Gnocchi are little Italian dumplings, typically made with a base of potato, flour, egg and salt. A dough is formed, they are divided into small nuggets, and can then be gently fried, boiled or baked. Gnocchi are finished by being tossed in a sauce, olive oil or melted butter and herbs.
Cooked gnocchi should have a light, squidgy texture, and should not be tough and chewy. It has a simple potato-like flavour, which can easily be complemented with fresh herbs or cheese such as parmesan.
The type of potato you use is key when making gnocchi as the wrong variety can affect flavour and texture. Avoid waxy potatoes such as Charlotte and Jersey Royals. Instead, make sure you use a floury variety. Maris Piper or a King Edward varieties are ideal as they have a medium floury texture.
Some people like to use sweet potatoes, swede, parsnips or other roots in their gnocchi. This is fine, but make sure you use a recipe specific to these ingredients rather than swapping out normal potatoes in a recipe. Be aware that the texture may also alter slightly to a gnocchi made with a regular white potato.
The method of cooking your potatoes can also affect the overall texture. Peeling potatoes and boiling them for too long can result in a soft, watery texture. For best results, bake the potatoes in their skins, as this keeps the flesh as dry as possible, resulting in fluffier gnocchi.
Make sure the potatoes are fresh, too, as the taste of older, earthier potatoes can be transferred to the gnocchi dough.
What equipment do I need?
You don’t need any complicated equipment. You can create a good gnocchi by passing the potatoes through a potato ricer, as this will stop you from overworking and over-mashing the potatoes. Pushing the cooked potatoes through sieve will work, too.
Can I make gnocchi ahead of time?
A fresh gnocchi dough can be made 6 hours ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Any longer than that and the gnocchi will begin to turn an unpleasant grey colour and become softer in texture.
However, you can easily freeze gnocchi. Once they’ve been formed into dumplings, lay them in a single layer on two baking sheets, cover with cling film and freeze until solid, then transfer to sandwich bags and keep for up to 2 months. You can then boil them in a pan of simmering water straight from frozen until they bob to the surface.
3 ways to cook gnocchi
Simmer: The easiest way to cook gnocchi is to simmer it in a large pan of lightly salted water. Cook the fresh gnocchi for 1-2 mins or until it rises to the surface, then drain well.
Fry: Pan-frying gnocchi makes them beautifully crisp and golden. To do this, simply simmer the gnocchi as above, then drain and leave to dry on a baking sheet. Heat some butter in a medium-sized pan over a medium heat and fry for 3-4 mins until deep golden brown.
Roast: You can roast gnocchi in the oven or bake in an al-forno style sauce. To roast in the oven, simmer the gnocchi as above, then drain and toss with olive oil in a roasting tin. Roast in the oven at 220C/200C fan/gas 7 for 20-25 mins or until golden, stirring occasionally to stop them from sticking.
Butter: A classic way to serve gnocchi is simply tossed in seasoned melted butter. Warm a large frying pan over a medium heat, add a large knob of butter and swirl it around the pan until foaming (cook until golden brown and nutty smelling for a brown butter version). Add some sage and fry for 1 minute before adding the gnocchi to the pan and tossing everything together.
Olive oil: Tossing your gnocchi in a good-quality extra virgin olive oil is a fantastic way to enjoy it in a simple way. Make sure you season it well with some salt and black pepper.
Basic gnocchi recipe
1kg Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
200-250g plain flour
How to make gnocchi
Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 8. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and rub generously with salt. Sit the potatoes on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 1 hr-1 hr 15 mins, until they feel tender when a knife is inserted. Leave to cool for 15 mins.
Gently peel off the skins and discard. Tip the flesh into a potato ricer or sieve and push through directly into a large bowl. Mix through the egg and tsp salt with a wooden spoon.
Sieve 200g of the flour into a mound on the work surface. Tip the potato onto the flour and work everything together, kneading it until well combined, trying not to overwork. If the dough is a little wet, add the remaining flour. Divide the dough into four pieces. Lightly dust the surface with more flour and roll each chunk into a 2cm-thick, long sausage shape. Cut into 1cm-long nuggets.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add all the gnocchi at once and cook for 2-3 mins or until they come to the surface. Drain and toss with your favourite sauce, pesto or butter.
5 gnocchi recipe ideas:
Parsnip gnocchi Take parnsips to another level by turning them into gnocchi with a crunchy walnut crumb.
Swede gnocchi with crispy sage Using much overlooked swede, you can create a budget-friendly, restaurant-worthy gnocchi main course. Top with butter-fried herbs for a simple veggie dish.
Puttanesca baked gnocchi Bake your homemade gnocchi with tomatoes, mozzarella, capers and olives for a delicious midweek meal.