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7 Perfect Sauces for Gnocchi
Gnocchi (plural) are crowd-pleasing Italian dumplings that are most commonly made with potatoes and flour, then boiled like pasta until they're fluffy pillows of goodness. A simple sauce of butter, fresh sage leaves, and Parmesan is a classic accompaniment to gnocchi, which couldn't be easier to make.
You could use store-bought gnocchi or, if you have about an hour, make your own from scratch. If you use store-bought, frozen is often better than the packaged kind, which can be a bit dense. And you can sometimes find fresh gnocchi at an Italian deli if you happen to have one nearby.
Click Play to See These Gnocchi Sauces Come Together
Giorgio Locatelli's gnocchi.
Of course, as soon as I start looking at recipes, I realise this is going to be a little more difficult than perfecting mash or jacket potatoes – because, where food's concerned, all Italians seem to agree on is that it's very, very important. Locatelli's Made in Italy and Other Stories assures me that I need "very starchy potatoes", while Giuliano Hazan reckons "the secret to making good gnocchi is using the right potato, which should be neither too waxy nor too starchy".
Locatelli imports Italian Piacentine for his restaurant, but says "of the British varieties, Désirée is the best". Anna del Conte agrees with him, yet in her recipe, she describes Désirée as waxy, and then I discover that it rates as a five on the Potato Council's consistency scale, which means it's very much a medium potato if ever there was one. Fortunately, it seems to be only the terminology that's a little confused, because I find the Désirée easier to work with than the slightly flourier King Edwards I use in Angela Hartnett's recipe – get them if you can.
Gnocchi with mixed greens and cheese
In Solignano al Rubicone, Italy, they make cheese that is buried in the ground while it ages. It develops a delicious woody flavour that is perfect for this gnocchi, although you can use pecorino instead.
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) mixed greens (such as silverbeet/Swiss chard, spinach and witlof/chicory)
- iced water, to refresh
- 200 g (7 oz) fresh ricotta, drained
- 100 g (3½ oz) parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
- 100 g (3½ oz) formaggio di fossa or a crumbly pecorino, grated
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 100 g (3½ oz/1 cup) dried breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp chopped dill
- finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 100 g (3½ oz) unsalted butter
Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Wash and trim the greens, then plunge them into the boiling water. Once it comes to boil again, let the greens cook for a few minutes. Drain and refresh in iced water (to help retain their colour), then roughly chop and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, place the ricotta, grated cheeses and egg in a large bowl and stir until well combined. Add the cooled greens, breadcrumbs, dill, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste and combine well – the mixture will be quite thick. Roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls. Ideally the gnocchi should be cooked as soon as you make them – don’t let them rest too long.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Before you add the gnocchi to the water, melt the butter in a large deep frying pan over low heat. (You may need to do this in two pans or batches if you don’t have a very large pan.)
- Once the water is at a rolling boil, carefully drop in the gnocchi in batches, using a slotted spoon. Once they rise to the surface, lift them out with the slotted spoon and carefully drop them into the melted butter. Allow the gnocchi to cook for a few minutes on each side until nicely golden. Spoon on to warmed serving places and drizzle over some of the deep-golden butter. Scatter with extra grated parmesan and serve immediately.
Recipe and images from Adriatico by Paola Bacchia, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00
- 2 medium-sized potatoes
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Dash of nutmeg
Bake or boil the two potatoes until cooked through. Heat a large pot of water over medium-high heat. Slice the potatoes lengthwise and spoon out the cooked potato into a bowl. Using a masher or ricer, mash the potatoes until no lumps remain.
Using a spoon or your hands, form a well in the mashed potatoes. Add the egg to the center of the well, and combine using a fork. Gently mix in the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Use your hands to knead for about a minute.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cover with more flour. Slice the dough into 4 even quarters. Flour your hands, and work each dough section into a long, 1-inch-thick log, adding more flour as needed. Cut the log into 1-inch pieces. Sprinkle with more flour to prevent sticking, and transfer to a floured plate. Repeat with each dough quarter.
When the water reaches a boil, add the cut dough stir immediately. Gnocchi will cook about 3-4 minutes before floating to the top of the water. When all of the gnocchi reaches the surface, remove from the water and combine with sauce of choice. Serve immediately.
- Calories (kcal) : 240
- Fat Calories (kcal): 10
- Fat (g): 1
- Saturated Fat (g): 0
- Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0
- Monounsaturated Fat (g): 0
- Cholesterol (mg): 35
- Sodium (mg): 210
- Carbohydrates (g): 52
- Fiber (g): 3
- Protein (g): 7
- Put the unpeeled potatoes in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, partially cover the pot, and simmer the potatoes until they are completely tender and easily pierced with a skewer, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes, let them cool just enough that you can handle them, and then peel them. Cut them in half crosswise and pass them through a ricer into a large bowl. Let cool until almost at room temperature, at least 20 minutes.
- Lightly flour a work surface. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the egg to the potatoes and then add the flour mixture. Mix with your hands until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to clump together the dough will still be a bit crumbly at this point. Gather the dough together and press it against the bottom of the bowl until you have a uniform mass. Transfer it to the floured surface and wash your hands.
- Knead gently until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is soft, smooth, and a little sticky, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Don’t overmix it, or the gnocchi will be tough the dough should feel very delicate.) Move the dough to one side, making sure the surface underneath it is well floured. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel.
- Cover two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment and sprinkle lightly with flour.
- Remove any lingering bits of dough from your work surface and lightly reflour the surface. Tear off a piece of dough about the size of a large lemon and put the towel back on the rest of the dough so it doesn’t dry out.
- With the palms of both hands, roll the dough piece on the floured surface into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter.
- With a sharp knife or a bench knife, cut the rope crosswise every 3/4 inch to make roughly 3/4-inch-square gnocchi. Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on the parchment-covered baking sheets, making sure they don’t touch. Repeat until you run out of dough, reflouring the work surface as needed. When all the gnocchi have been cut and spread out on the baking sheets, sprinkle them with a little more flour.
- If you’re going to use the gnocchi within 2 to 3 hours, they can sit out on the counter. For longer storage, see the make ahead tips below.
Make Ahead Tips
You can serve freshly made gnocchi right away or within a couple of hours, or you can freeze them for later use. Put the gnocchi in the freezer while they’re still on the baking sheets and freeze until they are hard to the touch, at least one hour. Transfer them to a large zip-top bag or several smaller bags and freeze for up to two months. Cook frozen gnocchi in boiling water in two batches. Frozen gnocchi cause the temperature of the cooking water to drop, so they’ll fall apart before the water returns to a boil if there are too many in the pot. Don’t refrigerate fresh gnocchi for more than two or three hours, as they tend to ooze water and become soggy.
To save time, skip the fork:
Classic Italian homemade gnocchi are pressed on a fork to curl them and impart the traditional ridges. To save time, I just cut them in small squares and leave them as cute little pillows. I think they look prettier, and they’re a lot less fussy to make.
How To Make Gnocchi
Making gnocchi from scratch is much less complicated than it seems. Y ou only need 2 ingredients: potatoes and flour.
Would you like to know the secrets to make perfect gnocchi?
1) It&rsquos very important to choose the right type of potato. You need a potato that is starchy, with a floury texture and minimum water content like Russet and Désirée potatoes.
2) Boil the potatoes in their skin and don&rsquot pierce them during cooking otherwise they will absorb too much water.
3) Use a potato ricer to mash them (do not use a food processor) when they are still hot. There is no need to peel them as the skin will remain inside the potato ricer.
4) Use only enough flour to bring the dough together. It should be firm but slightly sticky.
5) Don&rsquot overwork the dough or you will get dense and heavy gnocchi.
These little dumplings are very versatile and can be served with different sauces: butter and sage, gorgonzola and walnuts, bolognese sauce, pesto or a classic tomato sauce.
Gnocchi freeze very well. Spread them in a single layer on a floured baking sheet so they don&rsquot stick together. Put the baking sheet into the freezer for 1 hour. Once frozen, put the gnocchi into a freezer bag. To cook them, just drop the frozen gnocchi directly in the boiling water without defrosting.
Gnocchi cook in a flash, be ready to scoop them out with a slotted spoon as soon as they float to the surface.
Add the gnocchi to a pot of boiling water. When they rise to the top, remove ’em with a slotted spoon.
Top with your favorite sauces and devour! I mean, seriously. DE-VOU-RRR.
I’ll leave you with a picture of that glorious make-your-own-gnocchi served with that Shortcut Short Rib Ragu. YES AND MORE PLEASE!
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- 4 large (about 2 pounds) Idaho potatoes, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 large eggs
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 2 inches with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high, and cook until tender, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill another large saucepan with cold water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. (These are for cooking and cooling the gnocchi.) Drain potatoes, and peel while still hot, holding them with a clean kitchen towel. Pass potatoes through a potato ricer or a food mill fitted with the finest disk onto a lightly floured work surface. Make a well in the center of the mound of potatoes, and sprinkle flour evenly over the potatoes. Break eggs into the well, and add 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and the pepper. Using a fork, lightly beat eggs, and incorporate the remaining ingredients to form a dough. Knead lightly on the work surface until the dough is soft and smooth.
Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Divide dough into 4 balls, and shape each ball into a rope 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Shape the gnocchi: Hold a dinner fork in one hand, and use your index finger to hold a cut edge of a piece of gnocchi against the curved back of the tines of the fork. Press into the center of the gnocchi with your index finger to make a deep indentation. While you are pressing the piece against the tines, flip it away over the tip of the fork, allowing the gnocchi to drop to the work surface. If the gnocchi becomes sticky, dip fork and index finger into flour. The finished gnocchi will have ridges on one side and a depression on the other. At this point, gnocchi can be refrigerated on a lightly floured baking sheet for several hours before boiling and serving.
To cook gnocchi, drop half of them into the boiling water, and cook until they float to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and place in the ice bath for about 20 seconds. Transfer from ice bath, to a colander, and repeat process with the other half of the dough.
That's right, gnocchi can also be made sweet. Take for example this caramelized gnocchi dessert. The gnocchi is soft and chewy on the inside and crunchy and sweet on the outside!
Recipe by Batsheva Kanter
For all the carb lovers out there, this one's for you! Let us know in the comments how you like to eat your gnocchi, and send us pictures if you try these recipes!
This article was originally published on August 9, 2017, and was updated and improved in November 2020.