If your only experience with gnocchi has been those cryovaced shelf-stable orbs for sale in the pasta aisle, I’m here to tell you, they don’t even begin to hint at the pillowy soft heaven that potato gnocchi made from scratch offers.
In fact, if you haven’t had homemade gnocchi before, you might dismiss it as less than remarkable — and I wouldn’t blame you. Potato gnocchi from scratch, however, is a different story. Yes, it may take more time to make, but the reward is an over-the-moon, feather light dumpling enhanced by your favorite sauce or ragout.
Before Scott and I got married, gnocchi and Italian food in general was pretty far down on his list of favorites because too often Italian food meant a red and white checkered tablecloth, drippy candles stuck in raffia-wrapped Chianti bottle, a basket of lackluster bread, a plate of spaghetti and a ladle of red sauce. Uninspired.
Which is why we NEVER went out to Italian restaurants. Until I reserved a table at one of Mario Batali’s spots in New York, Lupa. We had taken Emily for a weekend trip to see the city, watch a show, and eat some really good food and I had managed to slip in this reservation. Scott shook his head — but reluctantly, agreed. As Emily and I ordered our primi, Scott skipped straight to the main courses – uninterested in pasta or gnocchi.
When our plates arrived, we did as we always do and shared a taste with each other. Scott nearly fell out of his chair after trying my gnocchi with bits of sausage in a light tomato sauce. They were nothing like what he was used to. Because they were hand-crafted. Instead of being heavy and chewy, they were light, pillowy and had just enough structure to be satisfying.
When we got back from that trip, I immediately bought Batali’s book, Simple Italian Food and began making his gnocchi. Scott even helped me — he liked it that much. It has since become my go-to recipe. Try it with this marinara sauce or this simple pomodoro. For gnocchi that’s light and lush at the same time, this is it.
Side note: You will need either a food mill or potato ricer to shred the cooked potatoes finely without making them gluey. They’re small investments and neither of these tools are one-trick ponies. Use the food mill to make fresh tomato sauces, pur?e soups – even make your own baby food. The potato ricer will take your mashed potatoes from gluey and heavy to utterly smooth and creamy – no electric beaters required. Here are a few tools that I would recommend (I use the OXO food mill pictured below and my potato ricer is so old, they don’t sell it anymore, but I found a few that would do the trick for you) — oh and don’t forget Mario’s book!
- 3 pounds russet potatoes
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Place whole potatoes in a pot covered with water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until they are soft, about 45-50 minutes. Peel the skins from the potatoes while they're still warm. Use a food mill or potato ricer on the finest setting and pass the potatoes through onto a clean work surface.
- Make a well in the center of the potatoes and sprinkle with all of the flour. Add the egg and salt to the center of the well and use a fork to pierce the yolk. Beat the egg with the fork gradually incorporating the potato and flour. Once the egg is mixed in, bring the dough together and knead until the dough ball is dry to the touch, about 4-5 minutes.
- Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. When it boils, reduce heat to a simmer. In a large bowl add equal parts water and ice to create an ice bath. Add the olive oil to a large sheet pan and set aside. Continue with the gnocchi.
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll the dough into a long rope about 1/2"-3/4" in diameter. Use a sharp knife to cut the rope into 1" pieces. Roll the dough along the tines of a fork, pressing gently to create the telltale gnocchi ridges. After one dough ball has been transformed into the gnocchi, add the gnocchi to the simmering water and cook until the gnocchi float to the surface. Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the gnocchi to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Transfer the gnocchi to the sheet pan and gently roll them in the oil.
- Continue making gnocchi, cooking and shocking and transferring to the sheet pan until all are complete. Gnocchi will keep 2 days covered and refrigerated like this. See note below on how to freeze the gnocchi.
- Boil a large pot of water, adding a teaspoon of salt. Gently stir in the gnocchi, once it floats to the surface, the gnocchi is cooked, drain it and toss it with a marinara or pomodoro sauce (on this site).
- Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a wide skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the gnocchi and toss several times while its cooking. Cook until the dumplings are golden and crispy outside, about 5 minutes.
- If you're not planning on eating all the gnocchi at once, freezing them in batches makes sense. Keep in mind that if you put warm or room temp gnocchi in a freezer bag and freeze it, it will freeze into one big clump. Instead follow these instructions.
- Find a baking sheet (or 2 or 3) that will fit in your freezer and line it with parchment paper. (This is easier if you have those drawer freezers.) Lay the gnocchi flat on the parchment paper so they are not touching each other and freeze for at least 20 minutes, or until gnocchi is firm and not tacky to the touch. Transfer frozen gnocchi to a zip top freezer bag and freeze. Continue freezing the gnocchi in batches, adding the frozen dumplings to the freezer bag as you go.