All you need are the right potatoes, flour, and one secret item.

Love gnocchi but feel like making them might be overwhelming? It's understandable. You want to have light fluffy little dumplings with mild potato flavor that soak up rich sauces. But often you get heavy, gummy, rubbery little carb bombs that get stuck in your teeth or sit like lead in your tum. If you don't make them from scratch regularly, they can be a fussy, messy project, but store-bought versions will never get the same texture you want from perfect gnocchi.

I had pretty much resigned myself to a lifetime of only having great gnocchi out at restaurants, when I got an opportunity to take a cooking class in Naples, Italy. One of the recipes we learned was gnocchi, and it was unlike any other time I had ever attempted gnocchi making from scratch. The dough was simple and came together easily. They were simple to form, and simple to cook. We even learned a terrific fast sauce that has become my go-to weeknight sauce for every possible shape of pasta. 

So, if you want to make your own homemade gnocchi, take it from my wonderful Italian teachers.

Credit: Getty / REDA&CO / Contributor

The secrets to making gnocchi at home

First off, you want the right potato, one with enough fluffy starch to make the dumplings light, but still a flavorful potato so that they are not bland. Here in the states, Yukon Gold potatoes work really well. You can also use russets, but stay away from waxy potatoes like white or red. 

Second, you need to rice the potatoes, not mash them. A lot of recipes call for mashed potatoes, but mashing breaks the cell walls in ways that lean towards gumminess, so use a ricer instead to keep them light and allow you to blend the dough quickly.

Third, choose your flour wisely. For great gnocchi, you should use 00 flour, an Italian designation of flour specifically milled for pasta and pizza. This flour is a great thing to have on hand, and you don't have to import it from Italy: King Arthur has a great one.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, weigh your ingredients to measure them. Using a kitchen scale is a game changer for most recipes, and especially recipes that call for flour. Depending on how you scoop and level your flour, a cup could contain as little as 4 ½ ounces and as much as 8 ounces of flour. That is more than a rounding error and can really affect your result. Since you want to keep the texture of these dumplings from getting tough or heavy, weighing ensures you don't overdo the flour or any other ingredient.

A great gnocchi recipe to make at home

For every 2 people you want to serve you will need:

  • 100 grams 00 flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and finished dumplings
  • 250 grams of riced potato, cooled to room temperature, but not cold (boil your potatoes with the skins on for 30-40 minutes until very soft, peel as soon as you can handle them, then rice them into a bowl and let cool, uncovered until room temp)
  • 30 grams finely grated hard cheese (We used Grana Padano, but you can use Parmesan, pecorino, or Asiago—whatever you have. Think microplane grating, not box grater—you want this super fine)
  • The yolk of one large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Gnocchi dough: 

1. Pour the flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle.

2. Put the riced potatoes in the center of the well, then sprinkle the cheese, salt, and pepper all over the potatoes.

3. Make a small divot in the center of the potatoes and add the egg yolk. Sprinkle the nutmeg on top of the yolk.

4. Lightly flour your hands and begin to work the dough by starting with your hands on either side of the well, and sliding them together in a pressing motion, then doing the same in the other direction, scooping dough material as you go, but using a light touch. Once the dough starts to come together, after about 4-6 "presses", you can use more of a regular kneading action, but still keep a gentle touch—you don't want the mixture to build gluten.

5. Knead just until the dough comes together, then roll into a thick log and cut into 4 pieces.

6. Clean your work surface, and give it a light dusting of flour, then roll each piece into a snake about ¾ of an inch thick. Cut the snakes into pieces about an inch long, and dust generously with flour. You can leave them this way for rustic dumplings, or if you like the ones with the divot, you can press into them gently with a floured finger or roll on a textured board.

7. Set them aside in a single layer on a floured sheet pan to rest while you prepare the sauce and get your water boiling, or freeze in that single layer uncovered, and once frozen solid, store in a zip-top bag in the freezer. If you freeze them, cook straight from frozen.

Cooking gnocchi:

1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Put your gnocchi in a tamis (a drum sieve) or another kind of sieve and shake to remove excess flour, then add to the boiling water.

2. The gnocchi will float. When they are all floating, continue to boil for one minute, then test one for doneness. They will usually be done within 2 minutes of floating, depending on how large they are.

3. Strain and add to your chosen sauce.

Fresh tomato sauce recipe for gnocchi 

I loved this simple tomato sauce and have been making it over and over. They taught me two secrets to make a simple sauce sing. First, I learned to use a high-quality Italian DOP tomato passata, a smooth thick tomato puree that has really clean flavor and wonderful texture. You can get brands like Mutti easily here. (If you are substituting tomato sauce, you will need to reduce it by about 1/3 to get the same texture and intensity of tomato flavor.) Secondly, to grate my onion on a box grater instead of chopping, which means you get more onion flavor with less actual onion pieces or fibers, which keeps the sauce pretty smooth.

Again, per two people you want to serve:

  • 700 grams passata (this would be one bottle of Mutti passata)
  • 10 grams extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 grams grated white or yellow onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 large basil leaves

1. Heat the passata over medium-high heat until you start to see a little bubbling at the edge.

2. Add the olive oil and onion and stir, cooking about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

3. Stir in the basil leaves whole and turn heat to low. Hold on warm until your gnocchi or pasta are ready, add them to your sauce along with a splash of the cooking water, and return heat to medium just to finish bringing them together.

Gnocchi Pro Tip: If you want to make the gnocchi even more special, once they are blended with the sauce, transfer the portions to individual ramekins, top with chopped fresh mozzarella, and bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.