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How to Make Gnocchi from Scratch

How to Make Gnocchi from Scratch

Gnocchi is an Italian delicacy, usually eaten as a starter. While there are ready-made frozen gnocchi packets available in supermarkets, the flavor and taste cannot match up to the ones that are made at home. In the following article, learn how to make delicious gnocchi from scratch.
Gauri Huddar
Gnocchi is a type of Italian pasta, and its existence dates back to the Roman times. This modest Roman era dumpling has inspired many regional variations over the centuries, and now each region has its own distinct variety with a tradition. In Argentina, Uruguay and in Brazil, this mouth-watering starter is eaten on the 29th of every month, because people believe that if you put money under the plate then you will be blessed with prosperity.

Gnocchi is laden with calories, but if you cook it at home you can substitute the ingredients for the ones with less calories, and make healthier variations of this dish. It is more of a treat to your taste buds than pasta. You can cook it with various side dishes or in different combinations - with white beans, chicken broth, mushrooms, potatoes - and turn it into a healthy dish, which you can relish without guilt. Let's learn how to make gnocchi from scratch.

Making Gnocchi from Scratch

  • 2 ½ lbs starched potatoes
  • 1 large egg (optional)
  • 2 cups fine flour (unbleached). If you want to, you can replace it with wheat flour or semolina for a healthier variation
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (rock), and pepper
Serving: This recipe should serve 2 people. You can double the amount of ingredients for 3 or 4 people.

We'll break up the preparation into three basic steps, to make the process easier.

1. Preparing the Potatoes
Here is how you go about preparing the potatoes. Before you begin, check that the potatoes are good. While buying potatoes for gnocchi, pick ones that are not too starchy or floury. Let them age for a few days before using, since raw potatoes will spoil the taste. Or you can buy potatoes which have already aged slightly. Here are the steps for preparing the potatoes:
  • Wash the potatoes but do not peel them right away.
  • Place the potatoes in a saucepan and add water till they are completely submerged.
  • Add 4 small teaspoons of rock salt to the water.
  • Place the saucepan on high heat, and leave to boil.
  • While preparing the potatoes, one thing that you should avoid, is putting cold potatoes in water, AFTER boiling the water. This will simply crack or tear the potato skins, making the potatoes soggy.
  • Boil the potatoes till they are perfectly cooked. Don't overcook them, else the dough will become very sticky and difficult to work with. 20 to 25 minutes of boiling should be enough.
  • Test whether the potatoes have been cooked the right amount by putting a fork in them. The fork should go in and come out easily, and clean.
  • If the fork comes out clean, your potatoes are ready, so you can remove them from the heat, drain them and peel them.
  • Once peeled, let them cool till they are just warm to the touch, and then mash them. Again, remember not to over mash, else you will have to work with sticky dough.
2. Preparing the Dough
In this step, there is a debate about the eggs. Some people like their gnocchi with eggs, while others think adding eggs to gnocchi is ridiculous. That is personal preference, but I'd like to add that it tastes equally delicious with or without eggs. If you do not want to add eggs, then skip that particular step and jump to the next.

The thing to remember is, we are working with warm potatoes. Eggs will not work with anything warm, since there is a risk that they may get slightly cooked. So if you do love eggs in your gnocchi and want to add them, then make sure that your mashed potatoes are not warm. Cool them properly before adding the egg. Follow the steps given below to make the perfect dough.
  • Clean the work surface thoroughly, and put the mashed potatoes on it.
  • Make a mound of the potatoes and make a well in the mound.
  • Add the salt, egg and flour to the well in the mound.
  • While adding flour, keep bending the mixture slowly and add the flour slowly, instead of adding it all at once.
  • Add about 1½ cups of flour, and leave the rest for later.
  • Keep bending the mixture slowly, till the dough is ready.
  • At this point, you will have really sticky dough. Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on it and keep mixing, till the dough becomes fluffy and the stickiness reduces.
  • Once the dough has become slightly fluffy, keep kneading it till it is even, soft and easily pliable. The dough is now ready to be used.
3. Making the Gnocchi
Once the dough is ready, making the gnocchi is a piece of cake! Depending on the size that you want, you can make it a big or small. Here we go...
  • Make small dough balls from the dough.
  • Knead each ball into a long cylindrical shape, about 3 to 4 cm round.
  • Now, while the dough is still soft, cut the cylinder into small pieces, around 2 to 4 cm wide.
  • Do this till all the dough is used up. Your raw gnocchi is ready.
  • Now that it is ready, it is time to boil it.
  • Put water in a pan, add 2 teaspoons of rock salt, and let it boil.
  • Once the water comes to a boil, slowly add the gnocchi to it. Stir them for a few seconds, and then let them cook for sometime.
  • Once it has cooked properly, it will rise to the surface of the water. Remove it as soon as they rise to the surface, with a strainer, so that the water drains out properly.
  • Put it in a skillet, drizzle a little olive oil on them, and sauté slightly.
  • Your gnocchi is ready! You can serve it with grated cheese, and pepper for taste. Pecorino or parmigiano cheese grated over it, with a little rose wine to go with it, will make you feel like you've gone to heaven! It will increase the calories in your gnocchi though.
Although it can be eaten without sauce, there is no charm to this dish without a good sauce to accompany it. So here are a few sauce recipes that you can try your hand at, and serve with your delicious gnocchi.

Gnocchi Sauce Recipes

Bechamel Sauce

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ bar of unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt and a little nutmeg
Pour the milk into a saucepan and keep it over medium heat. Add the butter in the warm milk, and let it melt completely. Keep stirring continuously. Now add the flour slowly, while continuously stirring the mixture. Stir till it achieves a creamy consistency, and then remove from the heat. Add the salt and stir. Sprinkle a little nutmeg for taste. This is a creamy, milky sauce that will definitely make your mouth water. It is really simple to make, so try it.

*If the sauce is too thin, add a little more flour while stirring, and if it is too thick, add a little warm milk, again while stirring. Do not allow lumps to form.

Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • Tomato sauce - 1.5 pints
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Add the olive oil in a pan and keep on medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion to the oil, and let it cook till it turns light brown. Add the ground beef, and let it cook till the meat turns light brown and the water is gone. If you wish to make it a little more spicy, then add a pinch of crushed red peppers, before adding the tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit for 25 minutes and remove after it has simmered a little. It should be thick by now. Your bolognese sauce is ready!

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 lb yogurt
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • ½ cup diced cucumbers
  • 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice
Add oil and lemon juice. Add the yogurt slowly while folding the ingredients. Ensure that the yogurt blends in properly with the oil. Now add the cucumbers and garlic, and stir till the mixture is evenly distributed and well mixed. Your tzatziki sauce is ready. It has to be served chill, so you can make it before starting the gnocchi, so that it can sit in the fridge till you are done. A hot and cold combination!

Hummus Sauce

  • 2 cans of garbanzo beans
  • 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • Salt to taste
Drain ⅓ water from the cans of garbanzo beans and keep aside. Mix all the ingredients together in a blender. Blend till a smooth paste is formed. If it is too thick for your liking, then add the drained water to make it slightly more runny. Serve after garnishing.

Next time you want to call over a few friends for lunch or dinner, and are bored of pasta, you have a new recipe in your kitty. Try it and combine with one of the sauces, and your friends will not go without a second helping. Bon Appétit!