Gnocchi is mini dumpling-like pasta made from potatoes, much like instant pasta. Good Gnocchi is always fluffy – like pillows, light, and airy. If you have not experienced it yet, let me tell you; its divine, a joy to eat when served fresh. Let’s begin with the correct pronunciation first – and say NOK-EE or NYOK-EE. Yes, you got it!
Most of the pasta makings require eggs, but this post is special for all the readers who write to me for eggless recipes. Now you can make this fresh pasta at home without eggs. All you will need is three ingredients – baked potatoes, with your regular flour (maida) and salt – no eggs. Then, of course, you are free to use the sauce of your choice. I used fresh basil pesto along with some mushrooms. This is what it looked like.
Making traditional Italian gnocchi from scratch is not really hard, as you will see in this step-by-step recipe. The goal is to have soft and fluffy gnocchi (not mushy) with a smooth texture. But there are a few things that you will need to keep in mind if this is your first time; so read the points below.
1. Making good gnocchi will require right potato, which should be neither too waxy nor too starchy. It is equally important to keep the potatoes dry so that the gnocchi are fluffy and melt in the mouth. So don’t boil the potatoes, just bake them in the oven on low.
Don’t Overcook the potatoes. They become very gummy and starchy. Over baked potatoes start absorbing water. More water in the mashed potatoes means more flour needed in the dough. So, watch the potatoes carefully.
Gnocchi, when made properly, has a smooth textured (not grainy) so its a good idea to mash the potatoes when they are still hot. Run the hot potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them. Mashing the potatoes by hand would be fine too, just don’t overwork the potatoes.
2. When you pull together ingredients and knead to form a dough. Be careful not to over-knead. To make sure your dumplings will not be hard and too chewy, you need to use the least amount of flour possible in the dough… but enough flour to hold the gnocchi together, so they won’t fall apart. The dough should be able to hold its shape enough to be rolled into a rope. Knead the dough together briefly, gently, on a counter, just for a minute. Remember the dough should be moist but not sticky.
3. Roll out a small part of dough gently pushing with fingers spread. The goal is to make an evenly-distributed rope. Shape the dough into a snake-shaped log, roughly the thickness of your thumb. Dust with a bit more flour if required.
For shorter, heavier gnocchi, roll dough into thick ropes and cut into 1-inch pieces. For thinner gnocchi, roll longer ropes.Use a pastry cutter or non-serrated knife, cut dough ropes into 1-inch pieces. DON’T cut gnocchi unevenly. Different-size pieces will need different cooking times.
4. You can use a fork to create ridges or indent gently with your thumb.This process isn’t necessary but adds to the final look. To shape the gnocchi hold a fork in one hand (see photo) and place a gnocchi pillow against the tines of the fork. With confidence and an assertive light touch, use your finger and press in and down the length of the fork. The gnocchi should curl into a slight “C” shape, their backs will capture the impression of the tines as tiny ridges which holds on to sauce later.
Set each gnocchi aside, dust with a bit more flour if needed, until you are ready to boil them. This step takes some practice; don’t get discouraged, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.
5. Very important point to mention here is – Season that dough just right, – gnocchi have a dangerous tendency to blandness.
6. To cook – Place the gnocchi, a quarter-batch at a time, into a pot of boiling water which is well-salted with a drizzle of oil. Cook the gnocchi until they float. This will take about 2 minutes. Tip – They will let you know when they are cooked because they will pop back up to the top of the water. Fish them out of the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon ten seconds or so after they’ve surfaced.
7 . Toss them in a saucepan with your favourite sauce as soon as possible and cook together for about 2 minutes. Do not wait longer than 45 minutes to cook gnocchi or they will begin to stick to each other.
8. If you’d like to freeze gnocchi for later user, – Arrange gnocchi on a baking sheet with excess flour to keep from sticking. Place baking sheet in the freezer for about 2 hours, or until they are completely frozen. Once they are frozen, remove from pan and store them in a freezer bag until needed. Gnocchi can be frozen for up to 2 months.
9. I used pesto on my gnocchi you can go ahead with any tomato based sauce too. Tip – If you make the pesto a day ahead, add the lemon juice at the last minute – this will allow the herbs to stay fresh.
10 . This turns out to be a real yumm pasta dish, just make sure you serve Gnocchi hot hot hot.
For the Gnocchi
1. 2-3 potatoes
2. 1/2 teaspoon salt
3. 1/2 to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
4. One pot of boiling water with a generous dash of salt + drizzle of oil
For the Basil Pesto
1. 3 good handfuls fresh basil, leaves picked
2. 1/3rd cup of pine nuts, very lightly toasted
3. 1 clove garlic
4. 1/4th cup of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
5. 1/2 cup of olive oil
6. 1 small squeeze lemon juice
7. Salt to season
1. 1 tablespoon of oil
2. 2 cloves of garlic chopped
3. 1/4th cup of sliced mushrooms
4. few pine nuts to garnish
For the pesto – Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. Add cheese and salt; blend until smooth. Transfer to small bowl with a drizzle of olive oil on the top.
For the Gnocchi – Preheat the oven to 400* F. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until they’re tender when poked with a fork. This should take about one hour. When the potatoes are done, immediately slice them open to let the steam out. Run the hot potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them. Sprinkle the potatoes with the salt and adjust according to your liking.
Sprinkle flour onto your clean counter or cutting board. Knead the potatoes until the dough just comes together. If it’s still loose, add more flour one tablespoon at a time.
Tip- Pinch off a piece of dough and roll out into a tube. Cut it into a few pieces and boil it to make sure it holds its shape. If it falls apart in the water, this means you need to knead the dough a bit more. When right, the gnocchi will float to the top and look a little ragged, but hold together, when ready.
Set the dough aside while you clean the work surface and dust it with a little more flour, then return and flatten it into a square about 1.5cm thick. Divide this into 1.5cm-wide strips, then roll these into log shapes and cut them into 1cm-wide segments. Dust these with flour, and roll each over the tines of a fork, pressing your thumb into the back so you have an indentation on one side and grooves on the other. Put the finished gnocchi on a flour-dusted tray.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a few pinches of salt and drizzle of oil. Add the gnocchi to a boiling water a few at a time. Adjust the heat so the mixture doesn’t boil too vigorously–it should be more like an aggressive simmer. When the gnocchi rises to the surface of the water, they’re done. Remove them with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer.
In another non-stick pan, heat some oil and add the boiled gnocchi along with some chopped garlic. Add some mushroom slices and Saute for few minutes on low heat. When the gnocchi gets little golden colour turn off the heat and add the pesto. Serve with some roasted pine nuts on the top along with fresh green parsley. Don’t forget to adjust the seasoning and enjoy!