Gnocchi like many foods has murky beginnings and like a Chinese whisper it’s variations spread far and wide till it altogether becomes impossible to track it’s true origin and design. The word gnocchi is thought to come from the word “nocca” which means knuckles or maybe from the word “knohha” meaning knot, like in wood.
We know Gnocchi is inherently Italian and was introduced by the Romans. It is thought maybe from the Middle East. Then each area infused there own ideas into it wether from experimentation or necessity of ingredients. For instance, northern Italy’s climate allowed better crops of potatoes over grain so more potatoes were added. It was a great inexpensive food for the masses much like polenta and risotto which also herald from this part. Like subtle differences in a regions accent the recipe would change. Some regions would use squash and other vegetables instead of potato or a ratio of each. Some would call for a layer of cheese and then be baked in the oven, another a dressing of butter and Parmesan, Verona still serves theirs with a tomato sauce. Like they have done since the 1500’s during their carnival.
The gnocchi we know is usually a potato base. Potatoes are boiled and mashed then mixed with flour. It is then formed into little dumplings either by rolling the dough into a long sausage and then cut into inch or so pieces or just formed individually. Either way they are then given grooves or scores using a fork or grater. These grooves are what makes the gnocchi great as its these grooves that hold the sauce.