Soft, delicious and tender, gnocchi are a true Italian delicacy.
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Although this dish is not the recipe Italy is most known for, it’s the one you should try if you want to broaden your culinary horizons. After all, there are only so many instances when you can serve pizza without it getting boring.
Many people think that gnocchi is a type of pasta, but their true identity is much more interesting.
So if you’re up for doing some culinary discoveries today, this article might be for you. In it, we talk about the origins of gnocchi, how to prepare them, and answer some common questions regarding this dish.
Ready to be mesmerized?
What Is Gnocchi?
Like we’ve said at the beginning, technically, gnocchi are not pasta, but some consider them to be the type of pasta. In all fairness, when served, gnocchi resemble a pasta dish, so for the untrained eye, it’s easy to get confused.
But more than macaroni, gnocchi are Italian potato dumplings. The word ‘gnocchi’ means ‘lumps’ in the Italian language, and the dish is typically made from cooked potatoes, flour, eggs, and in some cases, ricotta cheese.
It can be served with various sauces, like tomato sauce or pesto, which makes it a great meal for those who like to switch up their recipes from time to time.
Gnocchi are usually served as a first dish or a side dish, and the exact recipes vary between different regions and countries. For example, Tuscan malfatti are made with the addition of spinach, while Tuscan gnudi contain less flour than the original recipe.
Still, all gnocchi are made from the base ingredient, which is potatoes.
It is considered a simple recipe, but like with everything in life, it might take several attempts to get the gnocchi dumplings just right. The upside is that it’s the perfect recipe for those who love to experiment in the kitchen.
You can try different ratios of flour and potatoes, add your favorite herbs and ingredients, and discover some pretty cool combinations along the way.
Where Do Gnocchi Come From?
The history of gnocchi is long, as this traditional Italian dish has existed since ancient times. In fact, it was the Roman legions that introduced it to many European countries during their expansion on the continent.
Gnocchi originated from northern Italy, where a cooler climate was more suitable for growing potatoes. In the past, it was the food of the poor, mainly due to the fact that it was cheap to make yet tasty and filling.
Now, potato gnocchi are celebrated by people from all walks of life, and different variations of the dish can be found in countries such as Croatia, Poland, France, and the continent of South America.
Are Gnocchi Vegetarian?
Gnocchi are vegetarian, and they can be vegan as well.
Most likely, gnocchi you find at a store contain animal products, such as eggs or cheese. If you want to try vegan gnocchi, you should look for a product with a vegan label or make it yourself.
In your own kitchen, you have complete control over what type of products you’re using, and you can prepare the dish without any conservators or other artificial additives, making it not only vegan but also a healthy alternative for the store-bought gnocchi.
When it comes to making vegan gnocchi, you shouldn’t add eggs and definitely switch the standard cheese for a vegan alternative.
But how to prepare the best potato gnocchi?
Our homemade potato gnocchi recipe could be a good starting point for you. You can take some inspiration from our proposition and make gnocchi with a little twist, adding some unexpected ingredients once you’ll feel more confident in preparing the dish.
This is how you can make some outstanding homemade gnocchi.
How to Make Gnocchi
The two significant areas you should focus on when preparing gnocchi are potatoes and the dough. Both will determine how successful the end result is.
Fortunately, we have the wisdom of the generations to lean on, so easy mistakes can be avoided.
First of all, let’s talk about potatoes.
In theory, you can use any type of potato for this dish. Generally, though, you want to avoid vegetables that are very moist, which means it is better to choose the older potatoes (a starchy potato would be an excellent choice) if you have the option.
If not, you can bake potatoes in the oven instead of boiling them, which should help get the access water out.
Why is it important? We want to mold firm dumplings so they don’t fall apart during boiling. The more moisture in your potatoes, the higher the likelihood that your dumplings won’t be firm enough and all your work will go to waste.
You should also pay attention to how you’re kneading the gnocchi dough.
The goal is to achieve firm consistency and to do so, you should knead the dough for the right amount of time. Kneading for too long may result in a dough that is too chewy and firm and one that lost its tenderness.
When all flour has been incorporated into the dough, and you feel like it’s the right consistency, you should go to the next step instead of spending too much time on it.
How to Serve Gnocchi
Now you have your boiled gnocchi, and on their own, they make up for a pretty bland meal. They are a fantastic base that you can work with.
Those who love simplicity will enjoy gnocchi served with melted butter, parmesan cheese on top, or sour cream, and some interesting herbs.
But gnocchi go really well with a good pasta sauce, so if you want to elevate the dish even further, you may want to prepare one of your favorite sauces and serve it like a pasta dish.
The Best Sauces for Gnocchi
There are many sauces that would complement these Italian dumplings, so the final choice will come down to your preferences.
The best thing about this dish is that you can make it with a variety of pasta sauces, and each time discover some new flavors, falling in love with cooked gnocchi more and more every time you try them.
For beginners, we would recommend an Italian Tomato Sauce that has everything Italy is known for but is not overly complicated to prepare.
All you need is tomatoes, garlic, good quality oil, and spices. It’s really easy to make and delicious.
If you wish to try something more advanced, you can prepare a tomato or green pesto.
For tomato pesto, you should acquire sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, parmesan, roasted sweet red peppers, oil, and herbs.
For green pesto, you will need fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, romano or parmesan cheese, garlic, and herbs.
Both sauces can be prepared in half an hour, and you can enjoy a true Italian dish with your favorite pasta sauce.
How to Freeze Gnocchi
Cooked gnocchi are the best when served immediately, but if you have made too much dough or simply want to prepare a few portions ahead of time, the best practice is to freeze gnocchi.
Gnocchi are freezer friendly, but only when they are uncooked.
To freeze them, you should place the dumplings on a cookie sheet dusted with flour, remembering not to stack them on top of each other.
Then you can put them in the freezer and wait a few hours. You can put frozen gnocchi in a freezer-safe zipper bag or a container and store them that way for around 3 months.
It’s a great practice if you don’t love cooking but you still want to enjoy delicious meals. You can prepare gnocchi in a few batches and take them out of the freezer every time you have the appetite for some mouthwatering, homemade gnocchi.
For more tips on how to freeze potato dishes, head to our guide – Can You Freeze Potatoes: 12 Best Ways To Freeze Potatoes.
The traditional gnocchi recipe is excellent, especially if you’re looking for something proven and simple. But, as we’ve said at the beginning, gnocchi can be modified to fit your requirements and preferences.
You can make vegan gnocchi, as well as gluten-free gnocchi, and we encourage you to try these recipes if you have any dietary restrictions.
One of the more interesting alternatives for potatoes in this dish is sweet potatoes. They definitely offer some additional flavour to gnocchi, and they might be a better option for those with digestive issues.
A common practice in Italy is to add mushrooms to the gnocchi dough, which gives it more richness and can go well with some Italian sauces. Cauliflower gnocchi might also be an interesting option for those who want to try something lower in calories and with more fiber.
Pumpkin and spinach are popular choices when it comes to ingredients added to the dough to make gnocchi even more interesting and tasty.
When it comes to gnocchi, you are limited only by your imagination.
What Is Healthier – Gnocchi or Pasta?
Amongst Italian dishes, pasta is one of the most beloved and popularized foods around the world. It’s safe to say it’s one of the first dishes people think of when it comes to Italian cuisine.
Gnocchi, on the other hand, enjoy less popularity, but they are still a fantastic choice. But which dish would be considered a healthier option?
The answer is simple – both pasta and gnocchi are similar when it comes down to their nutritional value. They contain mainly carbohydrates, a little bit of protein, and very little fiber. They are pretty similar calories-wise as well.
In comparison, both recipes leave something to be desired in terms of their nutritional values. They are not the healthiest options, but with a balanced diet, they can be enjoyed from time to time.
Gnocchi are great, and we would recommend them to anyone who loves pasta and dumplings and wishes to try something new. You may serve gnocchi with your favorite pasta sauce to see if you like their taste.
Although gnocchi are not overly complicated to prepare, they might take some practice to get them perfect. Still, in our opinion, it’s worth the try because they are indeed heaven on earth.
Check out our site if you want to find countless recipes for all your beloved Italian dishes. We always have something cooking for all Italian cuisine enthusiasts.
And if you have a cooking conundrum, you may benefit from going to our Informational Guides section. Some answers may surprise you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is gnocchi traditionally prepared?
Gnocchi is traditionally prepared by mixing cooked and mashed potatoes with flour and eggs to form a dough. You then roll the dough into small pieces, and shape it using a fork or gnocchi board. Finally, the gnocchi is boiled until they float to the surface, signaling that they are cooked.
What are the main ingredients in gnocchi?
The main ingredients in traditional gnocchi are potatoes, flour, and eggs. However, some variations may include other ingredients such as ricotta cheese or additional flavorings like herbs and spices.
What are some popular gnocchi dishes?
Gnocchi can be served in various dishes, including:
- Gnocchi with tomato sauce: A classic Italian dish where gnocchi is tossed in a rich tomato sauce and often garnished with basil and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Gnocchi with pesto: Another popular option where gnocchi is combined with a flavorful basil pesto sauce.
- Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola: Gnocchi served in a creamy Gorgonzola cheese sauce, often with the addition of spinach or walnuts.
- Gnocchi with brown butter and sage: A simple yet flavorful dish that pairs gnocchi with a nutty brown butter sauce infused with fragrant sage leaves.
Is gnocchi considered pasta or a dumpling?
Gnocchi is often considered both a pasta and a dumpling. While it’s made with similar ingredients to pasta, its shape and texture more closely resemble a dumpling. In Italian cuisine, gnocchi is typically classified as a type of pasta.
Can gnocchi be made gluten-free or vegan?
Yes, gnocchi can be adapted to suit both gluten-free and vegan diets. For a gluten-free version, you can substitute regular flour with gluten-free flour blends, such as rice or chickpea flour. To make vegan gnocchi, replace the eggs with an egg substitute or simply use additional water.
What makes gnocchi different from other pasta?
Gnocchi differs from other pasta due to its unique texture and primary ingredient, which is potato. While most pasta is made primarily from wheat flour and water, gnocchi incorporates cooked, mashed potatoes into the dough, resulting in a soft, pillowy texture when cooked.
- 2 large potatoes
- 90 g flour
- 1 beaten egg
- 50 g ricotta cheese optional
- herbs and spices of your choice
Prepare the potatoes
- Boil or fry potatoes, just like you would if you were serving them alone. Next, peel their skin and cut them into smaller pieces, allowing all the steam to escape.
- When they are cool enough, you can also use a potato ricer for better consistency. If you don’t have a potato ricer, you can use a fork or other kitchen tools to mash the potatoes into a uniform mass.
Make The Dough
- Prepare all the ingredients you will need for making the dough. These would be potatoes, wheat flour, egg, ricotta cheese if you’re using it, and salt and pepper.
- To make your dough add the mashed egg to the potato mass and mix them together. At this point, potatoes should still be warm (but not too warm) for the eggs to easily mix with them. Add your cheese and spices as well.
- The next step would be adding the flour. Just like with a standard dough, the amount of flour needed will depend on how much moisture remains in the mass with wet ingredients. If you stick to our recipe, 90g of flour should be enough.
Knead the Dough
- Now it’s time to mix everything and knead the dough. When you’re done, the dough should feel dry and firm. Roll the dough into a ball and cut it into four even pieces.
Make the Dumplings
- Roll out each dough piece into snake-like, oblong pieces. Use your hands to do this, instead of just your fingers, to make sure the dough stays intact and you’re not placing too much pressure on its sections.
- Cut the long pieces into small, 3/4-inch thick pieces. You can now mark your gnocchi using fork tines to give them the characteristic ridges you often see on traditional gnocchi.
- Place your gnocchi on the parchment-lined baking sheet dusted with flour. Remember not to place the dumplings on top of each other, as they might stick to one another.
- Add gnocchi to the boiling salted water, letting them simmer for around 2 minutes.
- After this time, you should see gnocchi floating to the surface. Wait for one more minute and remove them from the water. Drain them and let them rest for about 2 minutes before preparing them for serving.
- If you have lots of dumplings and a not-so-big pot, a good tip is to boil the gnocchi in batches in order to avoid them sticking to each other in the process.