Gnocco fritto is a crispy fried dough typical of Emilia Romagna. These delicious, puffy, golden bread fritters are one of the most traditional foods of this region.
Along with Piadina Romagnola, Gnocco Fritto is the most delicious and popular bread substitute in this part of Italy.
Gnocco Fritto is a soft but crunchy fried bread, light and puffy, golden yellow in color. It’s generally shaped like a diamond or an irregular rectangle.
In Emilia, they traditionally serve gnocco fritto with a variety of cold cuts and local cheeses. But gnocchi fritti (plural of gnocco fritto) are also delicious on their own, as a snack or in place of bread.
The best way to enjoy gnocco fritto is to eat it while it’s still warm and fragrant. In this way, the heat of the dough slightly melts the fat of the cold cuts placed on top. The deliciousness of this combination is indescribable!
As with any traditional Italian recipe, there are several versions, all very similar. Some use milk and some use water, some use lard and some use butter or oil, some use sparkling water and some use a little yeast.
Try making Gnocco Fritto Emiliano at home and you will be amazed at the ease and goodness of this fantastic recipe! Serve it as an aperitif with a good glass of Lambrusco wine or as an appetizer with cold cuts and cheeses in your dinners with friends!
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 10 min
- Rest Time : 1 hour for the dough to rise
- Servings: about 30 gnocchi fritti
Gnocco Fritto Recipe: Instructions
Step 1) – To prepare the gnocco fritto recipe, start by heating the milk. Keep it just lukewarm, do not let it boil.
Pour the warm milk into a large bowl and add the yeast. Stir and let stand for a few minutes.
Step 2) – Add the flour, lard and salt.
PLEASE NOTE: With the same amounts, you can use either lard or butter or EVO oil (see the section below on using the fat part).
Step 3) – Mix the ingredients, then knead with your hands for about 10 minutes, still in the bowl or, if you prefer, on a work surface.
Form a ball with the lightly floured dough and make a cross in the loaf.
Step 4) – Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let rise at room temperature for about 1 hour.
Step 5) – At the end of the rising time, lightly flour the work surface and transfer the dough to it.
Knead the dough again for about a minute to deflate it. Then cut it in half.
PLEASE NOTE: For easier handling, we recommend dividing the loaf into two or three pieces. A smaller amount of dough is easier to roll out, especially if you do not have a very large work surface. Be sure to keep the dough covered while waiting to roll it out.
Step 6) – Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/2 cm (1/5 inch) thick.
Then use a cutter wheel to cut diamonds or rectangles of dough about 6 to 8 cm (2 1/3 to ~3 inches) long on each side.
PLEASE NOTE: The regularity of the shapes is not important; in fact, this aspect makes the dish more rustic and distinctive. The size, on the other hand, is important in order to have fairly uniform cooking times.
How to Cook Gnocco Fritto
Step 7)– Heat the oil in a high-sided frying pan. The oil (or lard, according to tradition) should reach about 180°C (356°F).
If you do not have a kitchen thermometer, test with a small piece of dough. Dip it into the hot oil. Bubbles should immediately form around the dough and it should immediately puff up. The oil is ready.
Fry 4-5 gnocchi at a time on both sides until puffed and lightly browned. They should not become overly colored.
Step 8) – Remove the gnocchi from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
Once the excess oil has been removed, place the gnocchi fritti in a basket or serving dish.
Serve the gnocco fritto while still hot and fragrant.
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How to Store Gnocco Fritto
Gnocco fritto should be eaten immediately while it’s still warm. It’s not a dish that can be stored or prepared in advance.
However, if you have leftover Gnocco fritto, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 days.
Before eating them, they can be reheated slightly in the oven. They will regain some of their fragrance.
You can store the dough in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Alternatively, you can freeze it.
Best Gnocco Fritto Recipe: Some Tips
As we have seen, making gnocco fritto at home is easy and very satisfying. Now we will give you some tips and information on the use of some ingredients.
Lard, Butter or Oil? The Fat Part of the Dough
The Gnocco Fritto dough, similar to bread dough, is made crumbly by adding a fatty ingredient: the lard.
The lard is an animal fat obtained from pigs, which are bred in large quantities in the Emilia region. In fact, the use of lard is widespread in these areas.
In the gnocco frito recipe, not only is there a dose of lard in the dough, but traditionally they are fried in lard.
This custom dates back to the time when only southern regions produced oil. Lard and butter were much more common in the northern regions, especially in Emilia Romagna.
Today the use of lard is much less common. In general, we try to remain faithful to tradition, but we also try to make the recipes a little lighter.
For this reason, we recommend using lard or butter for the dough. It’s this animal fat that gives the gnocco fritto its particular texture. For frying, on the other hand, vegetable oil is fine.
Vegan Gnocco Fritto
If you want to make vegan, lighter gnocco fritto, you can easily substitute oil for the lard/butter, both for the dough and for frying, and water for the milk.
Milk or Water? The Liquid Part of the Dough
There are also different opinions about the liquid to add to the dough.
Usually we add fresh, whole, lukewarm milk. Milk, like lard or butter, is used to soften the dough.
Some use one part water and one part milk. Others use only the water. Obviously, in this case you will have a lighter gnocco, but also less flavorful and less fluffy.
In some Bolognese areas, not only is no milk used, but no yeast is used either. For the “Crescentine Bolognesi”, they use only sparkling water, which makes the gnocco swell.
How to Serve Gnocco Fritto
Gnocco Fritto is best eaten straight from the frying pan, while it’s still hot and fragrant.
Traditionally in Emilia, they serve gnocco fritto as an antipasto (appetizer) with local salumi (cold cuts), which in this region are unique! To name just a few: Prosciutto crudo di Parma, Mortadella Bolognese, Coppa Piacentina, Culatello di Zibello.
Cheese also goes well with Gnocco Fritto. Especially local soft cheeses like Stracchino or Squacquerone.
All accompanied by local red wines such as Lambrusco or Sangiovese.
Different Names for the Same Recipe
The names of the Gnocco Fritto are different and vary according to the area of Emilia.
For example, in Parma they call it “Torta Fritta”, in Bologna “Crescentina Fritta” and in Ferrara “Pinzino”!
In Modena and Reggio Emilia it’s “IL Gnocco Fritto”. There is a grammatical error in Italian: the article should be Lo, not IL! This error originates from the dialect and has become a rule and a characteristic of which the inhabitants of the Reggio and Modena areas are very proud.
Curious is the story behind the name of Parma: “Torta Fritta”.
It seems that in the past in Parma, before serving this particular fried puffy bread on the table, it was customary to sprinkle it with sugar and eat it as a dessert!
Therefore, it was considered a kind of dessert to be eaten empty or filled with cream or a delicious fruit jam.
Only with time did the custom of eating fried gnocco with cold cuts spread. But the name “torta” remained.
Today, in Parma, the Torta Fritta is served with the fabulous and prized cured cold cuts of the area. Such as Prosciutto di Parma DOP, Culatello di Zibello DOP, Salame Felino IGP, Spalla Cotta di San Secondo PAT (Traditional Agri-food Products) and Coppa di Parma IGP. World famous Italian delicacies!
History and Origins of Gnocco Fritto
The birth of the Gnocco Fritto recipe is very ancient. It dates back to a historical period before the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Probably the history of this delicious dish depends on the arrival of the Lombards in Italy in 568 AD.
The Germanic peoples, with their pig farms, imported the main ingredient of this preparation: the lard
The Lombard cuisine was particularly rich in meat, and in order to increase the availability of food, they used to make lard from the fatty tissue of pigs.
They used lard in the preparation of many dishes. One of them was a kind of fried bread. It was a simple dish with few ingredients, but nutritious and tasty.
This type of bread spread throughout Emilia until it became a staple in the breakfasts and meals of the poorest local peasants.
Suffice it to say that until the 1960s, gnocco fritto was the equivalent of bread for the local peasants.