Homemade gnocchi and homemade pasta are often viewed as an intimidating recipes to make, when in reality making gnocchi and pasta from scratch involves just a few simple ingredients and is so easy that anyone can do it at home! Here we provide an in-depth how-to guide for making Homemade Potato Herb Gnocchi so that you can enjoy pillowy and delicious gnocchi whenever you want!
What is Gnocchi?
Gnocchi is found in many various forms with different key ingredients as well as shapes, sizes, and even ways of cooking and serving. Generally, it is a small dumpling made with potato, a small amount of flour and eggs or egg yolks. Our Italian gnocchi recipe is basically as described above. But there are many regional variations and types of gnocchi that can make it confusing as well as debatable on what authentic Italian gnocchi is. So, let’s go over the basics of what most people mean when they use the term ‘gnocchi.’
Is gnocchi a type of pasta?
The first question often asked is “are gnocchi a type of pasta?” The simple answer is…not so simple! The gnocchi in this Italian gnocchi recipe is NOT pasta. It is a form of a dumpling and is the type of gnocchi that most people associate with the name. There are some gnocchi that could definitely be called pasta, but the most common ones made with a base of potato or ricotta are technically dumplings.
But if you call gnocchi pasta, few people will be upset by this or even correct you. So no need to worry about the technical label here, and our gnocchi recipes are often included under a general ‘pasta’ umbrella category.
Different Types of Gnocchi by Region
Regionally, there are so many different types of gnocchi. For the most common types that are based on potato or ricotta, it can generally be stated that in the south of Italy potatoes are more commonly used and in the north ricotta dominates gnocchi recipes. The bottom line is that all variations are pillowy, fluffy, light, and delicious when made properly!
Drilling down a bit more on regional variations, here are a few additional types of gnocchi other than the common potato or ricotta varieties.
- Malfatti are large ricotta-based gnocchi made with spinach and herbs and often served simply with tomato sauce. Generally they are round in shape. These are found in the northern part of Italy - specifically Lombardy.
- Gnudi are smaller than Malfatti and are Tuscan gnocchi that are round and ricotta-based as well. They resemble the filling for a ravioli without the pasta around it, hence the name.
- Ndunderi are from the Amalfi coast region south of Naples. These are larger than the traditional sized gnocchi but are made with ricotta and pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese). These have been around in the region for centuries and are often served with a tomato sauce or sausage ragu.
- Malloreddus are from Sardinia and are also called gnochetti sardi. Now these can be classified as pasta as the main ingredient is semolina flour and NOT potato or ricotta. They are simple and tasty, often served with a sausage and fennel ragu. They have cousins in southern Italy - cavatelli - which is from Apulia and other regions nearby.
- Gnocchi alla Romana is a completely different “gnocchi” in that it is baked. Made with semolina, milk, egg yolks, and cheese, it is one of the furthest things from a traditional gnocchi that we are presenting now, but an amazing Roman comfort food nonetheless!
There are many more varieties of gnocchi and they are all worth a try! There are versions outside of Italy’s borders as well, each with their own flavor, tradition and fanatical following.
What You Need to Make Potato Herb Gnocchi
- Kosher Salt
- Semolina Flour
As the main ingredient, this is important. However, we have seen and tried gnocchi using a variety of potatoes and all yielded excellent results.
The key is reducing moisture. We lightly boil our potatoes whole so the skin keeps some water from saturating the flesh. But if for some reason they get waterlogged, the potatoes can simply be cut or broken up a bit, exposing the flesh, and popped in the oven at 300°F for about 30 minutes to evaporate some water.
We suggest red or Yukon gold potatoes, but russet “baking” potatoes work very well also.
Just enough flour is used to hold the dough together without making it heavy and dense. If you’ve ever had a dense, gut-bomb of a gnocchi, it probably had too much flour and the dough was overworked.
We generally use Tipo 00 flour or all purpose flour to make gnocchi. You can use a different type of flour if you want with similar results.
Some recipes use whole eggs, others just the yolks. A fresh whole large egg is what we use and the results are perfect! The egg is a binder in the recipe but also the yolk will provide some richness and the white will lighten up the texture of the gnocchi slightly.
Fresh Herbs or Dried Herbs
Here is where you can be as creative as you want! Nearly any type of herb will work well, dried or fresh. We tend to use dry herbs as they are just easier to manage and deliver great flavor. The exception would probably be rosemary. In our opinion, fresh rosemary works better than dried 99% of the time.
Basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram are just some of the options you have when choosing herbs for your gnocchi. Ground pepper, red pepper flakes, and citrus zest are additional options as well! You can always use a fun combination that you like and it will probably work very well.
Semolina Flour for Dusting
We use semolina flour to dust the gnocchi as we make them. This keeps the gnocchi from sticking to the sheet pan we place them on or to each other.
Semolina is a type of flour made from durum wheat, and it prevents sticking far better than all purpose or other similar flours.
Do I need special equipment to make gnocchi?
Short answer: nope! Let’s go over what is necessary and recommended or options to make gnocchi at home.
- Large Pot
- Large Bowl
- Potato Ricer (optional but recommended)
- Gnocchi Board (optional)
- Bench scraper (optional) or knife
- Spider Spatula/Slotted Spoon
What is a potato ricer?
If you have a garlic press, then you know what a potato ricer does! It’s just a giant version of one that lets you pass a potato through the holes without pulverizing the potato so much that it becomes dense and pasty. This is the best way to achieve uniform riced potato and keep the cells intact so that it will make the gnocchi as light as a cloud.
We prefer a ricer over a potato masher, sieve, tamis, or fork to prevent the gnocchi from getting too dense, but this is not a deal breaker for this recipe. You can still make delicious gnocchi without a ricer using one of the other items mentioned above.
Can I make gnocchi without a gnocchi board?
Absolutely! In fact, gnocchi were made using the side of a wicker basket centuries before a gnocchi board was thought of. The premise is to get some texture onto the gnocchi so that they hold the sauce better. But leaving them as little pillows without grooves is fully acceptable as well.
If you don’t have a board, using a fork is probably the best second option. Lightly rolling the gnocchi over the tines of a dinner fork will give you ridges that will work in holding a sauce and look appealing as well.
Check out the video below for how we use the gnocchi board to create grooves.
How to avoid dense and chewy gnocchi?
There are three pitfalls (not counting the cooking process) when making gnocchi that will give you dense, chewy gnocchi. All of these are quite easy to avoid so that you end up with fluffy and tender potato gnocchi.
- Don’t over mash the potatoes! The first pitfall is the treatment of the potatoes. As mentioned, using a ricer eliminates the problem of overworking them. Overworking the potatoes will turn them into a gummy, dense mixture. If using a different type of masher, try to only mash the potatoes enough to be able to incorporate the other ingredients.
- Don’t add too much flour! The second pitfall is using too much flour. Generally this only becomes a problem when the potatoes have too much moisture in them and are waterlogged, thus the need for more flour to bring the gnocchi together is necessary. To prevent this, start the potatoes in a large pot of cold water with their skins on. If they do get waterlogged, cut them open or break them up a bit, then place them on a sheet tray in a 300°F oven for about 30 minutes to remove excess moisture.
- Don’t overwork the dough! Finally, the most important thing is to not overwork the potato gnocchi dough. Kneading the dough like bread or treating it like pasta will form too much gluten and you’ll have a disappointingly chewy batch of gnocchi! Knead the dough just enough for it to form a cohesive mass, and don’t go any further!
Can you freeze raw gnocchi?
You can absolutely freeze raw gnocchi. If you want to freeze them in a zip-top bag, make sure you leave them in the freezer on the sheet tray for an entire hour before putting them in the bag. Then you can cook them straight from frozen. They will take about 1 minute longer to cook, but are just as good as eating gnocchi the same day.
Preparing Gnocchi to Cook
Once we make our gnocchi, we put them in single layers on sheet trays. Prior to cooking we place them into the freezer for 30 minutes. This helps keep the dough together better and tends to make a better final product. It also makes the batch of gnocchi a bit more manageable when transferring to the pot of boiling water to cook.
Top Tips for Cooking Gnocchi
Start with a large pot of water. You want a large pot of water for cooking gnocchi so that they don’t clump together during the cooking process.
Heavily salt the water. Salt the boiling water so that it tastes like seawater (about ¼ cup per gallon of water). The salted water doesn’t just help to flavor the gnocchi, it also helps to prevent the gnocchi from sticking together while cooking.
Wait for a rolling boil before adding your gnocchi. Make sure your large pot of salted water is at a hard boil before adding the gnocchi. It is also helpful to take a large spoon or spatula and stir the water to create a whirlpool. Doing so will help prevent your gnocchi from dropping straight to the bottom of your pot and clumping together.
Gnocchi are done once they float. Once added, cook your gnocchi until they float and then remove with a spider spatula, slotted spoon, or a sieve that you can easily fit into the pot.
What sauce to serve with gnocchi?
A simple brown butter sauce is a classic pairing for gnocchi, especially a brown butter sage sauce. But for a different take on a butter sauce, give this White Wine Lemon Butter Sauce a try. Or add a little heat with our Calabrian Chili Butter Sauce.
How to Store and Reheat Cooked Gnocchi
If you make more gnocchi than your group can eat, just refrigerate the leftovers in an airtight container (once cooled to room temperature) for up to 5 days. To reheat, just slowly reheat in a skillet over low to medium-low heat until warmed through.
Want to try more delicious gnocchi recipes?
In early 2022, we released our very first cookbook, Mangiamo! It contains 60 delicious Italian recipes including 3 different types of gnocchi and a variety of sauces to make with them. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Potato Thyme Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
- Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter Rosemary Sauce
- Ricotta Gnocchi Primavera
- Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage Sauce
We hope this how-to guide was helpful for making Potato Herb Gnocchi! If you give this herbed gnocchi recipe a try, let us know how it turned out in the comments below. If you loved this recipe, please give it a 5 star rating, click the heart and share your final dish on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!