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 little pillows are tender and satisfying, especially when bathed in sauce. Gnocchi are frequently made from potato and wheat flour but can also be made from standard pasta dough or with semolina, pumpkin, cheese, and more. The 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 or small 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 shape sizes, but most are roughly the size of a thimble. Most gnocchi have ridges or a bumpy shape to help catch sauce, 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 of cooked, mashed potatoes or potato flour, wheat flour, salt, and water, with some recipes also containing egg. Different varieties of gnocchi have different ingredients, such as ricotta cheese, cornmeal or semolina, spinach, and more. Most are formed into little rounds or squares and given ridges to help catch sauce.
What Does Gnocchi Taste Like?
Gnocchi have a pasta-like flavor with the mild taste of potatoes. Because of the inclusion of potatoes or potato flour, gnocchi tends to be a bit more flavorful than standard dried pasta while still being neutral enough to pair nicely with a wide variety of sauces.
The Origin 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 More pasta-like gnocchi has been served since the Renaissance or earlier, but the dish was originally made with ingredients like breadcrumbs and flour.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 the 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 cooked riced potatoes, potato gnocchi is the most popular type of gnocchi and what you’ll most commonly find on restaurant menus and in stores. It is typically made in small, ridged pillow shapes and tossed with sauce before serving.
Gnocchi alla Romana: A much older dish, gnocchi alla Romana is made up of a semolina and egg porridge that is formed and cut into circles, then baked with Parmesan cheese. It’s a hearty, rich dish that shares little in common visually with potato gnocchi.
Gnocchi parisienne: Also known as Parisian gnocchi, this is gnocchi the French way: made of little pieces of choux pastry, the same dough used to make cream puffs. The dough is cooked, and eggs are beaten in until a thick dough forms that can be piped directly into boiling water.
DeLallo Gnocchi Varieties You Can Buy
The most popular type of gnocchi and extremely versatile. The pasta are shelf-stable, thimble-sized, and cook up in just 4 minutes.
A smaller and cuter version of the classic that is perfect for soups and mac and cheese recipes.
Making Homemade Gnocchi at Home
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!
Start by cooking whole russet potatoes either by boiling, microwaving, or baking. Drain them well, then peel and rice the flesh. Combine with flour and salt, then add the eggs. Slowly incorporate the potato and flour into the egg, then knead just until you have a cohesive mixture.
Divide the dough into equal segments, then roll into 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. However, that’s not the only option—you can also pan-fry gnocchi or add it directly to soups.
Boil: When making fresh gnocchi, add them to salted boiling water and let them boil until they float. Use a slotted spoon or spider to drain and add them to sauce. Follow the instructions on the package when preparing store-bought gnocchi—most boil 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.
You can also add gnocchi to a soup or stew and let them simmer directly in the hot liquid until they float. Or 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, often topped with a blanket of melty cheese, or swapped in for 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—that’s why gnocchi is just as often served with a butter sauce as it is with meaty or spicy sauces. Try pairing it with dishes with a different texture to really highlight the pleasantly chewy texture of the dumplings. A creamy sauce or fresh, crisp salad, for example.
If you don’t have gnocchi handy, 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, and you will need to adjust the cook time. For pan-fried and roasted recipes, we don’t recommend substituting the gnocchi.
How do I pronounce gnocchi?
While many pasta lovers pronounce gnocchi as “no-kee,” the typical Italian pronunciation adds a little something extra: “nyoh-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 and, since it is not hollow or thinly shaped, is also a dumpling. Gnocchi is boiled, just like pasta and potato dumplings, and while it’s typically served more like a pasta, it is at home in recipes that typically call for dumplings, too. 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, and 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 typically used in addition to potatoes to form the dough. However, it is possible to make gluten-free gnocchi using alternative flours, and many brands sell gluten-free varieties, like DeLallo’s Gluten-Free Gnocchi and Gluten-Free Mini Gnocchi, made with rice flour and Chickpea Gnocchi.
Is gnocchi keto-friendly?
Most gnocchi is not considered keto-friendly since grains (wheat flour) and starchy vegetables like potatoes are discouraged. There are some recipes available that make gnocchi out of keto-friendly ingredients like cheese and almond flour, and you can find store-bought brands that utilize cauliflower as the main ingredient.
How do I store gnocchi in the fridge?
Uncooked or cooked, drained gnocchi can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. Store uncooked, homemade gnocchi dusted with flour to prevent the dumplings from sticking together. Try to store cooked gnocchi in a single layer, or place parchment or waxed paper between the layers, to help keep them from clumping.
Can I freeze gnocchi?
Fresh gnocchi can be frozen for longer storage—there’s 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 let 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 a month, boiling from frozen. They may take a little longer to cook.
Store-bought, shelf-stable, or refrigerated gnocchi can also be frozen. It’s best to spread the gnocchi out on a lined baking sheet to freeze for an hour, then transfer to a container and freeze for up to a 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 of flour and often potato, and are usually boiled and 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 flour, potato, and egg, rolled into logs, and cut into small dumplings before being boiled. Gnudi, which roughly 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 more delicate, less toothsome texture.
Is gnocchi better for you than pasta?
Gnocchi swaps some of the flour in other pastas for mashed potato or potato flour, giving it a bit more 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.