The 29th of each month Argentines celebrate el ‘Dia de los Noquis’ or gnocchi day. It is one more reminder of Argentina’s Italian roots. Bares notables, comedores libres, bodegones, Italian and not so Italian restaurants will have gnocchis on the menu. In the city of Buenos Aires porteños go out of their way to find the best home made gnocchis. Families & friends unite around the table. Vegan restaurants have their own version, gluten free places sell out on gnocchi day.
“Every end of the month, a large part of Argentines put a bill under the plate of pasta in the hope that it will multiply during the next 29 days.”
Like with all legends different versions of the story circulate. Here’s the version I prefer.
At the end of the 3rd century, in the area we know today as Turkey, (San) Pantaleón was born: a simple man who trained as a doctor and converted to Christianity. His faith would lead him on a pilgrimage through Italy, helping the poor and healing the sick.
Legend has it that, on one of his journeys, Pantaleón arrived exhausted at the house of a humble family of fishermen from Veneto, asking for shelter and food. Of course, the family welcomed him to their austere table. The versions vary: some say that that day was July 29, others say it was December 29. However, leaving aside the month, what everyone agrees on is that at that meeting gnocchi were served, which were already a typical meal in that Italian region.
In gratitude for the kindness of his hosts, suffering poverty and famine because of a bad fishing season, the doctor predicted a yer of abundance and prosperity. That prophecy was more than fulfilled.
Since that day the 29th of each month is a day to share the table with delicious gnocchi, in the hope of a thriving future.
Gnocchi without Potatoes
In the 3rd and 4th century, the potato was not yet known in Europe. The andean tuber was only first introduced after the discovery of America in the 14th century. So it is thought that the gnocchi at the time of Pantaleon were different from the ones today and only made of dough.
10 pesos under your plate
Some variants of this same story indicate that, in addition to wishing them a great future, after the departure of Pantaleón some gold coins “appeared” under the plates, an explanation that seems valid for another very Argentine tradition: accompanying the gnocchi with a bill of 10 pesos ( about to disappear ) may magically attract new riches.
Other Possible Origins
The tradition of eating gnocchi on every 29th may have other possible origins. For example, as explained by the cook Blanca Cotta, it is possible to attribute the gnocchi of the 29th to an event that occurred in 1690 in Piedmont in the north of Italy. After a bad wheat harvest, famine ravaged the town which it found in the potato – even then despised for its dirty appearance and considered pig feed – a viable solution. In the houses the tuber was boiled as part of the gnocchi dough and the dish became a classic.
Since then, every June 29, a holy day in Piedmont by its Patron Saint, the villagers began to cook gnocchi to celebrate the potato harvest and its religious anniversary.
Be that as it may, whatever myth wins, the truth is that in Argentina the tradition was imported by the Italian immigrants of the early 19th century, to whom we owe so many other recipes of our gastronomy and so many other aspects of our culture. The custom is preserved intact to this day.
Best Places to Eat Gnocchi
Spiagge di Napoli
Avenida Independencia 3527,
Pinuccio & Figli