Gnocco fritto as we call it in Modena has different names depending from where you are eating it. In Bologna they call it crescentina fritta, in Parma torta fritta.
What is gnocco fritto exactly?
It belongs to an ancient culinary tradition of Emilia where nothing had to go to waste, and one of the most common condiment in the farmers traditional was clarified lard. Gnocco fritto is simply dough made from flour, water and a pinch of salt then fried in lard, a by-product of ham and salami making. Gnocco must the eaten piping hot straight from pan. It must be puffy and empty inside. You can eat on its own for breakfast with a cappuccino. As suggested it was the typical breakfast food for the poor farmer, at the time accompanied with caffe’ latte rather than the fancy cappuccino. An other suggestion would be to make a sandwich with 2 gnocco fritto pieces and stuff them with Parma ham, Mortadella, Coppa or any other salumi that you can think of.
A modern version of gnocco fritto.
If you want to replicate the wonders of the poor but tasty cuisine of Emilia. you can simply prepare a dough using sparkling water. The bubbles in the water will make the dough expand and rise when cooked. And instead of clarified lard you can use extra virgin olive oil. This is one of the best ways to fry as olive oil withstand higher temperatures and it is easier to digest than other oils or fats.