Foolproof Guide on How to Make Gnocchi
If you’ve ever tried a gnocchi (pronounced nyoh-kee) dish at your local Italiano ristorante, you know how magical the fluffy, pillowy pasta-like dish is. Turns out, gnocchi isn’t pasta, since it’s made out of potatoes with flour and egg, whereas the base of pasta consists of flour and egg, sans potato. The name "gnocchi" is derived from the Italian word "nocchio," which means a gnarl or knot in wood. Gnocchi are small, soft dumplings that are typically enjoyed as a main course or a side dish. They have a unique texture that is soft and pillowy when properly prepared.
While potato gnocchi is the most common variety and the ones we will be making together today, other types of gnocchi can be made from ingredients like semolina, ricotta cheese, or other vegetables. Here's a breakdown of the main types:
Potato Gnocchi: The classic version is made by boiling or baking potatoes, mashing them, and then mixing them with flour and sometimes eggs to form a dough. The dough is then rolled into ropes, cut into small pieces, and usually marked with the tines of a fork to create ridges that help the sauce cling to the gnocchi. Potato gnocchi has a delicate flavor and a fluffy texture when cooked correctly.
Gnocchetti (semolina): Named for its similar appearance to gnocchi, gnocchetti is a type of pasta made from semolina flour, which is coarser than regular wheat flour. The dough is often flavored with ingredients like nutmeg and Parmesan cheese. After shaping, semolina gnocchetti is typically boiled or pan-fried until they develop a slightly crispy exterior.
Ricotta Gnocchi: Ricotta cheese is mixed with flour and sometimes eggs to create a dough that's used for making ricotta gnocchi. These gnocchi tend to be lighter and slightly more delicate than potato gnocchi.
Malfatti Gnocchi: These large, round gnocchi incorporate spinach into ricotta, semolina, egg, and parmesan, adding color and flavor. This basic recipe results in a beautiful, bright, white, and green dumpling that is wonderful atop a bed of marinara sauce and basil.
Gnocchi can be found in many Italian restaurants and is available for purchase in frozen and dried forms at grocery stores. However, making gnocchi from scratch can be a rewarding culinary experience, allowing you to tailor the flavors and textures to your taste.
Alright, now that we've covered the basics of gnocchi, ready to make some homemade potato gnocchi? Try out Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter & Sage recipe!
1. Prepare your potatoes
Since we're making potato gnocchi, your first step will be to choose the potatoes you will be working with. We chose to use sweet potatoes but you can also use a floury potato like Russet potatoes or a semi-waxy potato that won't hold too much moisture like a Yukon Gold. Once you have weighed out your potatoes according to your recipe, boil them or puncture holes in them with a fork and microwave for about 7-10 minutes or until tender. Once a knife can easily slide through the whole potato, it's ready! Next, you can either use a potato ricer (leave the skin on) or scoop the potato out of its skin into a bowl and mash it. The potato ricer will incorporate air into the riced potatoes, making them nice and fluffy. If you choose to mash your potatoes with a masher or fork, make sure you incorporate air as you fluff them! It's important to complete this step while the potato is still hot so that the starches in the potato don't break down while mashing or ricing.
2. Make the gnocchi dough
Once you've mashed or riced your potatoes, let them cool to room temperature before combining them with other ingredients to make your dough. Once cool, fold in your room-temperature egg, flour, salt, and any spices you would like to add with a silicone or wooden spatula. You can use regular all-purpose flour here, or you can even use rice flour or a 1-1 ratio gluten-free baking flour if you want to make your gnocchi gluten-free! Now, you'll want your dough to be soft and fluffy and not too sticky, or else you won't be able to shape it into a ball. Flour your working space and shape your dough into a ball, avoiding over-kneading it. If it's too sticky, add more flour a tablespoon at a time, making sure not to add too much flour, or your gnocchi will be too stiff and chewy. Once your dough comes together, cover it and let it rest for about 10 minutes to proof.
3. Shape your dough
Now for the fun part! Before we begin to shape our dough, you'll want to separate it into 4 sections and roll them into a rope shape to get ready to cut and form them into bite-size pieces. There are three different ways you can shape your gnocchi- let's dive into them!
1. Regular / Pillow: The easiest method for making your gnocchi - here, you want to use a sharp knife and cut the dough rope into 1-inch bites. This will make your gnocchi look like soft little pillows!
2. Ridges (Gnocchi board): Once you cut your gnocchi pieces, roll them onto a gnocchi board with your thumb. This helps create ridges that will help your sauce cling to your gnocchi - fantastic for holding marinara sauce.
3. Ridges (Fork): No gnocchi board? No problem! Roll your gnocchi pieces around on a fork to make ridges that will allow your gnocchi to hold any sauce you pair your gnocchi with.
4. Boil the Gnocchi
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Using a slotted spoon, carefully drop your gnocchi into boiling water, working in two batches. Once a piece of dough floats to the surface of the water (about one minute or so), that's when you know it's ready! Remove gnocchi with your slotted spoon.
5. Finish Gnocchi
Now, you have the creative freedom to make your gnocchi dish whatever you want it to be! Toss your sweet potato gnocchi in browned butter, and sage and sprinkle with a bit of flaky sea salt and black cracked pepper, toss your potato gnocchi with pesto or marinara sauce. You can also toss it with parmesan, sea salt, and fresh herbs for a delicious homemade gnocchi recipe.
Gnocchi can be served with a wide variety of sauces, such as tomato sauce, pesto, cream-based sauces, or brown butter and sage. They are also sometimes layered with cheese and baked, similar to a casserole, but this delicious dumpling is extremely versatile. Try adding gnocchi to some blistered grape tomatoes, garlic, and white wine to make a delicious tomato sauce you can top with fresh basil and burrata that will be sure to impress whoever you're cooking for (or just yourself!). Whether you sauce up your homemade gnocchi or keep it simple with some browned butter and sage, you're sure to feel accomplished knowing that you can now make this delicious Italian dish from scratch yourself. Bon appetit!
Ready to be try your hands at making gnocchi? Try our Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage!