The word ñgnocchiî (pronounced NÍYAW-kee) has an unknown origin, but itÍs speculated to come from the Italian word nocca, meaning knuckle. Essentially, gnocchi are a form of dumplings, and, of course, not exclusive to Italy. But their light, airy texture and full potato flavor makes them a unique pasta with a long history in classic European cuisine. Even different regions of Italy have their respective versions. Before potatoes, gnocchi existed but with different ingredients such as squash and breadcrumbs. Gnocchi were the perfect peasant food, both filling and inexpensive.