Nonno’s gnocchi with pork and veal sugo

by Forager on August 2, 2009

About a month ago, the Co-pilot and I engaged in an extensive gnocchi making session under the guidance of our Nonno. This resulted in a gnocchi dish with sauteed prawns and sage burnt butter – a recreation of Alex Herbert’s recipe shown on Masterchef. Delicious and satisfying though it was, it wasn’t quite what Nonno had in mind. It was something different, he declared – but next time we’ll make gnocchi with pork and veal sugo. Nonno is a man of his word – he wasn’t kidding, or wasting any time. That next time is now and this time it’s a family affair.

It’s wintery and overcast on the morning we all congregate at Nonno’s house. Anticipating the cold may affect troop morale, Nonno has prepared some winter medicine and ladles out steaming glasses of mulled wine, which he gleefully calls his “Tamiflu”. I try to dismiss the fact that it’s only 10am, I’ve been awake for half an hour and I’m drinking wine for breakfast. But before I know it, Nonno is topping up our glasses. Resistance is futile so we all accept our obligatory medicine without much protest and boil the potatoes in preparation for the gnocchi.


Whilst we’re waiting for the potatoes, the Co-pilot’s mum whips up a mâche salad to go with the gnocchi, simply dressed in lemon juice, salt and olive oil. On a trip to France earlier this year the Co-pilot’s parents had mâche salad (also known as lamb’s lettuce) in this way and were determined to find it upon their return to Sydney. A request to their local green grocer did the trick, and we’ve recently heard, its appearance on that grocer’s shelves has sparked a resurgence in the demand for mâche in our neighbourhood! The mâche itself has a subtle buttery flavour – I think it’s more about the texture as the rosettes used are often young and tender and the thick leaves lend a bit more substance than other salad leaves.


When the potatoes are ready, the family gathers around Nonno as he personally shows us how to make gnocchi. For more detailed step-by-step instructions, please click through to my previous gnocchi post here.

Nonno starts kneading the potato dough with assistance from the Co-pilot’s mum and sister, Briv.

And there’s no wonder Nonno is a master gnocchi maker. Other than experience on his side, he has another secret weapon – his hands! Watching him knead and work the potato dough I see that the colossal size of his hands clearly give him a competitive advantage over me. And did you know that the size of your closed fist is the approximate size of your heart? Nonno is a big man with man-size hands and an equally man-size heart. His hands make short work of the dough and in no time, he is rolling out sausage shapes and assembles a production line to create the gnocchi.

The production line consists of the Co-pilot’s parents, Briv and his aunt M, all pitching in by cutting the sausage shapes into gnocchi pillows and patterning them under Nonno’s direction.


Whilst the gnocchi are being made, the Co-pilot’s mum heats up the pork and veal sugo she prepared earlier that morning. It looks and tastes rich and robust to me, but she laments that it doesn’t quite have the same flavour as Nonna’s sugo had. I hadn’t tried Nonna’s sugo but it was clearly legendary as the family all spontenously chime in with their own recollections about it. Hers was just so incredibly tasty and flavourful, they all agreed. Had she added in mystery ingredients? Or cooked the sugo for hours, reducing and concentrating the flavour? Sadly we can only speculate on how to achieve Nonna’s great sugo. Such is the tragedy of lost family recipes – something I hope to partly alleviate by chronicling family recipes in this blog.


It is not long before the last gnocchi is being patterned. The Co-pilot’s uncle takes his turn in the production process boils the gnocchi briefly in salted water to complete the gnocchi making process. A generous ladle of sugo is heaped on the plump glistening gnocchi, followed by a handful of freshly grated Parmesan.


Pronto! Nonno’s gnocchi with pork and veal sugo.

Gnocchi the traditional Italian way, the way Nonno likes it. And as the whole family sits down together to eat and drink in Nonno’s house I get the feeling the smile on Nonno’s face is not just from the satisfaction of making a delicious gnocchi dish.


Directed and produced by Nonno.

Co-produced by the Co-pilot’s family.

Related posts:
Something different: homemade gnocchi

Edited extras:
Here’s the recipe the Co-pilot’s mum used for her simple Italian sugo.

Fry onions and garlic, when soft add in some chopped chilli to taste, then pork and veal mince (available from Italian supermarkets such as those in Haberfield or Leichhardt in Sydney’s inner west). When the mince is browned add in tomato passata, red wine, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. If desired add oregano or basil for extra flavour. Cook for 2 hours on low heat to bring out the flavour.

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