One day, not long ago, I was craving this yummy little treat from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Torta Fritta as it is known in Parma or Gnocco Fritto if you are in the next town over because in Italy food is very regional and even if it is the exact same dish but it is in the next town it must have a different name. Oh Italy, I do miss you.
Anyway, there I was in Sweden dreaming of Torta Fritta. Torta Fritta are little pillows of dough, lightly fried and puffed up. They are most often served warm and stuffed with Parmesan cheese, Prosciutto di Parma, salami and various meats. They are little pillows of culinary heaven.
The thought never entered my mind to make them from scratch, because, you know, I am not Italian and Italian cuisine (real Italian cuisine not the over worked American versions) is intimidating. So I foolishly tried to Macgyver it and I bought some pre-made, albeit fresh, pasta with the intention of flash frying it into pillows. It didn’t work. It wasn’t pretty. And it certainly wasn’t Torta Fritta.
What I forgot is that while living in Italy I discovered that most Italian recipes are actually quite simple. They pair a few ingredients that happen to compliment each other. They don’t over work, they don’t add too much. They let the flavors meld and do all the work. Then I remembered that one of my favorite gifts that I received when moving from Parma was a cookbook given to me by my gem of a friend, the amazing Beatrice Zambelloni Papoccia. Bea is the Martha Stewart of Italy and one of the best cooks I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. She gave me a book titled Ten True Gems of Parmesan Cuisine. I cautiously opened it, searched for the recipe and said a little prayer to Don Alfonso.
Sidebar – Don Alfonso was the original proprietor of our favorite restaurant in Parma and the staff was kind enough to give me a commemorative photo of Don Alfonso when we moved. He sits on a shelf in my kitchen overseeing it all, and I like to believe, spreading good Italian food mojo around the kitchen.
I opened the cookbook and there it was. The recipe. And here it is for you now:
Torta Fritta – enough for 6
1/2 a kilo of white flour
Mix the ingredients, adding enough water to obtain a rather soft dough. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/2 a centimeter. Cut it into rhomboids with a pasta cutter. Fry the pieces in oil or lard. Torta Fritta can be served hot with cheese and meat and if there happens to be any leftover, it is excellent eaten cold the next day, dipped into milky coffee or with jam.
I know what you are thinking. I know that you are judging me because it is soooo easy, but let me tell you when you have tasted fresh Torta Fritta that has been handmade by your neighbor’s nonna it tastes complicated. I also know that you want to know the precise measurements of the water and salt but this recipe has been handed down for hundreds of years and you will just have to work it out.
Finally, just because I am American, if you want to complicate the recipe, I read that sometimes, a drop of milk is added to soften the dough.
Buon appetito tutti!