Before visiting a destination for the first time, I like to conduct some preliminary research. This research may come in the form of reading travel guides and scouring websites or it may involve watching movies, reading books, and listening to music from that destination.
In 2012, when I first found out that I’d be spending three months living in Argentina, I put on my Deerstalker cap and did some investigative digging.
Although Argentine culture as a whole intrigued me, the tradition that interested me the most was the mysterious celebration of Ñoquis del 29.
That’s amore: A love affair with gnocchi
Once a month, on the 29th day, Argentines celebrate Ñoquis del 29. Ñoquis del 29 is a national holiday where Argentines* gather together and eat a big bowl of gnocchi.
Although the origins of the tradition are unknown, many believe that it was first adopted by Italian immigrants trying to make their monthly paycheck stretch through the end of the month. Since gnocchi is typically made of little more than potatoes, flour, and eggs, cooking these potato dumplings was an economical way to fill hungry bellies without completely depleting the bank account.
In order to bring additional prosperity to the community, many families placed small coins under their plates before devouring the gnocchi.
While the idea of devoting an entire day every month to the consumption of one food may seem silly to some, it was reading about Gnocchi Day that first made me fall in love with Argentina.
*This holiday is also celebrated in Uruguay and Paraguay.
Los Ñoquis del 29
Upon arrival, however, I quickly discovered that the majority of Argentines no longer celebrate Gnocchi Day every month. Although most restaurants still serve a variation or two on the 29th of each month, I had expected to see more Argentines devouring the dreamy dumplings. Sadly, this was not the case.
During those three months however, I was became gnocchi zealot. Most specialty pasta stores sold packages of freshly made gnocchi and every month, I found myself picking up a package or two to share with my Argentine friends.
While I am no longer living in Argentina, I still try to celebrate Gnocchi Day.
And now, you can too.
How to celebrate Gnocchi Day
1. Assess your cooking abilities. Be honest. Maybe you love experimenting with new recipes and ingredients. Maybe not. If cooking isn’t your forte, consider buying a package of pre-made gnocchi from a local supermarket or restaurant.
2. Prep. As is often the case with cooking, it is a good idea to do some prep work before trying to create a dish for the first time.
If you are planning on creating the gnocchi from scratch, find a recipe that entices you. Gnocchi can be made in a variety of ways. Some gnocchi enthusiasts prefer the basic potato-based gnocchi while others prefer to replace the potatoes with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or pumpkin. If you’re looking for a lighter option, you may want to try a ricotta-based dumpling instead.
Gnocchi is a versatile treat. Depending on the recipe, it can be baked, boiled, or pan-seared. It can be served with a browned butter and herbs, smothered in a tomato, cream, or pesto-based sauce, or tossed into a soup or salad.
The possibilities are endless!
Here are a few tasty-looking recipes to consider trying:
3. Cook. Now that you’ve found a recipe (or a package of premade gnocchi), you are almost ready to begin cooking. Turn on some music – may I recommend Dean Martin, Michael Buble, or Paolo Conte?
Feeling good yet? Great! Tie on an apron and get cooking.
4. Eat. Once you’ve created your culinary masterpiece, place a coin or two under your dish (for prosperity, of course), and eat. Eat all of it. Or if you’re feeling generous, share it with your loved ones. Maybe you’ll even convince them to help with next month’s gnocchi adventures.
5. Repeat. Every month.