Gnocchi Thursday - A Rather Roman Ritual (2024)

If you're familiar with Roman food culture, you likely know the phrase giovedi gnocchi, or gnocchi Thursday. This expression originates from the saying Giovedì gnocchi, venerdì pesce, sabato trippa (Thursday dumplings, Friday fish, Saturday tripe) – a maxim rooted in the Trastevere quarter.

Religious origins

The saying originated from lower-class food rationing and the people's need to maximize what ingredients they had at their disposal. Gnocchi, a substantial, high-calorie dish, was prepared on Thursday in anticipation of Friday, when, according to Catholic tradition, people fasted, abstaining from meat. On Friday, Romans traditionally ate fish-based dishes, such as chickpeas and cod, a dish still served on Fridays in the old-fashioned Roman taverns.

Saturday was dedicated to the meat slaughter in anticipation of Sunday. The less affluent classes, who could not afford the noblest cuts, such as steaks, fillets, or thighs, bought the so-called "fifth quarter," the scraps, such as entrails, offal, and tripe. These ingredients, expertly cooked by the household matriarchs, became a feast for the whole family and included dishes like tripe alla Romana and oxtail alla vaccinara.

A poem of the palate

The origins of the popular saying most likely date back to the mid-19th century. They appear in a Roman dialect poem penned by an anonymous author who, in addition to the aforementioned days, also suggests dishes for the rest of the week: oxtail on Monday, beans with pork rinds on Tuesday, stew on Wednesday, and rice supplì on Sunday, magnettene cento e dico poco! (Eat a hundred and say little!)

The custom of gnocchi Thursday became part of the post-war gastronomic culture when supplies were still scarce and people aimed to feed the whole family as substantially as possible while spending as little as possible. The original gnocchi recipe called for water, flour, a few eggs, and lots of potatoes. Also, since most people had physically strenuous jobs, refueling on a dish as filling as gnocchi was especially gratifying.

Gnocchi Thursday - A Rather Roman Ritual (2024)
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