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What Is Gnocchi?
Gnocchi, Italian for “lumps,” are dumplings made from mashed potatoes combined with just enough flour to hold the dough together. They’re formed by rolling the dough, which sometimes contains eggs as a binding agent, into a thin log and then cutting that into bite-size pieces. Ridges are sometimes added by pressing gnocchi against a fork or ridged wooden gnocchi board.
7 Different Types of Gnocchi
- Original gnocchi: The first versions of gnocchi appeared sometime during the 14th century and were made from breadcrumbs and/or flour.
- Potato gnocchi: These potato dumplings are now synonymous with the word gnocchi, but they didn’t appear on the scene until 1860, hundreds of years after other varieties came on the scene, like gnocchi alla zucca, ndunderi, and gnocchi alla Romana. Learn how to make Chef Thomas Keller’s potato gnocchi here.
- Gnocchi alla zucca: Pumpkin gnocchi served with butter and cheese.
- Ndunderi: The Amalfi Coast specialty originally made with farro and curdled milk.
- Gnocchi alla Romana: Made with semolina and milk, this variety is shaped into squares and baked rather than boiled.
- Ricotta gnocchi: Also known as ravioli gnudi (“naked ravioli”), these are made with ricotta cheese instead of potatoes. Learn how to make ricotta gnocchi here.
- Malfatti: Extra-large gnudi whose name translates to “badly made.”
- Gnocchi à la Parisienne: French gnocchi is made from pâte à choux—flour, butter, and egg—no potato. This style is made by piping and cutting the paste into simmering water.
How to Serve Gnocchi
In Italy small portions of gnocchi are served in place of pasta between a first and main course. Serve gnocchi as you would any other type of pasta: simply, with brown butter and fresh sage leaves or black pepper and parmigiano reggiano; or with heartier sauces such as ragù or pomodoro tomato sauce. Gnocchi are especially delicious coated in pesto or topped with gorgonzola and bitter greens. Try pan-frying boiled gnocchi in butter for a combination of crispy and pillowy textures.
7 Tips for Shaping Gnocchi
- Old, starchy potatoes, such as russet, make the best gnocchi.
- Rice and dry out the potatoes as soon as possible after baking to evaporate the most moisture. Protect your hands with a dry kitchen towel, gloves, or oven mitts.
- Let the riced potatoes cool fully before making the dough—hot potatoes will cook the egg yolk.
- The less flour you use, the more tender your gnocchi will be. If the dough is very sticky, add just enough extra flour to make it workable.
- When kneading and shaping the dough, use as little force as possible. Overworking the dough will cause it to become tough.
- You can add sauce-catching ridges to your gnocchi by lightly rolling each dumpling against the tines of a fork.
- Freeze unboiled gnocchi on lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheets. Transfer frozen gnocchi to a zip-top freezer bag and boil in small batches. (Too many frozen gnocchi in one pot will lower the water temperature.)
Classic Italian Gnocchi Recipe
Prep Time1 hr 30 min
Total Time1 hr 45 min
- 1½ pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- 1 large egg yolk, beaten
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Use a fork to pierce each potato in a few places. On a rimmed baking sheet, bake potatoes until tender, about 40-60 minutes. Remove from oven and let them rest until just cool enough to handle.
- Halve the potatoes and scoop the flesh into a potato ricer. Rice the potatoes onto a large rimmed baking sheet into a roughly even layer (do not compact). Cool completely to room temperature, about 10-15 minutes.
- Transfer cooled potatoes to a large bowl. Add the flour and toss to coat. Form a well in the center of the potato-flour mixture. Add the egg yolk and salt and stir with a fork until a moist, shaggy mixture forms. Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured work surface and knead just until the dough comes together, adding a little flour if needed.
- Form the dough into a ball, then divide into four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ¾-inch-thick rope and use a bench scraper or knife to cut the rope into ¾-inch pieces. Transfer the gnocchi to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Fill a large pot with water and a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the gnocchi to the boiling water, making sure not to crowd the gnocchi. Boil until the gnocchi rise to the surface and feel tender, about 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked gnocchi to a large bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil over the gnocchi to prevent them from sticking together, and repeat with remaining gnocchi. Serve with your preferred sauce.
Watch how Chef Thomas Keller makes his gnocchi here.