How to Make Gnocchi: An Illustrated, Step-by-Step Recipe

Having been in Italy for two weeks, it has been a bit difficult to keep up with the competition in Project Food Blog, away from home and without access to a kitchen for half of my trip. In case I would participate in the 4th challenge, I paid attention to the food around me in Rome, and tried to find what I would be able to make in my miniscule (update: and *very* ill-equiped) Trastevere apartment. After seeing it served as a primi piatti in countless restaurants, I decided I would make gnocchi.

Homemade classic gnocchi

The great thing about gnocchi is that they’re made with few ingredients: potatoes, flour, eggs, olive oil, salt. They also require no special equipment. You can make a large quantity of gnocchi for a few dollars and roll them pretty much anywhere, as I found out when I made a batch on my apartment’s wooden bedside table.

My kitchen in Rome (minus the bedside table).

My kitchen in Rome (minus the bedside table)

Although gnocchi are simple to prepare, they are also easy to mess with. Too much liquid and your gnocchi will be gummy; too much flour and they’ll be dense and heavy on the stomach. When perfect, they’re light and plump.

If I succeeded in making a delicious dinner in such limited conditions, you can certainly do the same at home! Here’s the walkthrough to your perfect homemade gnocchi.

Homemade gnocchi rolled on a gnocchi board

Classic Gnocchi

Based on Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino’s tried-and-true family recipe

1 kg (2.2 lbs) russet potatoes (about 5 large), unpeeled
300 g (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

The ingredients to make gnocchi at home

Step 1: Cook the potatoes

Wash your potatoes thoroughly without peeling them. Boiling them unpeeled lessens the water that penetrates the potatoes while they’re cooking. Water is a gnocchi downfall. This is also why you must use the exact cooking time. Avoid piercing them during cooking as it’ll allow water to get in. Small potatoes take 10–15 minutes to boil; medium 20–25 minutes; large 35–45 minutes. If you’re unsure about your cooking time, boil one extra potato that you’ll use to test.

Cooked and peeled potatoes.

Cooked and peeled potatoes

Step 2: Mash the potatoes

Once your potatoes are done, drain them and let them cool until you can handle them. Peel the potatoes and mash them into a large bowl: the tool that will help you breeze through this step is a potato ricer. It guarantees lump-free gnocchi. If you don’t have a ricer, mash your potatoes with a fork (like I did) or a potato masher. Pay extra attention to make sure you eliminate as many lumps as possible.

Let the mashed potatoes cool to room temperature.

Mashing potatoes with a fork, until no lumps remain.

Mashing potatoes with a fork, until no lumps remain.

Step 3: Prepare the dough

Mix flour and salt together in a small bowl. Mix the mashed potatoes with the egg yolks and olive oil. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the potatoes and mix gently until the flour is moistened and the dough looks crumbly.

Mixing the ingredients together until the flour is moistened and the dough looks crumbly.

Mixing the ingredients together until the flour is moistened and the dough looks crumbly

Lightly flour your work surface. Put your dough on the surface. Knead it gently to incorporate the flour: press on the dough with your hands, fold it in half, turn it by a quarter turn and press it again. You should do this for about 1 minute: over-kneading is another gnocchi downfall. It leads to a tough, rubbery texture.

Kneading the dough using both hands for about 1 minute.

Kneading the dough using both hands for about 1 minute.

After kneading, your dough should feel soft and smooth. If it sticks to your work surface, sprinkle a bit more flour — but keep in mind that you must limit the amount of flour you add to the gnocchi to make sure they don’t become heavy and dense.

When you dough is ready, put it in a bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel.

Kneaded gnocchi dough, ready to be rolled into bites.

Kneaded gnocchi dough, ready to be rolled into bites.

Step 4: Roll and cut the dough into bites

Clean your work surface, dry it thoroughly and sprinkle lightly with flour. Tear off a lemon-size piece of dough and roll it into a rope (about 3/4 in. diameter). Use a knife to cut out square bites.

Gnocchi dough ropes, cut into squares.

Gnocchi dough ropes, cut into squares.

Now you have two choices: leave your gnocchi plain, looking like miniature pillows, or indent them using a gnocchi board or a fork.

Leaving them plain is a good choice when you want to fry them in butter, or serve them with a classic brown butter (see this recipe). I really like the crunchy texture it renders, a nice contrast to the creamy interior.

Plain pillow-looking gnocchi.

Plain pillow-looking gnocchi.

Indenting gnocchi is ideal when you want to serve them with a sauce, because the pattern allows it to better cling to the pasta.

To indent gnocchi, you can use either a special board or a fork. The method to roll and indent is a bit intriguing and difficult to explain in words. I’ve put together a 30-second video that demystifies the process:

My dough was a day old when I filmed this video so it was firmer than usual. When the dough is fresh, the gnocchi needs just a soft press to be indented.

Two kinds of gnocchi side by side: rolled on a special board, and rolled on a fork.

Two kinds of gnocchi side by side: rolled on a special board, and rolled on a fork.

As you roll your gnocchi, arrange them in a single layer on baking sheets, making sure they don’t touch. Gnocchi are best cooked within 2–3 hours of being made (keep at room temperature).

To freeze: put the gnocchi on the baking sheets straight into the freezer. Once hard, transfer them to freezer bags in portion sizes. They’ll keep for two months.

Step 5: Cook the gnocchi

Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Put about 12–15 gnocchi into the water at once and wait until they come back to the surface. When they do, they’re ready. Don’t turn your back on them because it takes just two minutes! Use a slotted spoon to fish them out, put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to keep them warm. Repeat the process until all the gnocchi are cooked.

Gnocchi are lovely with different sauces, from a simple fresh tomato to a slowly simmered meat ragù. They’re also delicious au gratin, mixed with a cheesy white sauce and broiled in the oven. Use your imagination! You’ll be so proud that you made your own that I’m sure you’ll find them delicious any way you serve them.

My gnocchi, as I served them in Rome: sauteed in butter and olive oil, with pesto, sprinkled with parmigiano-reggiano, accompanied by a fresh-from-the-market side salad.

My gnocchi, as I served them in Rome: sauteed in butter and olive oil, with pesto, sprinkled with parmigiano-reggiano, accompanied by a fresh-from-the-market side salad.

This is my entry to Project Food Blog 2010 Challenge #4. If you liked this post, click here to vote for me. Voting is open from Oct. 11th through Oct. 14th. A big thank you to all who voted for me in the first three challenges!


156 Responses to How to Make Gnocchi: An Illustrated, Step-by-Step Recipe

  1. […] Ja wiem. Do gnocchi to to raczej niepodobne. Jestem wyjątkowo niezdarna i niecierpliwa. Lepienie pierogów i wszelkie inne dania wymagające zdolności manualnych są u mnie skręślane na starcie. Kiedyś próbowałam zrobić pierogi z soczewicą i powstało coś w stylu Calzone ; ). Dlatego te dyniowe kluchy miały być wegańskie i dobre, a nie ładne. Wam radzę zrobić to samo – pobawcie się kształtem! A jeśli lubicie ładne kształty to klikajcie! […]

  2. This recipe was amazing. I followed the directions and used 4 potatoes as mine were more like extra-large! I then put the gnocci in an Italian Sausage Soup. It was delicious! Thank you so much for the clear directions. I would have voted for you too!

  3. I was googling for gnocchi recipes and found many. Yours, however, had GREAT photography and so I went with your recipe last night. Stellar! Thank you so much. It will be my contribution to this year’s Thanksgiving.

  4. This recipe was great! Thank you! I tried making gnocchi for the first time last night and was very pleased! The video on how to roll them with a fork was really helpful too. I just changed two things: I baked the potatoes instead of boiling them and used a fine cheese grater to grate the hot potatoes instead of mashing them. Yum, yum!

  5. I just came across your gnocchi recipe & instructions. Had I come across it earlier, I would have voted for you. I’m getting ready to make gnocchi for the first time (and use a gnocchi board for the first time). I have a basic recipe but not very clear instructions from one of my cookbooks. We have two kinds of potatoes from the garden but neither are russet. I think they are new reds and new Yukon golds. I guess I’ll find out how they work for gnocchi. Can’t wait! I’ll definitely come back to your site. Your instructions are clear & concise. Thank you!

  6. Those dont look like russet potatoes ( which is an idaho) they do not have a yellow color. I beleive you used yukon golds. Also baking the potatoes & then scooping & ricing while hot, eliminates any water issues.

    • Actually they do look like russet potatoes. Yukon Gold potatoes are waxy (like a white or red) and are yellow fleshed, hence the name Yukon GOLD.

    • No. Russet potatoes look golden when you boil them with the skin on and have a sticky texture. I have a friend that is from Russia and It is the only way he will cook them.

  7. I love the step-by-step photos! We (my wife and I) eat Chicken & Gnocchi Soup all the time (I actually wrote about the recipe we use for the soup on my blog). We usually buy our gnocchi from our local supermarket, but this recipe has inspired me to try my hand at making them again.

  8. I absolutely love trying new food to prepare. I read about gnocchi and cannolis in a novel. Look forward to my first time.

  9. Wonderful article. So much better than the over-simplified recipes I’ve found. I found confident enough to try to make gnocchi for my new husband now. I am a vegetarian, but this will be a perfect side dish for his steak, as well as a main for myself. I am so glad to hear you can freeze it, as well! Thanks so much for this well-written article!

  10. Hi! Question though, after you’ve kneaded the dough and placed it in a bowl and covered with a kitchen towel, how long will you leave it for like that? thank you

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