Gnocchi, a classic Italian potato dumpling and revered pasta dish, holds a special place in Italian cuisine. Originating in Northern Italy, these small and delightful dumplings have become synonymous with homemade comfort food. Traditionally made with a simple combination of boiled potatoes and flour, the absence of eggs truly allows one to appreciate the authentic taste and texture of the potato. With regional variations across Italy, homemade potato gnocchi is a versatile and satisfying dish.
Those soft and pillowy Italian dumplings can vary in taste and texture, depending on whether they're store-bought or freshly made at home.
Store-bought gnocchi, while convenient, often have a denser, more rubbery consistency due to the stabilizers and preservatives used to prolong their shelf life.
This can detract from the delicate, melt-in-your-mouth experience characteristic of gnocchi at its best.
On the other hand, fresh gnocchi, made from simple ingredients like potatoes and flour, boasts an incomparable lightness and rich flavor that store-bought versions seldom match.
The tactile joy of kneading the dough and shaping each piece adds a sense of accomplishment to the dining experience.
By making gnocchi at home, you are ensuring a higher quality, more flavorful dish and embracing the tradition and love that goes into authentic Italian cooking.
The difference is tangible, and, once tasted, there's no going back.
This easy homemade gnocchi recipe presents various ways to achieve the desired consistency, from chunky to fluffy, with your choice of accompanying sauces, such as pesto or butter and sage.
For a complete view of all the gnocchi recipes, check the web story: 9 Gnocchi recipes made from scratch
Eggs, Yea or Nay
Gnocchi's authentic Italian recipe can raise some serious culinary controversy.
There are two factions of gnocchi enthusiasts, and they're as passionate about their preferred recipes as they are about their favorite soccer teams.
If gnocchi had political parties, these would be the Eggists and the Eggless.
Italian gnocchi offers two authentic variations: one with eggs and one without.
I am a strong eggless supporter as without the egg, they can cater to vegetarians and vegans alike, and I can tailor its texture to the specific dish I'm crafting.
These delightful Italian eggless dumplings can be light and airy or robust and firm.
The lighter gnocchi beautifully complemented light sauces, ideal for starters or sides, while the heftier version stands up well to rich sauces like ragù, making it a perfect main course.
To prepare a delicious gnocchi dish, you will need the following main ingredients:
- Potatoes: Opt for old, Russet potatoes, which remain smooth and firm when boiled. Boil the potatoes unpeeled to prevent water absorption.
- All-purpose flour: For a versatile choice that works well with the potatoes.
- Semolina flour: Use this only for chunky gnocchi variations.
- Salt: For seasoning the dough and boiling water.
How to cook the potatoes
- Boil potatoes for 20 minutes or until you can easily pierce the center of the potatoes with a paring knife.
- Drain the potatoes and peel them immediately.
- Mash the potatoes while still warm, using a potato ricer or fork (but not a blender).
- Set aside the mashed potatoes to cool down completely.
Extra tips for cooking the potatoes
- Do not peel the potatoes before boiling, leading to soggy gnocchi.
- Use a potato ricer or fork to mash the potatoes, but avoid using a blender, which causes waxy results.
- I recommend using the kitchenaid vegetable strainer as it mashes and peels the potatoes at the same time.
How to make the gnocchi dough
After the mashed potatoes have reached room temperature, mix them with the following ingredients for either fluffy or chunky gnocchi:
- 4 large potatoes
- ½ cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 4 large potatoes
- ½ cup of semolina flour
- ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt
Reminder: Using a minimal amount of flour makes the best gnocchi. Too much flour results in tougher gnocchi.
How to shape them
- Mix the dough by hand until smooth.
- Take a small piece of dough to fill your palm and roll it into a long rope on a clean work surface.
- Cut the gnocchi into desired shapes (small squares for fluffy gnocchi or longer shapes for chunky ones).
- Repeat until all the dough is shaped into gnocchi.
How to indent them
- Use a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork to indent chunky gnocchi.
- Apply slight pressure on the gnocchi against the fork while pushing them down.
Before you cook them
This step is very important: once the gnocchi are shaped, you need to keep them separated and dust them with flour otherwise, the gnocchi will stick to each other:
- Lay the shaped gnocchi on a floured tray, separating them to prevent sticking.
- Dust the gnocchi with more flour.
Hint: Extra flour will wash away when cooking, but don't mix it into the dough.
How to cook gnocchi
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil (similar to cooking pasta).
- Drop small batches of gnocchi into the boiling water, just enough to cover the pot's bottom.
- Once the gnocchi start to float on top of the water, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them directly into the pan with your gnocchi sauce.
- Gently stir the gnocchi into the sauce.
- Continue cooking the remaining gnocchi in the same manner.
How to serve them
Light and Fluffy Gnocchi
Light and fluffy gnocchi have less flour, making the potato flavor more prominent.
Ideal as a starter or side dish, it's best to pair them with delicate sauces that enhance the potato taste without overpowering it.
Some refreshing sauce options include:
- Sage and butter: A simple combination of melted butter and fresh sage leaves.
- Truffle Gnocchi Sauce: Infused with the bold flavor of truffles, this sauce complements the lighter texture of the gnocchi.
- Fresh basil pesto: A blend of fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil adds a vibrant touch
- Red pesto: fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil create a deeper, richer pesto option.
Chunky and Firm Gnocchi
Chunky and firm gnocchi hold up well with more robust sauces, like those featuring mushrooms, seafood, or meat sauce.
These heartier dishes can be served as a main course. Suggested pairings include:
- Simple tomato sauce: A light base composed of tomatoes, garlic, and a touch of basil
- Bolognese sauce: A rich, meaty sauce with ground beef, tomatoes, and herbs
- Lamb ragu: Slow-cooked lamb with tomato sauce and a hint of rosemary for a lush, flavorful combination.
- Wild mushrooms chanterelle: Earthy chanterelle mushrooms cooked with garlic, parsley, and cream.
- Or seafood: A mix of shrimp, clams, and white fish for a satisfying oceanic twist.
Complete the dish by generously topping the gnocchi with grated Parmigiano Reggiano for a perfect balance of flavors.
Storing gnocchi properly can help preserve its taste and texture. Ideally, it should be served fresh on the same day it is made. However, if it's necessary to store, you can freeze the uncooked gnocchi to maintain quality. Follow these steps to store gnocchi effectively:
- Freeze: Lay them out in a single layer on a tray to prevent sticking.
- Transfer: Once frozen, move them into a freezer bag.
- Thaw: When ready to cook, thaw gnocchi before boiling.
- Leftovers: Reheat baked gnocchi topped with sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Remember, freshly made gnocchi is always the best option. Buying freshly-made gnocchi from a pasta shop is also a viable alternative.
I find it very useful to use the KitchenAid and its vegetable strainer. It separates the skin directly, so I don’t have to peel the potatoes. It is perfect when you make gnocchi, mashed in a flash, and you don t have to burn your hands to peel hot potatoes.
Other useful tools include a potato ricer for creating smooth mashed potatoes without burning your hands.
A fork, gnocchi board, or gnocchi roller can be used to indent the gnocchi dough.
Lastly, baking sheets are essential for laying out the formed gnocchi before cooking.
Gnocchi offers diverse flavors and colors when combined with other ingredients like spinach, chestnuts, pumpkins, or sweet potato gnocchi.
History of Italian Gnocchi
The word gnocchi has historical roots, likely tracing back to the Lombard term "knohhil," signifying a knot in wood.
This term might be connected to the South Tyrolean "knodel," which influenced Trentino dumplings made with breadcrumbs.
As this culinary delight migrated south, the term evolved to "gnocco" or "gnocchi."
By the second millennium, this term had become popular in regions like Veneto and the Po valley, referring to pasta morsels resembling wooden knots.
Historically, gnocchi was a simple dish, not typically associated with upscale cuisine.
Made primarily of flour and water, and occasionally some eggs, these small, cylinder-shaped dough pieces were often pressed against uneven surfaces, like the inside of a grater or a fork.
Once prepared, they were boiled and then topped with sauce, butter, or cheese.
This dish holds significance in Venetian, Emilian, and Piedmontese culinary traditions.
There are other variations of "gnocco," such as the Roman style gnocchi (gnocchi alla Romana) made from semolina.
A similar recipe is found in the Ancient Roman times in the book by Apicio " De Res Coquinaria".
There is also the fried version of gnocco fritto from Reggio Emilia, prepared with soft wheat flour cut into thin diamond shapes, fried and served with Parma ham or culatello.
Historically, these little dumplings started as little flour dough bits boiled in water.
This soft wheat pasta can be likened to what the ancient Greeks termed "glue"
We can look at an 18th-century cookbook from an anonymous author in Reggio Emilia to find detailed gnocchi recipes as we recognize them now.
This book catered to the Cassoli counts in Reggio Emilia and features a recipe for Millet Gnocchi with garlic.
Vincenzo Corrado (1734-1836) in his work, "Cuoco Galante," touches upon Cream Gnocchi and Lady's Gnocchi.
Corrado, in 1801, introduced the earliest Italian potato gnocchi recipe.
By the late 19th century, gnocchi transitioned from being a staple in everyday Italian meals to a dish fit for the bourgeois.
Pellegrino Artusi documented this in his work "Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well" (latest edition 1910), where he mentioned, "The gnocchi family is vast."
Artusi listed several variations, from those in broths to those made of potatoes, semolina, or even milk for desserts.
Post-Artusi, gnocchi, including the potato variation, secured its place as a mainstay in Italian culinary arts, giving rise to various toppings from meaty to vegetarian sauces.
Gnocchi can last up to 3 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge. However, the texture of the potatoes changes over time, so gnocchi are best eaten fresh
We eat gnocchi as a first dish after the starters and before the main course. For more information on how Italian structure their meals, you can read the article: Italian Sunday dinners: a 6 meal courses
Looking forward to hearing your Italian homemade gnocchi experience in the comments below. You can find more delicious ideas if you FOLLOW ME on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram or sign up to my newsletter.
📋 How To Make Italian Gnocchi
For the gnocchi
Making the gnocchi dough
- Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes4 old medium potatoes
- Pierce with a knife to check that they are done and drain them
- Peel immediately and mash the potatoes while still warm
- Set aside and let them cool down COMPLETELY
Make the gnocchi sauce
- Stir fry the garlic cloves2 cloves peeled garlic cloves, 2 tablespoon Olive oil
- Remove the cloves from the pan
- Add the chopped cherry tomatoes3 cups cherry tomatoes
- Add the basil leaves and the salt3 leaves Chopped basil leaves, 1 teaspoon salt
- Let it simmer covered, turning from times to times
How to make gnocchi dough
- Once the potatoes are cold, mix them with the flours and the salt½ cup semolina flour, ¼ cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt
- Mix the dough by hand until smooth
How to shape the gnocchi
- Take a small amount of dough, enough to fill your palm
- Roll it and make a long thick string
- Cut the gnocchi into shape
- Repeat until all the dough is shaped into gnocchi
- To indent the chunky gnocchi you can use a gnocchi board or the back of a fork.
- Apply a small pressure on the gnocchi against the fork while pushing them down.
- Lay the gnocchi on a floured tray
- Keep the gnocchi separate otherwise they stick to each other
- Dust with more flour
How To Cook Gnocchi
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil, same as for cooking pasta1 tablespoon salt
- Drop some gnocchi into the boiling water, not too many. Just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Once the gnocchi start to float, remove them with a skimmer and place them directly in the pan where you have your gnocchi sauce.
- Stir gently into the sauce
- Once they are all removed, add the next batch of gnocchi until they are all cooked
How To Serve Gnocchi
- Serve the gnocchi still warm adding plenty of Parmesan cheese6 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
- Peel and strain the potatoes while still warm
- DON'T peel the potatoes before boiling them or your gnocchi will be soggy.
- If you don't have a ricer, use a fork but do not use a blender as it will make them waxy.
- Wait until they are completely cold/room temperature before mixing them with the flour
- Do not add flour, as the best gnocchi are made with a minimal amount of flour. If you add too much flour you will have tough gnocchi
- Once the gnocchi are shaped lay them on a tray full of flour. Keep the gnocchi separate otherwise, they stick to each other.
- You can dust more flour as it will wash away when the gnocchi are cooked, but do not mix it into the dough