Sunday Dinner

Meet Gnocchetti, the Itty-Bitty Gnocchi Your Sunday Dinners Are Missing

Blanketed in a creamy lemon goat cheese sauce.

October  7, 2018

We're partnering with Lagostina to celebrate the Italian Sunday dinner with stories, recipes, and videos about this special family tradition. Here, cookbook author and friend of Food52 Emiko Davies shares her take on casual gnocchetti.

Sunday meals at my Tuscan in-laws have always been a well-planned affair. This is partly for practical reasons—supermarkets in small towns aren't open on Sundays so you need to be prepared. It’s also partly for traditional reasons. Those classic Sunday dishes are usually something special that requires time and effort, dishes that are coaxed out of their shell with long, slow cooking and time that helps flavors settle or mingle.

But at my house, it goes down a little different. My husband Marco works in fine dining as a sommelier, so he has a scattered schedule that features very late nights and changes every single week, often last minute. I work from home, usually juggling cookbook writing or recipe testing with our two daughters who are five years and three months old. So when we are at home and cooking for our friends or family the key words are simple and unfussy; something that doesn't need a long list of ingredients or days of advanced preparation (except when that is actually helpful to ease up cooking on the day).

Make this homemade gnocchetti, prepared using Lagostina cookware, your next delicious weekend project. Photo by Bobbi Lin

For us, a “Sunday dinner”—which actually is more likely to be a Wednesday lunch, as weekends off are rare for Marco—means a moment when we can sit down as a family, cook and eat a relaxed meal together, and not be rushing off anywhere. The food needs to be equally easy going.

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Living in Italy, one of our favourite go-to meals is pasta with a quick, satisfying, zingy, creamy lemon sauce, which can be made in the same amount of time it takes for the pasta to boil. But lately we have been making it with gnocchetti, or topini, as they're called in Florence—little round gnocchi, the size of a marble.

You can buy gnochetti already made at the markets and even the supermarket here in Florence but I like to make this at home—it is also a fun one to get the kids (or anyone else around) involved in making. This is a recipe that has evolved over the years in our household to what I think is the simplest, most effective way to make pillowy, fluffy gnocchi (and because it uses potato starch—this just makes sense to me—instead of wheat flour, it is also a handy gluten free recipe). It is also a low maintenance recipe as the oven does all the work, leaving you free to have a glass of wine while getting the other elements of the meal ready.

Speaking of those other elements, we are huge fans of anchovies in any which way—fresh, marinated, salted, you name it. We put them on anything, given the chance. I pick up marinated white anchovies from the local deli where they sit shining in a pool of olive oil. Put them on a plate along with a few olives and some delicious bread and you have an instant antipasto, but I particularly like them tossed with some thinly sliced fennel or celery for crunch with lemon juice and olive oil. If we have them, then pine nuts, thinly sliced green apple, or fresh herbs are nice additions too. We are still trying to convince our five year old that anchovies are edible, but she's usually happy to nibble on the olives and pine nuts.

Dessert is always left up to me because I'm actually the only one in the house who ever wants it. I never make as much effort for myself as I do when I know I'm cooking for other people, so it's usually something simple; perhaps some jammy, ripe figs (or even dried if ripe ones aren't around, you simply need more liquid to poach them in) cooked down with a splash of water (or wine) and eaten, cooled, over some very fresh farmhouse ricotta or thick, plain yogurt with some toasted almonds.

Here are some tips for pulling the meal together:

  • Roast the potatoes whole in the oven over salt so that the potatoes absorb less water, and therefore don't need as much starch. Likewise, peel and mash the potatoes while hot so that steam escapes, giving the potato mash a drier, fluffier texture for perfect gnocchi.
  • While the potatoes are roasting, use this time to set the table, poach the figs, and get the sauce preparation ready.
  • Have the antipasto ready early. We often like to cook with a glass of wine in hand, and this is a nice time to have something to nibble on too!
  • Get everyone involved in the cooking. Rolling gnocchi can be tedious (or meditative, depending on your personality!) on your own but when it is a team effort not only does it go very quickly but it's a fun way to get young children involved in cooking.

More authentic Italian recipes

In partnership with Lagostina, the premium Italian cookware brand that values high-quality materials and time-honored craftsmanship, we're highlighting the #LagostinaSundayDinner with a new series all about the Italian tradition. Every Sunday, we'll share go-to Sunday recipes from some of our favorite chefs and cookbook authors.

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The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.