ORIGINAL DISHES: GNOCCHI Friday, March 04, 2011

Nobody knows for sure when or where the world’s oldest dumpling was born. All roads seem to point toward someplace in the Middle East. What we think we do know is that during the rise of Imperial Rome, legionnaires stationed in the Middle East bought it home with them. And—just as later generations would do with pasta in the centuries to come—Italians adopted these dumplings, which they would name gnocchi, as their own.

But, Rome being Rome, imperial expansion was always at the tip of everyone’s tongue. It was what made Rome Rome. So out again once more went the legionnaires, taking with them some gnocchi for the road. And every time Rome conquered a culture, they introduced into it their gnocchi until every conquered culture had reinvented it, dreaming up their own regional versions of these dumplings.

American being America, we’ve absorbed a lot of cultures, dumplings and all, to the delight of modern epicures. And whether these dumplings are made from flour, millet, wheat or potatoes, the Italian gnocchi remains among the most popular.

At The Original, we borrow from the continental Europeans and hand-make our gnocchi with potatoes—in this case Russet grown in neighboring Idaho—and complement it with a wild mushroom ragout: a sauce of San Marzano tomatoes, sliced vegetables and hidden spices that we slowly cook over a low heat.

Top it with all with a dollop of crème fraîche and carve onto it some shaved Manchego cheese and voilà: peasant food fit for an emperor.

And, because it’s free of meat, it’s fit for vegetarians, too.