Gnocchi is one of my hands down favorite Italian dishes and if I see it on a restaurant menu here in Italy and find out it is made “in house”, chances are it will be my first selection. A well made gnocchi should be delicate enough to be described as tender, yet sturdy enough to hold it’s own when combined with sauce. Gnocchi are basically dumplings, and can be made of almost any ingredients that can be formed into a dough. Gnocchi, (pronounced NYOK-ee) are made in most regions in Italy, although they are generally made with different ingredients in each. Some gnocchi are round while others are oval and grooved to hold the sauce.
If you have never experienced a really good dish of gnocchi, you have missed a special treat. Luckily gnocchi can easily be made at home and are in fact quicker to make than homemade pasta. If you are a beginner to gnocchi making, I would suggest starting with ricotta gnocchi rather than potato. Potato gnocchi take a little more practice to get the texture right, and tend to be heavier as they are often overworked. A tip I was given when I first started making potato gnocchi was to add an egg to the dough which helps create dough that holds together well. With experience you soon can eliminate the egg, and create an even lighter dough. You can make really make ricotta gnocchi in as little time as it takes you to boil the water to cook them in, so they can be considered Italian “fast food”. No matter which gnocchi you make, there are some basic tips to remember. See step by step photos for making gnocchi below!
Gnocchi Tips For Preparation And Cooking:
- The amount of flour needed for the recipe depends on the moisture content of the other ingredients. I always let my ricotta drain in a sieve before I use it to my my ricotta gnocchi, and if I am using spinach I squeeze it very dry before chopping.
- Only add three quarters of the amount of flour the recipe calls for initially. The less flour you use the lighter the gnocchi you can achieve.
- Knead your gnocchi dough only as long as it takes for the ingredients to hold together into a soft, workable dough. The longer you knead, the more flour you will use, which will result in a heavier gnocchi. Remember, a light hand yields light, delicate gnocchi!
- It is a good idea if you are brand new to gnocchi making to test your gnocchi before you prepare the whole batch. Drop a couple of gnocchi into boiling water and remove as soon as they come to the surface. If they fall apart, knead in a little more flour. If they hold up well, continue cutting the rest of your gnocchi.
- To cook ricotta gnocchi, always use a large pot of boiling, salted water. Try to gently drop them into the water separately, and remove them as soon as they float to the surface. If you overcook any type of gnocchi they will turn to mush.
- I generally do not bother to create grooves in my gnocchi, but you can do this easily by gently pushing each piece of gnocchi against the tines of a fork and letting them roll off.
- Ricotta gnocchi don’t keep well at room temperature; so if you are not cooking them right away, place them on a lightly floured baking sheet in the refrigerator. I would not keep any type of ricotta gnocchi in the refrigerator longer than a few hours. Generally ricotta gnocchi don’t freeze well unless they have a good deal of flour added, which means they will not be as delicate as good gnocchi should be. Since you can prepare them so quickly, it is easier to make them fresh each time.
Ricotta Gnocchi Step By Step
All you need to make Ricotta Gnocchi for 4 servings are:
1 Pound Full Fat Ricotta
1 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Large Egg
Before starting, place ricotta in a sieve over a bowl or large cup and let drain of excess water in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
First add the grated cheese and egg to the ricotta and stir with a fork just until blended. My egg looks very dark in these photos are yolks of Italian eggs are almost orange in color.
Add 1 cup of the flour and continue to mix just until blended.
Dump mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and gently work onto you have a soft ball adding only as much additional flour so that the ball is not too sticky.
Break off pieces of the dough in baseball sized pieces and roll into a tube about 1/2 inch to 1 inch thick depending on the size you want your completed gnocchi to be. I generally roll mine about 1 inch thick if I am topping it with a heavier sauce.
To roll use fingers of both hands on a lightly floured surface and gently roll back and forth until you reach the desired thickness.
Once you have created your roll, take a sharp knife and cut into 1 inch pieces. Gently toss the cut gnocchi with a little extra flour to prevent sticking and place on a lightly floured baking sheet.
If desired, you can pull your gnocchi down the back of a fork using the tines to create grooves as well as cause an indentation to be created on the other side. It is said this helps the gnocchi to better hold the sauce, but it not a step I generally bother with.
Continue rolling and cutting your dough in the same manner placing the lightly floured gnocchi onto a lightly floured baking tray. Place the tray in the refrigerator until needed. To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pasta pot filled with salted water to a boil. Once boiling, gently drop the gnocchi into the pot. Once the gnocchi have risen to the top (less than 5 minutes) they are cooked. Drain and toss the gnocchi with your desired sauce and serve hot.
A finished bowl of delicate ricotta gnocchi topped with a Tomato Sausage Sauce.
Deborah Mele 2011