
Then, pour the yeast and 1 tbsp of lukewarm water into a cup and stir until melt the yeast, then add the sugar.
Now, sift the flour and pour it into a glass or ceramic bowl.
Add the melted yeast and the sugar, then add the milk and sparkling water, a little at a time, kneading the mixture.
Once you added half of the liquids, pour the salt and the soft lard, then continue to kneading the mixture and pouring liquids slowly.
At this point, move the dough on a board, and keep kneading until fluffy and consistent.
Finally, cover the dough ball with a humid kitchen towel and let rise 1 or 2 hours until double its size.
- RESTING AND ROLLING
First, pour the oil or the lard in a deep saucepot, then place over medium flame, and heat until it reaches 340° F (170° C). Finally, turn off the heat.
Once the Gnocco Fritto dough is adequately raised, roll it down with a rolling pin as thick as a coin or little more.
Then, cut the dough into squares or rhombuses.
- FRYING THE DOUGH
Once rolled and cut, you want to fry the Gnocco Fritto pieces as soon as possible.
So, re-heat the oil until reach again a temperature between 340° F and 355° F (170° C-180° C).
Then, fry the dough pieces, 3 or 4 at a time, until perfectly golden, flipping them on the halfway with a slotted spoon.
Once ready, let the Gnocco Fritto rest over paper towels to drain the oil in excess, and continue to fry all the other pieces.
- SERVING GNOCCO FRITTO
Serve the Gnocco Fritto, still hot and crispy, along with your preferred selection of cheese, cured meat, and vegetables preserved in oil or vinegar.
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