To Italy, each region has its own unique way of preparing Gnocchi…In Campania, gnocchi is baked with savory tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese, in Rome, it is made with semolina and baked with butter and Parmesan (known as ‘gnocchi all romana’).
Gnocchi is also enjoyed at different days of the week according to the region. Ligurians enjoy it on Saturday, Romans indulge on Thursday, and if you’re in Campania, they like to dine on their Gnocchi Sunday! Some families like to keep this Italian tradition sacred, but for me, I’ll feast on some hand-crafted gnocchi any day of the week!
What Potatoes are the best for Gnocchi?
Even though the earliest pasta wasn’t even made with potato (simply water and flour), it has become a staple to gnocchi as we know it today. After experimenting with potatoes of all varieties, I have found that russet potatoes work the best.
This is because of the high starch to low moisture ratio. This is important because the excess moisture that you might find in waxy potatoes such as ‘fingerlings’ and ‘red-bliss’, give the gnocchi a sticky texture. If you do find yourself with a lot of liquid in the dough, simply add a smidgen of flour to soak it up.
What is the best flour to use for gnocchi?
I recommend using a very finely milled flour such as double-zero flour. This is because it will distribute throughout the dough creating the smoothest texture. If all you have is all-purpose flour, it will work just fine, but because it is more coarsely ground, the end result will not be as silky.
Cook the Potatoes with the Skin On
When boiling potatoes, the majority of recipes will tell you to peel the potatoes prior to cooking; not for gnocchi. When you leave the skin on a potato while boiling, it restricts a lot of the water that it would normally absorb had it been peeled.
This is essential to top-notch gnocchi as it will allow you to avoid a sticky dough and achieve that light fluffy pillow texture that we all desire.
Mash while the Potatoes are still Hot
The best way to process potatoes for gnocchi is to run them through a ricer (also known as a food-mill). If you intend on making gnocchi on a regular basis I highly recommend getting one, but if not, mash the potatoes as fine as you can with a potato masher.
Whatever you do, mash the potatoes while they are still piping hot. This helps steam to escape and not be reabsorbed into the potatoes. The drier the potato, the lighter the gnocchi.
Start mixing right away
Start mixing the ingredients together as soon as the potatoes are cool enough to touch. You don’t want to wait until the potatoes cool down too much because it will make the mixture harder to mix which will result in too much gluten development that will harden the gnocchi. So the sooner the better!
How to shape gnocchi
Now that you have quickly mixed the Gnocchi, it’s time to shape it. Gently knead the dough being careful to not over-do it. You want to stop kneading as soon as you develop a uniform mixture (about 1 minute).
Next, roll the dough out with your hands into ropes that are about ½ inch in diameter. Finally, cut the rope crosswise into ½ inch pieces (you should have little gnocchi pillows).
To Groove, or not to Groove.
Traditional Gnocchi is Indented by pressing your thumb firmly into the bottom, and then rolled on a grooved ‘gnocchi board’. If you don’t have a gnocchi board a fork works just great! You can also skip the grooves all together if you desire to stick with the simplistic and smooth ‘pillow’ look.
Time to Cook!
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Have a container of ice water ready. Drop the gnocchi into boiling water, but avoid overcrowding, work in batches if necessary.
Once the gnocchi is in, adjust the water to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes and immediately transfer to ice water immediately after cooking for 20 seconds to stop the cooking. Remove the gnocchi from the ice bath and pat them dry with a towelette.
How to know when gnocchi is done
When gnocchi is done, it should be able to ‘spring back’. You can determine this by what I like to call, “the squeeze test”. Take a dumpling and compress it with your finger tips, it should have some ‘spring back’. If it remains flat, the gnocchi is not done and should be returned to the water.
Reheat gnocchi in pasta water and enjoy with your favorite sauce, or, heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat and saute 4-6 minutes until golden brown on both sides.
What is the shelf life of gnocchi?
If you don’t plan on cooking your gnocchi right away, they can be loosely covered and refrigerated for up to 8 hours. Or frozen in an air-tight container or bag for up to 2 weeks.
If you choose to freeze them, take them straight from the freezer and drop them into the boiling water adding only 30 seconds to the normal cook time (3-5 minutes).
- 1 ½ pounds unpeeled russet potatoes (about 2)
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- ½ egg, beaten (beat egg and pour half out)
- 1 cup tipo 00 flour (or all-purpose), plus some for dusting
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 /2 teaspoon black pepper
- In a medium sized saucepan, combine (unpeeled) potatoes and cold salted water to cover by 1 inch. Turn the heat to high and boil until a knife slides effortlessly in and out of the potatoes, 25-30 minutes.
- Remove potatoes from heat and discard water. Peel the skin off the potatoes while they are still very hot, use gloves if they are too hot to handle. Roughly chop the potatoes and pass through a ricer, or mash as finely as possible. Transfer to a floured work surface. (Spread the potatoes out along your work surface to help evaporate excess moisture).
- Let potatoes stand 2 minutes to let steam escape. Then, sprinkle the parmesan evenly over the top of your potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and gently fold the mixture together with your hands just until ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Use a bench scraper or a fork to stir in the egg. Gently incorporate the flour just until the dough comes together. (Be careful not to over work). Once the dough is together, divide it evenly into four pieces. Take your first section and form it into a ball. Then, on a floured surface, Roll the ball with your palms into a long rope that is about ½ inch in diameter. Proceed to cut the rope crosswise every ½ inch to form gnocchi dumplings.
- Take your thumb and make a small indentation into the bottom ofthe gnocchi as shown in the picture to the right. From here you can cook the dumplings as is, or, roll the gnocchi on a gnocchi board by placing your thumb in the indent, and rolling the opposite side against the board to create groves. You can create the same grooved texture by using a fork in place of the gnocchi board. As the gnocchi is being cut and rolled, transfer them to a baking sheet and lightly dust with flour.
- To cook, prepare a container of ice water, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the gnocchi into the water, being careful not to overcrowd (you may need to work in batches). Adjust the heat to a simmer and cook the gnocchi for 3-5 minutes; they should be ‘springy’ to the touch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings to the ice water and let them sit 20 seconds. Remove from water and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
- To serve, heat olive oil in a non-stick saucepan over high heat. Saute the gnocchi 5-8 minutes until golden brown on both sides. Enjoy on their own, with butter, or pair with your favorite sauce!