Excerpt from the Slow Food, Fast Cars: Casa Maria Luigia cookbook by chef Massimo Bottura and restauranteur Lara Gilmore, published by Phaidon.
Gnocco fritto is fried dough traditionally made with flour, water, yeast, and lard and then fried in lard. At Casa Maria Luigia we prepare a lighter version of the dough without lard, using olive oil and cream instead. And we fry it in vegetable oil.
It is often topped with cold cuts. We serve it with a slice of mortadella, whipped ricotta from Rosola, our dairy farmers in the Apennines, and a drizzle of extra-aged balsamic vinegar. Newcomers often look quite skeptical at this fluffy fried dough and then they come back for seconds!
Up until the 1960s, gnocco fritto was considered country food around Emilia-Romagna. Today in and around Modena, you can find it at coffee shops and restaurants. It has become a signature Emilian ritual both for breakfast and as an antipasto, served as a starter to an evening meal with cold cuts. Once you join the fraternity of gnocco fritto, it is very hard to turn back.Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore
Makes about 15
2¼ teaspoons (7 g) beer (brewer’s) or active dry yeast
scant ¾ cup (165 g) sparkling water
½ cup (130 g) heavy cream
2¾ teaspoons (12 g) olive oil
4¾ cups (600 g) tipo “00” flour
2½ teaspoons (15 g) salt
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
16 slices mortadella
7 oz (200 g) ricotta
3½ tablespoons extra-aged balsamic vinegar
Dissolve the yeast with the water, dream, and olive oil. Add the flour slowly, mix until it just comes together, but it won’t be smooth at this point. Add the salt at the end and mix for another minute. The dough will still not be perfectly homogenous – that’s ok.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (cling film) or in a bag and let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Remove from the fridge and roll it out, this is best done with a pasta roller – by hand works too. Roll it out to about ¾ inch/2 cm thick, fold the dough over itself in 3 (like a pamphlet) and start the process again. Do this a total of 4 times. Wrap in plastic, wrap again and place in the fridge for another 12 hours. Roll out and redo the fold once, then roll out to about ⅛ inch/3 mm. Cut into 5 inch/12 cm squares.
Fill a deep skillet (frying pan) with oil and heat to 350°F / 180°C, or until a cube of bread browns in 10 seconds. Add the dough squares. When the dough goes into the oil it will start to puff, it’s very important not to turn it yet. Once the dough has puffed and the corners are slightly golden, carefully flip the gnocco from the pas and drain on paper towels.
To serve, top the gnocco fritto with a slice of mortadella, some whipped ricotta from Rosala and of course a generous drizzle of extra old balsamic vinegar.
More about the Slow Food, Fast Cars: Casa Maria Luigia cookbook by Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore, published by Phaidon
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