Spotlight Series: All About Gnocchi
Gnocchi is more than just pasta, but an irresistibly airy, filling and versatile foundation to a number of quick and easy recipes. These light and pillowy soft dumplings were created in Italy and are loved by the entire world. As if pasta wasn’t comfort food enough, Gnocchi is THE ultimate comfort food.
Gnocchi are equal parts pasta and dumpling, the best of both worlds. The thimble-sized potato pillows are tender and satisfying, especially when dressed in sauce. Traditionally, gnocchi are made with potato and wheat flour, but they can also be made with semolina, pumpkin, cheese and more. This dumpling pasta is incredibly versatile, at home in a wide range of recipes.
DeLallo Gnocchi: Fast Facts
- Category: Dumpling pasta.
- Meaning: Knuckle or wooden knot.
- Cook Time: 3 to 4 minutes.
- Place of Origin: Italy.
- Main Ingredients: Potato, wheat flour.
- Alternative Names: Nioki (in some countries).
- Possible Substitutes: Orecchiette, Cavatelli or Shells.
What is (Potato) Gnocchi?
Gnocchi are a type of dumpling-style pasta popular in Italian cuisine. The dumplings can range in from the size of a champagne cork to smaller bean-shaped sizes, but most are roughly the size of a thimble. Most gnocchi have ridges or a bumpy shape to help catch sauces, while others have smooth sides. They are sold freshly made and refrigerated, frozen and shelf-stable in the pasta aisle.
What is Gnocchi Made Of?
The most popular type of gnocchi is potato gnocchi. The dough is made with potatoes that have been cooked and then riced, along with wheat flour, salt and water. Some gnocchi recipes also contain egg. Different varieties of gnocchi use different ingredients, such as ricotta cheese, cornmeal, semolina, spinach and more. Most are formed into little rounds or squares and given ridges to help capture sauces.
What Does Gnocchi Taste Like?
Gnocchi are savory with a delicate potato flavor. The addition of potatoes give this pasta more flavor than standard dried pasta. Still delicate and mild, gnocchi are neutral enough to pair nicely with a wide variety of sauces.
The Origins of Gnocchi and Its Brief History
An early form of gnocchi has likely existed since Roman times. The dish was made using semolina and eggs and came to resemble Gnocchi alla Romana (a dish of semolina porridge formed into rounds and baked). More pasta-like gnocchi has been served since the Renaissance or earlier, but the dish was originally made with ingredients like breadcrumbs and flour. Potatoes didn’t arrive in Italy until the 16th or 17th century, when Spanish explorers brought them back from South America. Soon after, potato gnocchi became a popular dish throughout the region and this pasta came to resemble the dish it does today.
Types of Gnocchi
There is a wide variety of gnocchi out there, from variations on potato gnocchi that add cheese, herbs or vegetables to gnocchi that contain no potato at all. Here are few of the most popular types of gnocchi:
Potato Gnocchi: Made with potatoes that have been cookes and riced, traditional potato gnocchi is the most popular type of gnocchi dish and what is found most commonly on restaurant menus and in stores. It is typically made in small, ridged pillow shapes and tossed with sauces before serving.
Gnocchi alla Romana: A much older dish, Gnocchi alla Romana is made with a semolina and egg porridge that is formed and cut into circles, then baked with Parmesan cheese. It is a hearty, rich dish that shares little in common visually with potato gnocchi.
Gnocchi Parisienne: Also known as Parisian gnocchi, this is a French-style gnocchi that is made with little pieces of choux pastry, the same dough used to make cream puffs. The dough is cooked and the eggs are beaten in until a thick dough forms. This gnocchi dough is piped directly into boiling water.
DeLallo Gnocchi Varieties You Can Buy
This is the most popular type of gnocchi and it is extremely versatile. Potato Gnocchi is shelf-stable, thimble-sized and ready in just 4 minutes.
This is a smaller, cuter version of the classic gnocchi. It is perfect for soups and mac and cheese recipes.
Making Homemade Gnocchi
Store-bought gnocchi is incredibly quick and convenient, but if you have the time, it’s easy and rewarding to make at home—no special equipment required!
For homemade gnocchi, begin by cooking whole russet potatoes. They can be boiled, microwaved or baked. Drain them well, then peel and rice the flesh. Combine riced potatoes with flour and salt, then add the eggs. Slowly incorporate the potato and flour into the egg, then knead until just combined.
Divide the dough into equal segments, then roll into long ropes. Cut the ropes into small dumplings, and, if desired, add ridges with a fork. Toss with flour, then cook them in boiling salted water until they float.
How to Cook Gnocchi
Like other pasta, the typical way to cook gnocchi is by boiling them. Still, that is not the only option. Gnocchi can also be pan-fried or cooked by adding them directly to soups.
Boil: When making fresh gnocchi, add them to salted boiling water. Continue boiling until they float to the top. Use a slotted spoon to drain them and add them directly to your sauce in a saucepan. Follow the instructions on the package when preparing store-bought gnocchi. Most require boiling for under 5 minutes.
Pan-Fry: Heat oil or butter (or a combination) in a frying pan over medium heat and add either fresh or shelf-stable gnocchi. Cook, tossing frequently, until the gnocchi are browned all over, 10 to 15 minutes. For this preparation, there is no need to pre-boil.
Add gnocchi to a soup or stew and let them simmer directly in the hot liquid until they float to the top. Another option is to toss them on a sheet pan and roast them with veggies until tender.
Ways to Use Gnocchi
Gnocchi is a versatile pasta. It can be sauced and served in typical pasta style or tossed with fresh veggies for a lighter dish. Gnocchi can be added to soups and stews, fried until crispy or roasted in the oven with meat and vegetables for a sheet pan dinner. They can also be used in pasta bakes and casseroles where they are topped with a blanket of melty cheeses. Potato gnocchi can be used in place of another type of pasta in pasta salad or mac and cheese.
Ways to Serve Gnocchi
Gnocchi is frequently tossed with sauce—a butter and sage sauce is a popular choice, but any sauce is a good choice. Whether you add it to soups, fry them in a pan, swap them for pasta or potatoes in salads or use them in pasta bakes, gnocchi is delicious for brunch, lunch or dinner.
Use gnocchi to make these easy recipes: Gnocchi Recipes
Best Sauces for Gnocchi
What to Eat with Gnocchi
Since gnocchi is fairly neutral in flavor, it pairs well with most anything. Strong and mild flavors work equally well, which is why gnocchi is just as often served with a butter sauce as it is with meaty or spicy sauces. Try pairing gnocchi with ingredients of different textures to really highlight the soft, pillowy texture of the dumplings. For example, serve up gnocchi with creamy sauces or over a fresh, crisp bed of lettuce.
If you don’t have gnocchi on-hand, you can swap it for other pastas with decent results. For recipes that call for the gnocchi to be tossed in sauce or added to broths or soups, you can swap in a thicker-style pasta, like Orecchiette or Shells. The flavor and texture won’t be quite the same, though. You will also need to adjust the cook time. For pan-fried and roasted recipes, we don’t recommend substituting the gnocchi.
How do I pronounce gnocchi?
Many pasta lovers pronounce gnocchi as NYOW-kee, but the typical Italian pronunciation is NYAW-kee. No matter how you pronounce it, the g in gnocchi is silent.
Is gnocchi a pasta or a potato dumpling?
Both! Gnocchi is a type of Italian pasta, but it is (in most cases) made using potatoes. Since it is not hollow or thinly shaped, is also a dumpling. Gnocchi is boiled, just like pasta and potato dumplings. While it is usually served like a pasta, gnocchi is also at-home in recipes that call for dumplings. Try swapping out gnocchi in your next batch of Chicken and Dumplings.
Can you overcook gnocchi?
Yes, gnocchi can be overcooked, resulting in less-than-desirable results. Overcooked gnocchi tends to be water-logged and squishy rather than light and tender. Follow the package instructions for store-bought gnocchi and only boil fresh gnocchi until it floats for the best texture.
Is gnocchi vegetarian?
Yes, gnocchi does not contain meat or meat products and is therefore inherently vegetarian. Note that it is sometimes served in sauces containing meat or in soups that use meat-based broths. Always check the packaging on store-bought gnocchi just in case.
Is gnocchi vegan?
Plain potato gnocchi tends to just have a few ingredients: potatoes, flour and salt. Many store-bought brands can be considered vegan, although they may be manufactured in a facility that uses non-vegan ingredients. However, some recipes contain egg. If you follow a vegan diet, check the ingredient list carefully and avoid ricotta gnocchi and sauces that contain meat, dairy or eggs.
Is all gnocchi gluten-free?
Most gnocchi are not gluten-free, since wheat flour is used in addition to potatoes to form the dough. It is possible to make gluten-free gnocchi using alternative flours. There are also many brands that sell gluten-free varieties like DeLallo’s Gluten-Free Gnocchi and Gluten-Free Mini Gnocchi that are made with rice flour, or try DeLallo Chickpea Gnocchi made with chickpeas.
Is gnocchi keto-friendly?
Most gnocchi is not considered keto-friendly, since it is made with grains (wheat flour) and starchy vegetables like potatoes that are discouraged on the keto diet. There are some recipes available that make gnocchi out of keto-friendly ingredients like cheese and almond flour. You can find store-bought brands that utilize cauliflower as the main ingredient too.
How do I store gnocchi in the fridge?
Uncooked or cooked, drained gnocchi can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Store uncooked, homemade gnocchi in a light dusting of flour to prevent the dumplings from sticking together. Store cooked gnocchi in a single layer or place between layers of parchment or waxed paper to help to keep them from clumping.
Can I freeze gnocchi?
Fresh gnocchi can be frozen for longer storage. There is no need to thaw before cooking. Homemade gnocchi freezes best if it dries out a bit first. Spread out the gnocchi on a floured, parchment-lined baking sheet and allow them to sit at room temperature for an hour or two. Move the baking sheet to the freezer and freeze until solid, about an hour. Transfer the frozen gnocchi to a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month. To cook, boil them from frozen. They may take a little longer to cook.
Store-bought, shelf-stable or refrigerated gnocchi can also be frozen. It is best to spread the gnocchi out on a lined baking sheet to freeze for an hour, and then transfer them to a container and freeze for up to 1 month. Cook from frozen.
What is the difference between gnocchi and Roman gnocchi?
Roman gnocchi is made by making a semolina porridge, cutting it into circles, and most often baking it with Parmesan cheese and butter to make a dish called Gnocchi alla Romana. Gnocchi are small dumpling pasta made with potato and flour, and are usually boiled and then tossed with sauce.
What is the difference between gnocchi and gnudi?
Gnudi and gnocchi are both Italian pasta dishes, but with distinct differences. Gnocchi are typically made with potato and flour to form a pasta dough that is rolled into long ropes, and then, cut into small dumplings before being boiled. Gnudi, which translates to “naked” in Italian, are named for their resemblance to the filling for ravioli, but without the actual pasta. They are typically larger than gnocchi and made of ricotta, eggs, sometimes spinach and less flour. They have a cheesier flavor and are more delicate and less toothsome in texture.
Is gnocchi better for you than pasta?
Gnocchi is made mainly with riced potatoes and some flour, as opposed to pasta that is made mostly with semolina flour. The potatoes do give gnocchi more of a nutritional value, like extra fiber, Vitamin C and potassium. Both gnocchi and standard pasta can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation.