I learned to make gnocchi the hard way—through trial and error over a 20-year career in professional kitchens—picking up a tip here, a technique there, etc. Yeah, of course I’m Italian, and my grandmother and my mom made them growing up, but what they made were probably closer to cavatelli: a flour and water dough that was roughly shaped into small dumplings.
The gnocchi we serve at Fiorella are not your nonna’s gnocchi. They’re light pillows of a simple two ingredient dough consisting of potato and flour. That’s it. The trick to this dough is adding just enough flour to create a light dough, and not little dough-bombs that are going to settle in your belly!
The reality of making gnocchi is that there is an intuition that needs to be developed. I know some home cooks rely on their trusty recipe cards, but use this recipe more as a guide or technique, and if you trust your senses, you will know over time when you’ve nailed a good dough.
- Do not be cute here and try to use your local CSA farm-share potatoes. They are TOO fresh and contain a lot of moisture, which won’t work for this recipe. Stick to the ones from the grocery store. They’re cold-stored for a period of time, which causes the potato to dry out a little and make a better dough.
- Do not make a mess all over the place with flour. There are times when you’ll need flour and times when having it all over the place will actually make it harder to work with the dough.
- Keep your hands clean and dry because that’s what we do in kitchens, and it will help you not only look professional but make your life easier.
RECIPE SERVES 6-8
- Potato ricer or food mill
- Bench scraper
- Rigagnocchi (A ridged wooden paddle for making lines in your gnocchi. It's not absolutely necessary.)
- 5 evenly sized russet potatoes
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
(Yes. That’s it.)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Set the potatoes on a baking sheet, and prick randomly with a fork. Cook until completely tender throughout when pierced with a paring knife, about 45 minutes.
- Transfer potato to a work surface and, using tongs, hold the hot potatoes, and slice them in half lengthwise.
- Using a spoon, scoop the flesh into a ricer or food mill (Careful! They’re hot.). Press the potato flesh onto a clean work surface into a thin, even layer. Allow steam to escape for a minute or two.
- Dust half of the flour over the potato layer. Using a bench scraper, chop down repeatedly to cut the flour into the potato. Using the scraper, gather up the shaggy mass into a loose ball, and press it flat into as thin a layer you can get.
- Scoop the remaining flour over the potato dough. Continue to fold and press until a uniform dough comes together. Dust lightly with flour, and form into a ball. Let dough rest for 15-20 minutes.
- Clean off your work area well and lightly dust with fresh flour. Using your bench scraper, slice off a roughly 2-inch thick portion of dough at a time, and gently roll into a snake, about ½ inch thick (This is when too much flour will make your life harder. Use a light touch, and try to use your palms more than your fingers).
- Using the scraper, cut the snakes into 1-inch portions. Carefully dust the initial cuts with flour so they don’t stick together. If using a rigagnocchi, lightly fold each piece onto the wood and, with your thumb, gently roll down onto a sheet pan to get a “ridged” effect on your gnocchi. (Again, don’t stress if you don’t have one of these. A similar effect can be done with a fork or nothing at all).
- Bring a large pot of very well salted water to a boil, and using a bench scraper or slotted spatula, scoop gnocchi off the sheet tray, and transfer to the boiling water. Stir once lightly with a slotted spoon to prevent sticking. When the gnocchi begin to float to the surface, let them boil for another 30 seconds, then try one. They should be soft yet cooked, without a raw “floury” taste.
- With a slotted spoon, scoop the gnocchi directly into a pan with heated tomato sauce, sage-butter, meat ragu, (Any of your favorite pasta sauce recipes will do here.) and allow them to cook into the sauce for a minute so they get coated nicely. If the sauce starts to “grease-out", add a splash of the cooking water to bring it back together.
- Carefully spoon the gnocchi unto serving dishes, and top with grated aged Pecorino cheese. Serve while hot.