You might think that making potato gnocchi at home is too daunting of a mission. After eating a few too many dense and unappealing gnocchi, I figured it must be really difficult if restaurant chefs couldn’t even get it right. But it’s actually quite easy!
I have to admit, I tried to make gnocchi a couple of times only to have it turn out just as dense. I always wondered what the secret was that I was missing. I’m happy to say that I’ve finally mastered the process and I can tell you exactly what the secret is.
The techniques are very simple, and the ingredients are not hard to find. It’s really all about knowing exactly what to buy and how to do it.
A while back I took a cooking class in Tuscany from a pasta chef who had trained for years to make great gnocchi. Once I learned from him, I realized I had just been making a few minor errors that resulted in poor gnocchi. Now it’s only pillow-soft dumplings for me! Let’s start with the basics.
Essential Tools for Making Gnocchi
The most essential tool you need to make good gnocchi is a potato ricer. If you’ve never heard of this, open that link. It’s a press that allows the potato to be smushed, but also airy.
The lightness of the potato is a huge factor in how light the gnocchi turn out. You don’t HAVE to have a ricer to make gnocchi, but you can’t achieve the light, fluffy gnocchi you might be hoping for without it. You can buy one on Amazon for $20 or less.
If you don’t have a ricer, you can grate the potato on a box grater. You can also push the potatoes through a colander or strainer. I recommend cutting the potato into chunks before doing that, to make it easier to push through. Last resort, you can use a potato masher to crumble up the potato.
A gnocchi board allows you to make the grooves really easily on the top of the gnocchi. The grooves help the sauce stick to the gnocchi. You don’t absolutely need to add grooves to gnocchi, so you can skip the gnocchi board if you want.
I think it just adds a nice look to the gnocchi. You can also use the backside of a fork to make the indention.
Ingredients for Making Gnocchi
Potatoes are obviously the most important ingredient in making gnocchi. So it’s not a stretch to understand that the variety of potato is also important. You shouldn’t just use any variety. Potatoes that are too waxy will lead to gummy gnocchi. Choose a variety that is dry and floury.
I’ve used russets in the past, but I had a lot more success with the Maris Piper variety I can get in the UK, which have a light skin and yellow flesh. Yukon Gold, Kennebec, or Desiree would be suitable as well.
Two more things about the potatoes. They need to be dry when you mash them. If they’re soggy or water logged, the gnocchi won’t turn out very well. Also, the potatoes still need to be warm when mashed.
Another very important aspect of fluffy gnocchi is the flour. I’ve made gnocchi with all purpose flour in the past. While it was edible, it definitely wasn’t airy and light.
I’ve since learned that Type 00 flour is the best flour to use, because it doesn’t contain as much sticky gluten that will ruin the texture of your gnocchi.
You’ll want to use large eggs that are at room temperature.
There’s not much to say about the salt. Any salt will do.
How to Make Gnocchi Step-by-Step
Put the potatoes, with skins on, into a pot of salted water and turn the heat on high until it starts to boil. Then reduce the heat to medium to maintain a low boil. They’ll need about 20 minutes to cook. Don’t overdo it or they’ll take on too much water. It’s best if you take them out before the skins start to break.
Let the potatoes cool a bit so you can handle them without burning your hands. Then peel the skins off and let them steam a bit to dry out. While they are still warm, cut the potatoes into smaller chunks and put them through a potato ricer to form a pile of fluffy potato.
Make a well in the center of the potatoes and sprinkle the flour over the top of the pile. Add the salt to the pile. It needs quite a bit of salt to flavor the potatoes. Crack the eggs into the middle of the well.
With a fork, gently stir up the egg with some of the surrounding flour to mix it up, before incorporating it into the rest of the potato. As soon as you’ve mixed in the egg, you’ll be able to form a dough ball with your hands. Be very gentle when you mix it all together.
Kneading it, stirring it, or otherwise vigorously mixing it together will cause it to become stiff and hard, so just gently incorporate it all into a ball, using the least amount of kneading possible.
Cut the dough into quarters. You’ll roll out each quarter separately. You can use a pasta cutting board or flat-surface counter top to roll out the gnocchi. Sprinkle some flour onto the board, then use the palms of your hands to lengthen the dough into a tootsie roll shape.
This is the hardest part to master, but you want to get the dough into a nice compact and even roll with the least amount of handling possible. Once you’ve got the roll as even as possible, cut it into small, bite-sized pieces.
I use a dough scraper for this task, because it’s super easy to cut through the gnocchi and then scoop them up to put them on the sheet pan. You could also use a knife or a fork.
Make sure you don’t cut the gnocchi into pieces that are too big for eating. About 3/4 inch squares are perfect. You can cut them to your own preference, of course.
You might prefer them smaller or larger. As you cut them, place the pieces on a well floured surface and sprinkle more flour on top. If they touch, they’ll stick together.
Now you can roll each piece on a gnocchi board to give it grooves. It’s also fine to skip this step. I often don’t put the grooves because it’s time consuming. Though, if I’m making these for a dinner party, I always add the grooves because they look fantastic with the grooves.
It only takes about 3 minutes to cook the gnocchi. Boil a pot of salted water, then lower the heat to a light boil. They can fall apart if the boil is too violent.
Add the desired amount of gnocchi. Just be sure not to overcrowd the pot. If you’re making more than 4 servings, it’s better to cook them in two batches. After about a minute, they’ll start to float. Cook them for an additional 2 minutes and they’re done.
Take them out of the water onto a paper towel to dry them a bit. I then put them in a skillet with butter until the butter is browned a bit. Then add crispy sage and pine nuts. With a sprinkle of Parmesan on top, they are really delicious.
Now that your gnocchi is cooked and ready, you get to decide how you’d like to serve it. There are many different sauces you can dress it with.
This recipe makes a lot of gnocchi. Unless you’ll be serving it to a crowd, you’ll likely want to store some of the gnocchi away in the freezer until you wish to use it again.
The best way to do this is to lightly flour each piece, then place them (without touching) on a plate and put them in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm them up. Make sure you remove the the plate within 20 minutes. If you leave them much longer, they get frozen to the plate and are very hard to get off.
You can then transfer them to a freezer bag without having them stick together. The gnocchi will keep for a few months in the freezer and longer if you’ve packaged them well so they don’t get freezer burned.
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- 2 lbs baking potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- 300 grams Type 00 Flour
- 1 tsp salt
- Boil the potatoes, skins on, in salted water for around 20-40 mins, depending on size, or until tender, but not splitting. Drain.
- While still hot, push the potatoes through a potato ricer or fine sieve onto a work surface.
- On top of the potato, pour the flour and salt. Go light on the flour initially. You can always add more if the dough is too sticky.
- Make a well in the center of the potatoes and crack the eggs into the center. Lightly whisk the eggs with a fork. Then use the fork to begin to incorporate the potato, egg and flour.
- Once mostly incorporated, use your hands to bring the ingredients together to form a ball.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll the dough on a floured surface to form a long, even log.
- With a knife or pastry cutter, cut the log into bite-sized pieces. Store them on a floured surface until ready to cook, or transfer them to the freezer.
- To cook, gently boil in salted water for roughly 3 minutes or until they float to the surface. Do not overcook. Drain. Mix with sauce. Serve.
- It’s not necessary to use all of the flour. If you can form a ball with less flour, that will lead to lighter gnocchi.
- Be careful not to overwork the dough. It doesn’t need to be kneaded. The less you can work it, the best.
- If you can’t get Type 00 flour, it’s okay to use All Purpose flour, though it likely won’t turn out as fluffy and light.
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