Gnocchi are little potato dumplings that are a staple in Italian cooking. They're delicious simply tossed in butter and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, or you can use them in a variety of main dishes.
Traditional Gnocchi Recipe
There's definitely an art to making gnocchi, but this recipe will serve as a very good start.
- About 2 pounds of large russet potatoes, unpeeled and washed
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Put the potatoes in a stock pot, cover them with water, and add some salt.
- Bring the pot to a boil, and cook the potatoes for about 40 minutes.
- Using a hand strainer, remove the potatoes one by one to a large bowl or casserole dish, and let them cool just long enough that you can handle them without burning yourself. Keep the water to cook the dumplings in later.
- Remove all the potatoes from the bowl. Use a butter knife to gently scrape the peels away, and put each potato through a potato ricer and back into the bowl.
- Let the riced potatoes cool until they are warm, but not hot.
- Mix the flour and 1 teaspoon of salt together, and set aside.
- Combine the beaten eggs and olive oil, pour over the potatoes, and mix with a large metal spoon.
- Sprinkle 3/4 of a cup of your flour mix over the potatoes and egg mix, and mix together with your hands until you have a crumby dough. Add a little more flour as needed to reach this consistency.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured pastry board, pat it together, and begin gently kneading it for about one minute. Work in more small amounts of the flour mix as you go until the dough is no longer sticky. Avoid over-kneading the dough or it will become tough and your dumplings will not turn out light an fluffy.
- Make sure your board is still lightly floured, and pinch off a baseball-sized piece of dough. Cover the remaining dough with a sheet of plastic wrap to keep it from drying while you work. Form the piece of dough into a ball in your hands, and then put it on the board and roll it into a rope that's about 3/4 of an inch thick.
- Cut the rope into 3/4-inch sections, and repeat this process until all the dough has been formed into little pillows.
- On a gnocchi board, use your thumb to gently press each dumpling against the gnocchi board with a slightly downward rolling motion. This will make the dumplings curl slightly and create the grooves on their outsides. If you don't have a gnocchi board, you can press and roll the dumplings down the tines of a fork.
- Reheat the potato water to a rolling boil, and cook the dumplings in batches of about 20 for two minutes. They will rise to the top of the water when they're finished, and you should immediately strain them from the water to a clean bowl. Cover the bowl, and repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked.
- Once the dumplings are finished, they are ready to use in your favorite dishes.
Plain potato gnocchi are tasty, but you might also enjoy these variations. Just follow the original recipe, but make the following changes.
- Spinach gnocchi: Add 1 1/2 cups of finely-chopped spinach to the riced potatoes just before you add the egg mixture.
- Tomato gnocchi: Add 1/3 cup tomato paste to the egg mixture before you pour it over the riced potatoes. You may need to work in a little more flour mix with this variation to keep the dough from being too sticky.
- Wheat gnocchi: Substitute 1/2 cup wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour in the flour mix. This means you'll be using both types of flour to make up the full volume in the recipe, but it's usually best to use some all-purpose flour to produce the right texture in the dumplings. Use the all-purpose flour for dusting the pastry board as well.
- Sweet potato gnocchi: Substitute 2 pounds of sweet potatoes for the russets, and bake them instead of boiling them before peeling. This means you'll need a pot of salted water to cook the dumplings in.
Ways to Serve Gnocchi
You can use these little dumpling just as you would pasta. They're great covered with your favorite sauce, and you can toss in meat, vegetables, greens or whatever else you like to make your gnocchi a real meal. You don't even need a recipe; just add in as much of your chosen ingredients as you like, and just enough sauce so your dumplings are coated but not drowned. You can even add freshly-cooked dumplings to bowls of soup right before serving.
- Meatballs and gnocchi tossed with tomato sauce
- Crumbled Italian sausage and gnocchi with Alfredo sauce
- Gnocchi tossed with pesto and sprinkled with freshly-grated Parmesan and chopped parsley
- Gnocchi, baby spinach, slivered carrots, and sliced mushrooms covered with Alfredo or spaghetti sauce
Practice Makes Perfect
It takes a bit of practice to perfect your gnocchi-making technique, but you should have it down pat after you make a batch or two. Once you do, you can use these dumplings in your favorite dishes or experiment until you create your own signature dish.