Ask anyone how they like their gnocchi and you will get a rousing smile billow from their lips and proclaim–light, and pillowy soft, of course! Gnocchi is Italian for “lump” or “dumpling” made with potatoes and flour. Gnocchi is made by combining milled potato and flour with egg yolk to help bind the dough together. This recipe is a great starter to get familiarized with the texture and feel for the dough.
Le Ricette Regionali Italiane, by Anna Gosetti Della Salda lists different regional gnocchis like: Gnocchetti di farina bianca (Lombardia), Gnocchi Alla parmigiana (Emilia-Romagna), Gnocchi di ricotta (Toscana) to name a few. As you can see, gnocchi goes well with different sauces and cheeses. You can fry them as well or add them in meat stews.
There are 3 different ways to cook the potatoes: boil, steam, or bake. Each cook will swear by any of these to get the best gnocchi result. I think it’s a matter of preference and comfort/experience. I recommend baking the potatoes to exude as much moisture and use less of the flour.
Use potatoes that are higher in starch content — Idaho or russet works well. Baking provides the least moisture, but it’s a matter of preference and experience from how one learned to make gnocchi that reigns in the method. If your potatoes are older- they will also be preferable as they are starchier.
l like to bake my potatoes and prick the skins all over with a fork to exude the moisture. Once done, remove them from the oven and spoon them off from the skin. Use a fine ricer or coarse food mill to get a fluffy texture. Never puree the potatoes as it will result in a chewy and gummy texture.
The flour that Italians use for gnocchi is what’s called doppio zero — “00 flour” it’s the equivalent of a very finely milled flour. This makes a smoother, supple, malleable dough. Adding the flour a bit at a time to get to a point when the gnocchi dough starts to hold together is the moment to stop adding flour. Remember your potatoes will vary in water content so adjusting to this will vary with each time you make a new batch of gnocchi.
This beginner’s recipe as starter recipe to get familiarized with the consistency and handling of the gnocchi will ensure a successful attempt. You can do it!
2-3 large Idaho or 4 medium russet potatoes, baked until tender
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
For Cacio e Pepe sauce:
1/2 cup Parmesan Reggiano, finely grated
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, finely grated
1 tablespoon Whole Peppercorn, freshly ground, coarse
1. Set oven at 400 degrees.
2. Wash potatoes and dry. Using a fork, pierce potato skin 2- 3 times and place each potato on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 40-60 minutes. When the potato is tender, ensure a toothpick comes out clean after easily piercing it at the center. Remove from the oven.
3. Cut the potatoes in half. Using a fork scoop potato into a ricer and run potatoes through into a large mixing bowl. Let the potatoes cool further to warm temperature about 20-30 minutes or when no more steam emanates from the milled potatoes.
4. Sift flour evenly over the potatoes if not using a 00 flour. Create a well at the center and add the egg in it. Begin to incorporate the egg with the with flour and potatoes your hands until the mixture starts to hold together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, with lightly floured hands, gently knead until smooth and well blended about 2-3 minutes. Do not overwork the dough.
5. Roll the dough into a big ball, and divide into 4 equal parts on the floured surface. Use each part to roll further into a long cord about a 1/2 inch diameter. Using a knife, cut the rope into 3/4-inch segments. Hold a fork upright on your work surface with the tines curved toward you. Gently roll 1 segment of dough against the tines to mark it lightly with ridges if desired, or you can Repeat until all the dough is used. You may refrigerate the gnocchi, uncovered, until ready to cook, otherwise cover and keep refrigerated for 1 day. If you want to freeze them, Cook and cool and drain before freezing.
6. To prepare the gnocchi, bring a large pot 2/3 full of salted water to a boil. Cook until the individual gnocchi float to the top, then 1 minute more (about 4 minutes total). Immediately drain and toss with the cheeses and freshly ground pepper. Add more cheese if desired. Serve while hot.