Follies of a Frazzled Chef: Never Enough Gnocchi

Frazzled ChefSay ben tornata (welcome back) to the Frazzled Chef (me). It’s not often that I make a grand foray into the kitchen. Like I’ve mentioned before, cooking well is something I wish I knew how to do, but I don’t. What I can do well is cook very, very messily in a somewhat stressed, somewhat frazzled, often not-very-careful way.

My recipe repertoire used to be limited to pizza, coffee, and Nutella sandwiches. Now I’m proud do say I’ve added a few more things to that list like cookies, carbonara, and tiramisù. And salad.

Two days ago, I had a refresher course on making one of our family’s favourite pastas: gnocchi. And who better than to teach you about the family faves than your Nonna, right? So my dear (brave) Nonna invited me into the shiny, nice, new kitchen in her nice, new house to make two types of gnocchi: regular, and sweet potato. Also present for the day’s labour were my Mamma and friend/Italy travel companion, Martina.

My Nonna and I, hard at work. No, I'm not wearing heels. No, she's not crouching.

My Nonna and I, hard at work. No, I’m not wearing heels. No, she’s not crouching.

How did I do? Well…

Before we get too frazzled, let’s start with a little language lesson.  Say it for me, gnoh – key.

No, not gin-oh-kee.You’ll make my ears bleed doing that.

Gnoh – key.


Oh, some of you don’t know what gnocchi are? They’re delicious, that’s what they are. Unless they’re store-bought, in which case they’re usually mushy and slimy. But real, homemade gnocchi made according to my Nonna’s recipe are to die for.

Gnocchi are pasta made from potatoes and flour. No eggs, no water. Just potatoes and flour. It’s simple food at its simplest. You’ll also need a knife, a fork and, of course, your hands. Yesterday we made both regular and sweet potato gnocchi, hence the orange pasta in pictures below.

Ok chefs, don your aprons. On your mark, get set, gnocchi!

Peel potatoes. Boil potatoes. Mash potatoes.

Potatoes - peeled, boiled and mashed.

Potatoes – peeled, boiled and mashed.

Add copious, immeasurable amounts of flour to the potatoes. Knead. Add more flour. Get flour everywhere.

Adding flour.

Adding flour.

Mamma kneading the dough.

Mamma kneading the dough.

Knead. Wish you were done. Add more flour. Wonder how you’ll ever get this gunk off your hands.


Keep kneading.

Move over Crossfit, Martina and I are on the gnocchi workout plan.

Move over Crossfit, Martina and I are on the gnocchi workout plan.

You’ll know you’ve added enough flour when the dough isn’t wet and sticky any more. And your arms will hurt. And you’ll start to wonder why you just couldn’t have been happy with some store-bought gnocchi.Then, move your dough to a cutting board. Hack off a piece of dough. Roll it long and thin. Not spaghetti thin, but thin enough. Not too thick though! You get it, right?

Cutting and rolling.

Cutting and rolling.

Then, cut the gnocchi from that roll. They should be sort of rectangular, not too big and not too small, but it depends how you like them. Then, pressing quite firmly, roll one little piece of gnocchi down the prongs of a fork so that it comes out ridged.

The finished products.

The finished products.

Repeat fifty million times, or until your dough is finished, whichever comes sooner.

Not too worse for wear after a day in the kitchen.

Not too worse for wear after a day in the kitchen.

Cook in boiling, salted water until they bubble to the surface. Do not overcook! Cover in your favourite sauce. Enjoy.

Attenzione! Be careful! Because they’ve got so much potato in them, gnocchi are known, KNOWN for giving stomachaches to overambitious eaters. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Buon appetito!

Italian Word of the Day – “Ricominciare” (+ Visa Update)

La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

It’s been a long time since I last published a Word of the Day post, but I figured this was fitting. Today we’re going to learn about the word ricominciare.

ri (again) + cominciare (start) = to start again

And that’s exactly what I have to do with this whole Italian Visa process, folks.

Grazie to all of you who took the time to leave a comment, send a message, say a prayer or light a candle for me when I went to apply for my Italian work Visa a couple weeks ago. Things didn’t quite go as planned (obviously) and now my team of trusty friends and I have to ricominciare da zero (start back at square one) with the whole process.

Back to the drawing board...

Back to the drawing board…

Having to re-do things because they weren’t quite right the first time isn’t as disheartening, however, as hearing that something’s impossible. And I’m (thankfully) sitting in the first camp. So now I know how things go. Now I know what to do, who to see, what to send and what to sign. This Visa is still within reach, and so is my dream of living and working in Italy (again).

So, to ricominciare is not all bad. No, not at all. Besides, I’m not the only one who has to fare salti mortali (jump through hoops) to get something done on the Visa or Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay) front.

Take a look at these posts from other great Italy bloggers to read their trials and tribulations:

Girl in Florence – How to Survive Your Next Permesso di Soggiorno Renewal

Italy Project 365 – How to Obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno per Lavoro

The Florentine – Let’s Talk About Visas II

And just because we are still talking about our Word of the Day, take a listen to Adriano Pappalardo’s 1979 hit, “Ricominciamo” (Let’s Start Over).

(If the original music video is available in your area, take a look. The guy looks like a pro wrestler-turned-singer!)

Say a Little Prayer for Me…

Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"I’m going to ask you to farmi un piacere. Do me a favour. Please.

As I’ve maybe mentioned once or twice before, I’m in the slow and horrible process of applying for a Visa that will allow me to live and work in Italy. If you’re an active follower of this blog, you’ll have read about my past experiences in il bel paese and you’ll know that I just can’t get enough. I want to go back, and not just for a summertime visit. (Relax, Canadian friends and family. It won’t be forever!)

So I started this ridiculously complicated and frustrating Visa process in June of last year, and with the help of two great friends in Siena, have managed to get to the final stage: the application appointment at the Italian Consulate in Toronto.

Monday is judgement day. It’s the day when the hopefully happy and well-caffinated Consulate employee will peruse my pratica (application file), and check the innumerable documents I had to run willy-nilly around the public offices of Siena to get. Then they’ll either:

a) look at me kindly and say, “Signorina, everything seems to be in order. You can come back to collect your Visa next week. And, by the way, complimenti on your wonderful Italian.”

And I’ll smile.


b) brusquely point out many insufficiencies and inconsistencies with my file and say, “Signorina, I’m sorry but it is not possible to submit your Visa application today. You must do this and this and this and this and then re-book your appointment to come see us again when you really do have everything we require.”

Then I’ll cry.

Because the thing is, I’ve already done pretty much all I can possibly do to get everything they require. Every piece of paper, every stamp, every everything. My friends and I have spent hours, days of our lives even, trying to get all the required documenti (documents) to make this Visa a reality. But of course, like so many things in Italy, the country’s beautiful bureaucracy makes it impossible (in my situation) to have my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed the way they’d like them to be.

So on Monday, let’s hope for option A, shall we? But I have to admit, option B is a real possibility.

What I’m asking you, readers, is to incrociare le dita, to cross your fingers for me. Send me some good vibes and positive thoughts. And if you’re of the praying, candle-lighting persuasion, per favore, pull out all the stops because…

I really want this.