Making homemade gnocchi is not an after-work, rush to get dinner on the table process. It's a rainy Saturday, pour a glass (or two) of wine, put on some good music, and take your time process. Mastering the art of making gnocchi is a journey, and one that you may be on for a while.
Practice makes perfect for all good things in life, and this is no exception. Fortunately, the outcome of all the practice will be pleasant pillows of doughy deliciousness!
Picking the correct potato is the first step to gnocchi perfection.
In my opinion, you absolutely must use a russet potato. Without a doubt, for the love of all the root vegetables, do not try with any other potato. A russet potato has the correct level of starch to turn the gnocchi into firm, but chewy clouds of tastiness.
However, beware… even within a specific potato variety, moisture and starch levels can range quite a bit.
The way to combat this is with flour, moister potatoes will require more flour and drier ones will require less. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way of knowing how much flour to add without getting very familiar with the feeling of your potatoes. Be kind to the potatoes, talk nice to them, and they will give you the outcome you are looking for.
While the potato is the foundation, the true key to making gnocchi is the potato ricer. Guys, YOU MUST BUY ONE. The ricer keeps the potatoes aerated and soft, which gives them the perfect soft texture. There are a ton of quality options that are very inexpensive. The main qualities to look for when purchasing a ricer is a stainless steel base, a long textured handle for easy gripping, and one that is dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.
There is nothing more satisfying than pushing the potatoes through the ricer, and immediately feeling like the Hulk smashing two cars together. If you are in a pinch and don't have a ricer, you can use a large grater. But I highly recommend investing in a ricer! It is also the secret to the fluffiest mashed potatoes, and can be used for other starchy veggies and smashing roasted garlic. You'll use it more than you think, trust me!
Gnocchi can be inconsistent.
No matter what recipe you use, keep in mind that all measurements will be an approximation and that only by developing a sense of how the dough should feel will you know how much flour to add and how much the dough needs to be worked. Fortunately, I think the below summary is a great first step:
- 3 russet potatoes
- 1 egg
- 1 and a half cups all-purpose flour
- Half cup grated parmesan
- Peel the potatoes and cut in half. Boil the potatoes in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook until tender enough to pierce with a knife, about 15-20 minutes.
- Drain and let them cool slightly. Press the warm potatoes through a potato ricer and lay in a flat layer on a sheet pan. Let the potatoes cool completely (cooling the potatoes will keep the egg from cooking).
- Once the potatoes are cool, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt.
- Beat the egg in a bowl and drizzle over the potatoes.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of flour and the parmesan over the potatoes, and use your hands to lightly mix and knead the dough.
- Add more flour as needed until the dough holds together and is slightly sticky (the dough should be sturdy enough where you can form a ball and cut into fourths)
- To form the gnocchi, sprinkle some flour on the counter and move the gnocchi from the baking sheet (wipe off the baking sheet as you will use it later).
- Break off a piece of the dough and roll into a thin log with your hands.
- Cut each piece into three-fourths of an inch segments and gently place back on the baking sheet. Once all the gnocchi's are formed, place the baking sheet into the fridge for 10 minutes until firm. Freeze any leftover dough for next time!
The best part about gnocchi is their ability to be paired with literally any sauce, or simply tossed with cheese and butter. If they don't look perfect at first, that's okay! Rustic-looking is still Instagram worthy, in my opinion. I have a recipe with sauteed veggies and a simple corn puree that I love, linked here.
Making gnocchi is the type of cooking that requires us to rely on our senses more than measurements, to pay attention to the way things feel and look. It's a form of cooking that often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of life. Embrace the uncertainty of cooking something unfamiliar!