Potato gnocchi

Monday was gnocchi day. It was hazy and damp outside, my energy level matched the weather, and I wanted to do a little knitting while cooking (more on that later). I'd purchased a bag of russet potatoes earlier in the week, inspired to make the delicate potato dumplings after a recent trip to New York. Along with world-class window shopping, outstanding theater, and some fantastic people-watching, my time in the city included a wonderful meal at Barbuto, Jonathan Waxman's homage to rustic Italian fare. The gnocchi there were perfection — cloud-like potato puffs served with spinach and snap peas in brown butter, all lightly dusted with parmesan. I knew I'd have to make gnocchi soon after my return home.

In the past, I've made less-than-success gnocchi. Gnocchi that were heavy and dull; leaden, clunky orbs that left the diner feeling unusually full. It's true that practice makes perfect, and many pounds of Idahos later, I'm consistently pleased with the results. Using a food mill or ricer is imperative when making gnocchi — you end up with a fluffier mashed potato to incorporate into the dough. I think baking the potatoes also lightens the result, but many respected food authorities instruct you to boil them. You'll need a couple of hours to complete the gnocchi from start to finish, but a good chunk of that time can be devoted to something else, as the potatoes need about 1 hour to bake (I opted to knit a heartbreakingly cute baby kimono for my neighbors' recent arrival during that time).

Now that my (light, delicate) gnocchi are cooked and cooled, I must decide what to do with them. A dollop of fresh basil pesto sounds just about perfect, as my herb garden is exploding after such a rainy spring, but I could toss them in a simple tomato sauce. Or saute them with brown butter and sage. Or spread them in shallow gratin dish, sprinkle with shredded parmesan, and shove the wonderful mess under the broiler.

I'll weigh my options while stitching up the kimono.

Potato Gnocchi
Makes enough for 8-10 servings

3 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 extra-large egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prick the potatoes several times with a fork and place them on a sheet tray. Bake for 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a knife. Allow to cool slightly, but when still warm, then pass the potato flesh through a food mill or ricer.

Put a large stockpot filled with water over a high flame. Add several pinches of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Set up an ice bath in a large bowl; place it next to the stove top.

Create a well in the center of the riced potato — this can be done in a very large bowl or on a clean work surface. Sprinkle with kosher salt and 2 cups of flour. Crack the egg into the center of the well. Using a fork, work the egg into the potato, flour, and salt, creating a soft dough. Knead it gently for a couple of minutes, then divide into small sections (about 6 pieces). Roll each section into a long rope, about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut the rope into short pieces, about 1/2-inch long, and roll each piece along the tines of a fork (the back side). Spread the raw gnocchi onto a parchment-lined baking sheet lightly dusted with flour.

Gently drop the gnocchi into the pot of simmering water and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes — they will rise to the surface when they're done. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and put in the ice bath to cool. Drain the gnocchi, then toss with a few tablespoons olive oil and store, covered, for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Reheat briefly in hot water (this will take less than a minute), then toss with browned butter in a saute pan until heated through.

You may freeze gnocchi prior to cooking. Place the baking sheet of raw gnocchi in the freezer until each individual dumpling is hard. Transfer to individual freezer bags and store for up to one month.


  1. What could be better than a bowl of these lovelies and I'm open to whichever topping you choose!

  2. I've never had much luck with gnocchi so you've given me hope, especially when I see the brilliant offerings of others. Thanks for sharing your tips.

  3. Cathy - You'll have to come over for dinner sometime soon.

    OysterCulture - Gnocchi can be tricky, but it's worth another try!