My first time making gnocchi was a hot mess. The first batch was inedible. I kept trying. Sadly, it either disintegrated when cooking in water or it ended up being as hard as a rock. I love gnocchi and felt so sad when restaurants gave me small quantities. So I thought making it at home would allow me to eat to my heart’s contents. It made me sadder that it was so hard to make! Now it made sense why an order came with so few gnocchi ?
It’s been a few years since I first attempted gnocchi. It was quite a learning experience! Here are some tips and tools I’ve learned along the way.
Gnocchi is a pasta/dumpling originating from Northern Italy between the 16th and 17th century. The traditional ingredients include potato, flour, and sometimes egg and herbs. Gnocchi is often made with added root vegetables for added flavor or coloring like my recipe below. Who doesn’t like to sneak in extra veggies?
It’s speculated that Spanish explorer introduced potatoes to the Italian kitchens. Northern Italy’s cooler climate was well suited to grow potatoes. These potatoes were often used in place of grain.
The word gnocchi may have come from either nonna (knuckles) or knohha (wood knot). Either one would make sense to describe the little dumpling shape of a gnocchi.
The gnocchi texture should be delicate, light, and fluffy. They’re formed by rolling dough into logs and then cutting. Sometimes, the lumps of dough are pressed against a fork/cheese grater/gnocchi board to create ridges.
The Key to Pillowy Gnocchi
Gluten is the culprit here. Flour contains two types of protein: gliadin and glutenin. These two proteins combine to form a new protein chain called gluten when dough is kneaded. Gluten is elastic and has adhesive properties that give food that signature chew like noodles. The longer you knead, the more gluten there is.
The moral of the story is to not over knead the dough. I learned this the hard way. I always want to knead the dough until it’s smooth and shiny. LOUD BUZZER SOUND. That would create a dense gnocchi. The key is to stop kneading once a dough forms. The dough should be a little bit shaggy and looks like it barely holds together. It can be a bit sticky still too. You want to coat the outside of the dough liberally with flour to stop it from sticking to your work surface and hands. Make sure to dust your the cut gnocchi to avoid them sticking to one another.
Once formed, you can store the gnocchi in the freezer for up to 6 weeks!
Golden Beet Gnocchi
- 1 pound gold beet, whole
- 1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup Parmesan
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 425F. Place beet into a baking dish and add about 1 cup of water. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes until beet is soft. Set aside to cool before handling.
- Step 2 Boil water in a large pot. Add potatoes and cook until fork tender. Use a ricer, or masher or fork, to mash potatoes until light and fluffy. Set aside.
- Step 3 Peel skin off beet and cut into small cubes.
- Step 4 Add 1 1/2 cup beet, 1 cup potato, Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper to a food processor and puree until smooth. (There will be extra beet and potato to use for other things.)
- Step 5 On a clean work surface, create a mountain of flour with 1 1/2 cups flour. Make a well and pour in beet/potato puree. Using hands, gently mix the flour and puree together until a dough forms. If dough is too wet, add flour 1/4 cup at a time until ball forms.
- Step 6 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Turn to low heat to keep water ready.
- Step 7 Liberally cover dough with flour and roll into a log. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces and sprinkle with additional flour. Shape with fork/cheese grater/gnocchi board if desired.
- Step 8 Turn water heat back to high and drop gnocchi in.
- Step 9 In a frying pan, heat butter over medium heat.
- Step 10 Once gnocchi float, remove them with a slotted spoon and drop directly into the frying pan to sear on both side.
- Step 11 Serve as is with mushrooms and pea sprouts or add a sauce on top.