What Is Gnocchi?

A short history of these delicious Italian dumplings

These potato dumplings, traditionally served as a first course, are small bites of heaven. They can be topped with butter and sage, cheese, or pesto, as well as meat, cream, or tomato sauces. Although most people associate this dish with Italian cuisine, versions of this dish exist around the world; Croatia, France, and South America all have variations of the dish.

In France, gnocchi are served “à la parisienne,” and have no potato at all, but instead are made from the same French pastry dough used to make profiteroles and cream puffs. They are sometimes topped with béchamel sauce, a creamy white sauce made with a mixture of butter, flour, milk, and nutmeg. (Photo courtesy of flickr/bour3)

The word “gnocchi” is derived from the Italian word “nocchio,” meaning a “knot in wood.” Most Italian chefs say that the secret behind perfect gnocchi is the right potato. The best are ones high in starch and low in water content, such as the russet potato. The less water in the dough, the less gummy it will be.

Once you have the right potato, the rest of the gnocchi-making process is relatively simple. The potatoes are boiled with their skins on, peeled while still warm, and then mashed or passed through a ricer. To prepare the dough, sprinkle the flour on top of the potatoes, make a well in the center, and place the eggs and salt inside. Mix in the flour and potatoes using a fork until well incorporated. Then, knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball, and roll out into ropes. Cut it into bite-sized pieces and cook immediately. It is an easy process that everyone can master and is sure to become a household favorite! (Photo courtesy of flickr/bour3)


Click here to see How to Shape Gnocchi.