What is gnocchi?
Gnocchi is an Italian dish that refers to any kind of pasta made up of small, soft dough dumplings flavoured with sauce and various herbs. The recipe varies a lot by region, with the dumplings being made of either cornmeal, eggs, cheese, wheat flour, or potatoes. You can always use frozen, refrigerated, or dried gnocchi from your local supermarket, but for the best results, it’s generally advised that you make your own.
Best potatoes for gnocchi in Australia
The best kinds of potatoes for gnocchi are floury or all-purpose potatoes. They don’t have a lot of moisture and can hold their shape well even after rolling them into dough, which makes them well-suited for the compact ball-sized lumps that make the best gnocchi. The key to perfect gnocchi is to get a nutty, mashable potato that can still hold its shape after cooking, or your gnocchi will turn to mush.
The size of the potato doesn’t matter so much, as cooking will change a lot of its composition, size, and weight. Keep in mind that cooking gnocchi will take away a lot of the water content of your potatoes, so you’ll want to cook a lot of potatoes to make up for how much they’ll shrink while cooking. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a smaller serving than you’d expect.
Look out for these types in particular:
- Desiree potatoes
- Yukon Gold potatoes
- Creme Royale potatoes
Potatoes to avoid
These spuds are either waxy or starchy and will turn your gnocchi into a formless mess:
- Red Royale potatoes
- Kipfler potatoes
- Any kind of sweet potato
If you’re cooking gluten-free and vegan-friendly gnocchi, opt for an all-purpose potato like Royal Blue. According to Paolo Cardile from Sydney's On Ya Gnocchi, a good quality Royal Blue potato replaces eggs very easily, and they have a surprisingly light texture.
Tips for making perfect gnocchi
Making gnocchi is a delicate task. The best ingredients can only get you so far; every small action from the prepping, to the rolling, to the cooking, can spell the difference between delicate gnocchi that melts in your mouth or a lumpy broth that’s more like soup. Here are some tips that you can follow for perfect gnocchi every time:
Work the dough by hand: It’s tempting to leave the pressing and rolling to a machine, but that might turn your dough into goo. Machine and shapers also tear the dough instead of gently slicing through it, which can make the rolling process more difficult.
Boil, microwave, or bake: Floury potatoes are more forgiving of the different methods of cooking than starchy or waxy types. If you don’t have access to an oven, baking or microwaving the potatoes in their jackets works fine.
Cook then measure for flour: Potatoes lose a bit of weight and water while they’re cooking. Calculate how much flour you’ll need after you cook the potatoes.
Use low-protein flour: There’s nothing wrong with using your usual all purpose flour, but its high protein content might leave you with chewy gnocchi. If you want to get that soft and buttery texture, use one-third cake flour and two-thirds all purpose flour.
What other things do I need to keep in mind when picking potatoes?
Generally just getting the right kind of potato is a pretty good start! For the best results, choose freshly-harvested organic potatoes, or get first pick at the farmers’ market or your local supermarket. If you want to be specific about the kind of taste you want for your gnocchi, pick nuttier-tasting potatoes like Yukon Gold over Russet. Feel free to experiment!
Roll, cook, and serve
You can prepare gnocchi in a variety of ways, but picking the right potato to use is the first step to getting the best results. Pick floury potatoes and low-protein flour, and you’ll have an appetising dish that will have your mouth watering.
Some of our favourite gnocchi recipes: