Made with mashed potato, flour and lightly seasoned with salt, homemade gnocchi is amazingly light and fluffy. The simple, subtle flavour of the potato gnocchi is perfect for tossing in a rich tomato or pesto sauce. Once you’ve tried making your own, you’ll never want to go back to store bought gnocchi again.
“Is the gnocchi homemade?” is the first question l ask whenever l make a booking at an Italian restaurant. A good Italian restaurant will always make their own, but it’s worth asking.
And this is what happened when l didn’t ask. On a night out with friends, we booked a seemingly reputable and highly recommended Italian restaurant. We all gave the waiter our orders, my choice was the gnocchi.
My heart sank, when out of the corner of my eye, l saw the chef pull out a frozen packet of gnocchi from the fridge. I guessed it was destined for my plate. The gnocchi looked like little rubber bullets and tasted like that too. A lesson learnt!
Since then, l’ve been making my own, and discovered that it isn’t as difficult as l believed.
While the ingredients for making gnocchi are simple, there are slight variations. Here are some of them.
Type of Flour: I have made gnocchi using 00 Soft Wheat Flour with perfectly good results. Can l tell the difference between gnocchi made with plain / all purpose flour and 00 Soft Wheat Flour? Not really.
Potatoes: There’s a number of different varieties that are suitable for making gnocchi (note 1). I stick with the tried and trusted brushed / all purpose potato – it’s always available whereas some of the other varieties may not be. I bet the nonnas in Italy do too!
Eggs: The addition of eggs to the mixture is related to regional differences. By adding eggs, the gnocchi is meant to be firmer and hold their shape during cooking. I think the difference is very subtle.
Baking vs Boiling: Whether you boil or bake, you will get largely the same results. l prefer to boil as l find baking takes considerably longer (note 3).
Now, don’t forget to ask that all important question when you make your next booking at an Italian restaurant, “Is the gnocchi homemade?” Better still, have a go at making a batch yourself.
Preparation Time: 1hr 15 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
TIP 1: To cut down on prep time, prepare your preferred sauce while the potatoes are boiling.
Tip 2: Don’t delay shaping or cooking your gnocchi or your dough will become very sticky.
- 1 kg / 2lbs similar sized potatoes (note 1)
- 300 g / 10.5 oz plain / all purpose flour (extra for dusting)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 well packed cup of basil leaves (roughly 2 bunches)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 30 g pine nuts, (you could toast lightly but l tend not to)
- 60 g (2 oz) parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tsp salt
- optional: 1 small piece of zucchini roughly 3 cm / 1″ long (note 2)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp grated garlic
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1/3 cup water, chicken stock or red wine
- 700 g / 1.5 lb jar of passata (pureed tomatoes)
- 8 fresh basil leaves or 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp white pepper
- Wash potatoes. Try not to remove or damage the skin in the process. Place in a medium – large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Turn down slightly and continue to cook until you can easily pierce a potato with a toothpick (note 3).
- Tip out water (reserve about 1/2 cup). When cool enough to handle, remove skin. l prefer to peel skins when potatoes are still fairly hot so excess moisture can evaporate – a pair of gloves comes in handy.
- Push potatoes through a ricer or mash and push through a sieve. Make a flat round mound. Sprinkle with salt (note 4).
- Sprinkle potato with some flour and gently work it in. You need to be quick to avoid overworking the mixture. Continue adding flour – you may not use all or you may need to add a bit more. Aim for a consistency that holds together but is still a tiny bit sticky.
- Work the mixture into a log shape. Cut into portions and roll into long ropes roughly 25 cm / 10 ” in length and 1.5 cm / 1/2″ in diameter. Roll out 2 more ropes.
- Line up the 3 ropes. Cut into 2 cm / 3/4″ lengths. You can mark out the lengths before cutting as shown in the photo. Dust lightly with flour.
- Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water for about 2 mins or until gnocchi have floated to the surface.
- Remove gnocchi with fine mesh strainer or a slotted spoon. Transfer gnocchi to either the pan with the tomato sauce or large serving bowl if tossing with the pesto sauce. Follow instructions below for adding your preferred sauce.
- Place all the ingredients, except the parmesan cheese in a blender or food processor. You could also use some elbow grease and pound in a mortar and pestle.
- Blend the ingredients, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides.
- Tip into a bowl and stir through the parmesan. Have a taste to check seasoning.
- Add pesto sauce to the bowl of gnocchi. Stir through gently. Add a couple of tbsps of reserved cooking water to thin out the pesto if desired. This will also make the sauce a little creamier.
- Sprinkle with baby basil leaves and serve immediately
- Place any left over pesto sauce in a clean jar, and pop in the freezer to be used at a later date.
- Heat olive oil over moderate – high heat in a medium frypan. Add onions and saute until soft and golden (6 – 8 mins).
- Add garlic. Saute for a further 30 secs.
- Add the diced tomatoes and saute until softened (2 mins).
- Add the remaining ingredients.
- Simmer for 15 – 20 mins or until sauce has thickened to your liking. Have a taste and adjust seasoning if required.
- Transfer gnocchi to the frypan. Cook for a couple of minutes.
- Serve immediately with grated parmesan and finely chopped parsley.
- Any variety of potato considered good for mashing could be used. I use the ever reliable brushed / all purpose potato. Easy! Other varieties you might like to try include Desiree, Dutch Cream and Golden Delight. I’ve tried them all with good results. If you’re in the US or Canada, you need to look for Yukon Golds or Russets. Maris Piper, King Edwards or Charlottes are considered a good choice if you’re in the UK. For other parts of the world, select any potato that is starchy.
- A small piece of zucchini adds a little creaminess to the sauce. Chop it into small bits before you place it in the blender.
- It’s so important not to water log your potatoes when boiling. Depending on the size of your potatoes, it could take at least 45 mins or a little more. Keep an eye on them after the 30 min mark. Pierce with a tooth pick to determine if they are ready. Don’t keep piercing unnecessarily or they will become water logged. If you notice that the skin has split and is beginning to peel away, remove potatoes from the pot or they will start taking in water.
- I lay paper towels on my work surface – any moisture released from the potatoes as they are being riced will be absorbed by the paper towels. It’s not essential – it’s just what l do.