Origin of Gnocchi

by Mike Webster

photo by Neco Garnica

The original recipe is thought to have originated in the Middle East and although no-one can be sure when Italian gnocchi were first made, the earliest written mentions appear in 14th century Italian cookery manuscripts.

The Italian word gnocchi translates to lumps, but it is thought the name may have come from the word nocchio which means a knot in the wood or possibly from nocca which means knuckle. It should be noted that the word gnocchi is plural and refers to several gnocco (singular) however, the singular word is hardly ever used and the word gnocchi is often used in the singular.

Gnocchi became a staple dish in Italy and was gradually introduced by the Romans to other countries in Europe during their many conquests and over time, many countries developed their own type of small dumplings from the earliest gnocchi recipes. Gnocchi is more common in Northern Italy but can be found in other regions of Italy; similar dishes are served in other countries as well. While Florence is home to gnocchi, it is fabled to be so good that gluttonous priests have been known to choke from eating too fast – the infamous strozzapreti (priest-stranglers).

However, it didn’t stop there. Gnocchi was introduced to South America by Italian immigrants during the early 20th Century and quickly became integrated into many South American cuisines including in Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela and most notably in Argentina. Today, the 29th of every month has been designated Dia de Ñoquis (Gnocchi Day). The 29th was chosen because it was usually the last day before pay day so many people had run out of money. Gnocchi was the perfect meal as not only was it cheap but it was also filling. It is customary to place a coin under the plate whilst eating to encourage prosperity.

Gnocchi Base Ingredients
8 oz Mashed Potato
4 oz “OO” Semolina Flour
1 ea Egg

Michael Webster

Mike Webster is currently a resident of Granby, Connecticut with his wife and twin daughters, Olive & Emilie. Mike teaches Life foods, the whole food preparation class at the Sustainable Farm School, in Connecticut. He is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and experienced chef with over ten years in the restaurant industry.



  1. Some of the first records of gnocchi are from ancient Roman times, which were made using durham wheat, to make a porrage batter which was scooped into boiling water or oil, in order to be cooked. Roman gnocchi is very similar to a dumpling in this manner.

    I’m so happy that you enjoyed the article, and of course the food. 🙂

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