Joined Jan 5, 2001
We made gnocchi in class recently. Though I received top marks for it, I didn't feel they were quite right...

To all the chefs and Italians out there: what makes the the perfect gnocchi?

Describe please the texture and the shape.

Do you use cream in the dough?

Any tips or tricks?

Favourite flavouring?

Joined Mar 13, 2001
Q.: What makes perfect gnocchi?

A.: You need dry potatoes, a potato ricer and to work fast.


Gnocchi (makes about 20 dozen small gnocchi)

2 lbs russet potatoes
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons kosher salt, or to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the potatoes (in their jackets), for 1 hour, or until they are completely cooked. Split the potatoes and scoop out the flesh, and press it through a potato ricer. Place the hot potatoes on a board or counter. Make a well in the center. Place a layer of about ½ cup flour in the well, add the egg yolks, then add about ½ cup more flour and the salt. Use a dough scraper to "chop" the potatoes into the flour and eggs. This process should be done quickly (15 - 30 seconds), as overworking the dough will make the gnocchi heavy and sticky. Add more flour as necessary. The resulting dough should be homogeneous and barely sticky on the outside. Shape the dough into a ball.

Roll the ball of dough lightly in flour. Pull off a section of the dough and roll it by hand on a lightly floured surface into a "snake" about ½ inch thick. Cut into ½ inch pieces and, using your hand, roll each piece into a ball. Then roll the balls on a gnocchi paddle or over the back of a fork to create an oval shape with indentations. Test one gnocchi by placing it in a large pot of rapidly boiling lightly salted water. It is cooked as soon as it floats to the surface. Taste for seasoning and texture and add salt to the dough if necessary, or add a bit more flour if the gnocchi seems mushy. Continue forming the remaining gnocchi, placing them on a lightly floured tray until ready to cook.

Place the gnocchi in the boiling water. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to remove them to a bowl of ice water as they rise to the surface. Once they have cooled, about 2 minutes, drain them briefly on paper towels or a kitchen towel. Lay them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Store in the pan in the refrigerator if they will be used shortly (up to a day), or place them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, they can be stored in well-sealed plastic bags and kept frozen for several weeks; cook them while they are still frozen.

Shape = they almost look like little miniature footballs (if that makes sense to you) with indentations (the imprint of the fork or the gnocchi paddle. I use an antique butter paddle. It does the trick!

I can't describe the texture. But they are cooked as they float back to the surface. That's the most common mistake.

Trust me, this is The French Laundry's recipe. The best I've found so far!


[ July 27, 2001: Message edited by: Kimmie ]
Joined Aug 12, 2000
What was it that you thought wasn't quite right about your gnocchi?

While we may think of the potato gnocchi sold in the store when the word "gnocchi" is used, in fact in Italy many different types of gnocchi are made: potato, ricotta, spinach, pumpkin, lots more. Gnocchi is just a generic term for that sort of dumpling.

I have made potato gnocchi from recipes in cookbooks (add flour/egg optional to riced potatoes, form, and boil), and they usually turn out pretty chewy, which is ok, I like that. But I recently found that nice fluffy potato gnocchi can be made by adding enough flour to leftover seasoned mashed potatoes to bind the mixture together when poached. The mixture should be fairly soft. Serve with a sauce or butter. If you serve with an olive oil based sauce, remember these are pretty spongy, go easy or they'll saturate.

However you like your gnocchi, go ahead and make them that way. There's room for your own creativity here.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
I think what I didn't like about them was that they just felt and tasted like boiled flour. One trick that I learned that my teacher failed to show us was as Kimmie said, (BTW thanks for the recipe Kimmie) gently cutting the flour into the potato mixture so as to minimize the development of gluten in the product. Also the shaping was off, they looked like little boats... I think they probably should have been smaller. How do you make pumpkin/squash gnocchi? What is the ratio of squash to potato to flour? What about with spinach? do you have to add more flour to dry up the mixture? Also does anyone ever use cream? I heard it tenderises the product. Is that authentic?

One more thing: why is it important to work fast? Understandably, ricing potatoes when they are warm is easier but what about the mixture itself? can't I work with cool riced potatoes?

[ July 28, 2001: Message edited by: Anneke ]
Joined Feb 21, 2001
Recently I made gnocchi from Biba Caggiano's book and they had no eggs. I always used to put eggs. These were a little on the mushy side. I bake russets, and then run them through a sieve, never having mastered a ricer, and work up a dough in a bowl. we like them around here.
Joined Aug 12, 2000
To make pumpkin or squash gnocchi, you can bake a pumpkin or squash, then purée and strain, or just use canned plain pumpkin. (I think the frozen is bland and watery, so I wouldn't use that.)

Pumpkin gnocchi shouldn't have potatoes in it, though. Add flour to strained pumpkin until you have a rather soft dough that you can form into balls. Drop a small ball (about 3/4 inch in size) into boiling water for a few minutes. If it falls apart, you need to add more flour. Keep testing until you get the consistency correct, and note how much flour you added for next time. If it doesn't disintegrate, check the seasoning. (If you add more flour at this point, it will get firmer and chewier, but I prefer them fluffy and tender.) Correct the seasoning, adding salt, pepper, nutmeg, or other spice, like cinnamon, and maybe a little sugar. To get gnocchi uniform in size, I use a small scoop, drop them into flour and gently form them into balls or ovals.

Spinach-ricotta gnocchi (a favorite of mine)
(Adapted from Consumer's Guide Italian Cooking Class Cookbook)

2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed quite dry in a strainer
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (use shredded, not canned dry cheese)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or a few gratings of fresh

Bring a pot of water to a boil.

Mix together all ingredients. Form one into a ball about 2 tablespoons in size. Drop into the water to test the mixture, and if it falls apart, add more flour and test again. Shape the mixture into ovals about 1/4 cup in size, roll in flour and poach until they float. Place cooked gnocchi in a buttered broiler-safe baking dish, brush or pour over melted butter, sprinkle with more grated cheese, and broil until golden brown.

This is a wonderful spinach filling you can use in lasagna, ravioli, spinach pie, etc.

I've seen this called "ravioli gnudo" (sp?), "naked ravioli" because the filling is cooked without the wrappers.

Ricotta cheese gnocchi

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
white pepper, nutmeg
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Mix ingredients, make a test gnoccho, then form, poach, and serve with butter.

If you add cream to a gnocchi recipe, it will change the balance of ingredients and tend to require more flour, which may dilute the effect of your main ingredient. Maybe add a little butter, but wait until after you've tested a recipe before you start to make major changes in it.
Joined Aug 29, 2000
I made gnocchi using Lidia Bastianich's recipe from Lidia's Italian Table. They came out very light and wonderful. I think the quality of the potato has a lot to do with it, and not over-cooking them. Also, don't overwork the dough. They were shaped by rolling ropes, cutting them into 1" lengths, and using a fork to flatten them slightly and give them ridges to hold sauce or butter. I froze some and they cooked up almost as good as fresh.

[ July 29, 2001: Message edited by: Mezzaluna ]
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Hey guy's,
Just had to pop on to say that there is no perfect recipe for gnocchi. Comming from a very large Italian family with more first cousins that I can count, everybodies gnocchi was different and each was especially good in it's own way. Uncle Tubba's was done like jwmadchef's last recipe.He always baked his potatoes, most others par-boiled, blanched-baked. The trick is the compliment,sauce. Some of the drier go better with a loose marinara, the light fluffy one are great with a white cream sauce.
I believe I remember potato in the pumpkin gnocchi. I loved the sweet version early after church. Just like fajitas my grandma heated black skillets very hot. When the gnocchni was cooked she poured sugar in the skillet and dumped in the gnocchi as soon as the sugared caramelized and the pumpkin or sweet potato gnocchni was tossed she added some cream.
I'm just not comfortable with exact recipes or formulas for traditional peasant dished. gnocchi, minestrone,pasta fagoli, etc.
sorry, rambling, just my 2 cents
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Thank you for your input, jwmadchef. I will try that and compare with Thomas Keller's.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
Isn't this great! That something so simple and so traditional can have so many variations, so much history and incite so much passion from both the maker and the eater! This is why I got into cooking in the first place! This probably sounds really bizarre but when I read someone's recipe, for me it's almost like having a glimpse at someone's diary or family album... It's very personal, yet generous in it's nature and it's purpose. Thanks for your recipes folks, I'll be sure to try them all!


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Tom Colicchio on potato gnocchi

I DON'T have much use for recipes. They give you a formula, but they don't tell you how something is supposed to taste, and they're not foolproof either.

I've worked in kitchens where the minute you start, you're handed a book of recipes. We don't do that in my restaurants. We teach our cooks techniques, how to listen for the right sizzle, how to watch for proper browning and how to know when something is done by the way it responds to the touch.

But there are times when you need recipes. Making our potato gnocchi is one of them.

I use a recipe from Laura Sbrana, the mother of my chef de cuisine, Marco Canora. She's from Lucca, and she has a restaurant on Martha's Vineyard, La Cucina, where I first had these gnocchi a couple of years ago. They were really good, so light, not doughy, and full of potato flavor.

There are a number of tricks here. You start with baking potatoes and get rid of as much moisture as you can. You use less flour than you would expect. And you work the dough as little as possible so that it doesn't become glutinous.

First you get the potatoes really dry. Really dry. We bake them long on a bed of salt — so that the heat penetrates better — and then score them so that the moisture escapes as we let the potatoes cool. You can't rush this. The one thing you must learn as a cook is that good food takes patience. Patience.

When we're in the midst of serving at the restaurant, there's pressure and almost no time to think. You go on overdrive. That's why it's important to do as much as possible beforehand, when you have the time. The job of a chef is to figure out how much can be done in advance that will compromise the end result least. Often it makes the dish even better. That's how I cook at home, too.

The gnocchi are a perfect example. Once the potatoes are cool and dry, you can scoop out the flesh. You want to handle it lightly. Use a very fine ricer. Some stores have them, though if you can't find one, a sieve will do. I think the holes in the ricers sold in most housewares stores are a bit too large.

And then you use as little flour as possible. You want the taste of the potato, nothing else. The method of mixing also keeps the dough light. You never knead it, but you cut and fold in the ingredients. It's more like making pastry than pasta.

Also, don't add any salt, because salt will trap moisture and the gnocchi won't be as light. We get the salt by cooking them in very salty water. Home cooks won't want to add as much salt as we do, but believe me, you need it. For flavor.

The gnocchi take only about a minute to cook. Then we shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. That's another thing home cooks don't often know about.

Once the gnocchi are cooked and cooled, we finish them with a butter sauce, beurre monté, just butter emulsified with water, and a dusting of Parmesan cheese.

They also freeze beautifully. We experimented with freezing them both cooked and uncooked, and we like the cooked version better. You don't have to thaw them before throwing them into the pan to reheat.

A lot of times there's an old way of doing something that nobody questions. Maybe there were reasons for it once, but who knows why it's done now? Recipes don't tell you why. That's the reason I depend on techniques and look for the methods that best suit the ingredients.

Potato Gnocchi
8 main-dish or 16 side-dish servings

5 pounds Idaho baking potatoes, 10 to 12, uniform size, scrubbed
Kosher salt
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Freshly ground white pepper
1 1/4 cups flour, approximately
8 cups ice cubes
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1/4 pound Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a jellyroll pan with a 1-inch layer of kosher salt. Place potatoes on salt, and bake 1 1/2 hours. Remove potatoes, and cut in half horizontally. Deeply score flesh in crisscross pattern. Place halves on racks; set aside until room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Scoop out flesh into a large bowl.

Force potato flesh through a fine ricer or sieve. Weigh it. You need 2 1/4 pounds.

Spread riced potatoes on work surface, and shape loosely into a flat mound. Drizzle with egg yolks. Sprinkle with pepper. Cut into potato mound at 1-inch intervals with a pastry scraper, spatula or cleaver, to incorporate egg yolks. Sprinkle with flour as you go. Work mound by cutting and folding, but not kneading. Sprinkle on flour in handfuls until potato mixture feels fairly dry and is no longer sticky, and a small piece can be rolled easily into a ball.

Line two jellyroll pans with parchment. Lightly dust with flour.

Clean work surface with a scraper, and lightly dust with flour. Shape potato mixture into a loaf about 1 1/2 inches high, 4 inches wide and 12 inches long. Cut 1 1/2-inch slice from the loaf with a scraper or knife. Roll into a rope about 1/2 inch thick and 30 inches long. Cut at 1-inch intervals. Smooth ends of each piece lightly with fingertips. Place finished gnocchi on a paper-lined pan. Repeat with remaining mixture.

Bring a large pot of water, with 1 heaping tablespoon salt for each quart, to a boil.

Place ice cubes in a large bowl, add 4 quarts cold water, and place a large colander in the bowl so that it fills with ice water.

Slide gnocchi from one baking sheet into boiling water. After about 90 seconds, gnocchi will begin floating to the surface. Remove to colander with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Repeat with second batch.

Reline baking sheets with clean parchment. With a skimmer, transfer cold gnocchi to baking sheets. Cooked gnocchi can be served at once, set aside for several hours or frozen for future use.

To serve, melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup water until emulsified. (If not using entire batch of gnocchi, use proportionately less butter sauce.) Transfer sauce to 1 or 2 skillets large enough to hold gnocchi in a single layer. Add gnocchi, and cook over medium heat until butter starts to bubble and gnocchi are warmed through. Dust with cheese, and serve. Frozen gnocchi can be heated in butter without thawing.
Joined Aug 20, 2001
When I make gnochi I put salt and pepper into the flour and work it into the potato without egg.
Joined Jan 26, 2001
gnocci like a lot of Italian dishes requires a "feeling" developed by practice. I make blue potato gnocci with Arrowhead mills unbleached bread flour, organic eggs, salt and pepper and organic blue potatoes cooked and pushed through a potato ricer. Form a well in the potatoes and add your egg, salt and pepper and gradually add flour, mix potato into the well ingredients just until it comes together. The feel will be a soft and smooth play dough. Do not knead too much or they will become tough. Roll into long snakes. Cut 3/4 inch sections. Roll each section onto the tines of a fork quickly in a rocking motion. Cook in boiling salted water just until the gnocci rise to the surface. Remove immediately to drain briefly, plate, add your sauce and serve.

Freeze as per previous post stated.
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Sounds lovely. I've seen blue potatoes at the market last week. I think I will give that a try. Thanks for your post Markdchef.

BTW, what sauce do you use for that? Would a gorgonzola sauce work?

Joined Aug 29, 2000
Lots of great gnocchi recipes here! I made Lidia Bastianich's, and they were etherial- just lovely potato-ey clouds! She adds a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and the potatoes are cold when the dough is mixed. I froze 1/2 of the recipe, and they were almost as delicate as the freshly made ones. Sure wish I could eat them now!
Joined Mar 13, 2001
For those interested in Lidia Bastianich's recipe, here it is:

(Makes 6 servings)

3 large Idaho or russet potatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds), scrubbed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, or as needed

Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring the water to a boil and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a skewer but the skins are not split, about 35 minutes. (Alternatively, the potatoes can be baked in a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven until tender, about 40 minutes).

Drain the potatoes and let them stand just until cool enough to handle. (The hotter the potatoes are when they are peeled and riced, he lighter the gnocchi will be). Working quickly and protecting the hand that holds the potatoes with a folded kitchen towel or oven mitt, scrape the skin from the potato with a paring knife. Press the peeled potatoes through a potato ricer. Alternatively, the potatoes can be passed through a food mill fitted with the fine disc, but a ricer makes fluffier potatoes and therefore lighter gnocchi. Spread the rice potatoes into a thin, even layer on the work surface, without pressing them or compacting them. Let them cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat the egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg together. Gather the cold potatoes into a mound and form a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the well. Knead the potato and egg mixtures together with both hands, gradually adding the grated cheese and enough of the flour, about 1 1/2 cups, to form a smooth but slightly sticky dough. It should take no longer than 3 minutes to work the flour into the potato mixture; remember, the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become. As you knead the dough, it will stick to your hands and to the work surface: Repeatedly rub this rough dough from your hands and scrape it with a knife or dough scraper from the work surface back into the dough as you knead.

Wash and dry your hands. Dust the dough, your hands, and the work surface lightly with some of the remaining flour. Cut the dough into six equal pieces and set off to one side of the work surface. Place one piece of dough in front of you and pat it into a rough oblong. Using both hands, in a smooth back-and-forth motion and exerting light downward pressure, roll the dough into a rope 1/2 inch thick, flouring the dough if necessary as you roll to keep it from sticking.

Slice the ropes into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with flour and roll each piece quickly between your palms into a rough ball, flouring the dough and your hands as needed to prevent sticking. Hold the tines of a fork at a 45-degree angle to the table with the concave part facing up. Dip the tip of your thumb in flour. Take one ball of dough and with the tip of your thumb, press the dough lightly against the tines of the fork as you roll it downward the tips of the tines. As the dough wraps around the tip of your thumb, it will form into a dumpling with a deep indentation on one side and a ridged surface on the other. Set on a baking sheet lined with a floured kitchen towel and continue forming gnocchi from the remaining dough balls. Repeat the whole process with the remaining pieces of dough. At this point the gnocchi must be cooked immediately or frozen.

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a vigorous boil in a large pot over high heat. Drop about half the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon. Cook the gnocchi, stirring gently, until tender, about 1 minute after they rise to the surface.

From Lidia's Italian Table (Harper Collins,1998)
Lidia Bastianich, Felidia, N.Y.

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