It’s easy being green: gnocchi with pesto

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Have you ever enjoyed gnocchi?

If not, get ready for a real treat.

These fat little twists of potato pasta are a kinder, gentler example of the genre. Rather than cooking up like regular pasta – al dente, with a slight “bite” – gnocchi are soft as a pillow. Their slightly indented undersides catch and hold your favorite sauce – marinara, pesto, or a simple mix of olive oil, parsley, and garlic.

They’re wonderful baked in a casserole, too, mixed with cream and showered with Parmesan.

Looking at homemade gnocchi – truth be told, looking at ANY homemade pasta – you might say, “No way, that’s too much effort. I’ll buy it at the store.”

But gnocchi, serendipitously, are extremely easy to make – and often difficult to find at the supermarket. Making your own gnocchi is both desirable, and easy. Just follow the steps below, and you’ll soon be enjoying tasty homemade gnocchi regularly.

Oh, and by the way: if you don’t know how to pronounce  the word gnocchi, think back to being a kid and making fun of someone on the playground:

Nyah nyah nyah!

Or, better, yet, Curly from the Three Stooges: Nyuk nyuk nyuk…

It’s NYAWK-ee.

OK, first step: you need about 2 cups (14 ounces) mashed potatoes, or 14 ounces of riced potatoes (baked potato put through a potato ricer).

We made gnocchi using both fresh and instant potatoes. To use fresh, we baked 2 medium-large baking potatoes (8 to 10 ounces each), then peeled them and put them through a potato ricer. For instant, we used 1 1/3 cups (3 ounces) instant potato flakes mixed with 1 1/3 cups boiling water to yield a scant 2 cups lightly packed mashed potatoes. The difference in the gnocchi’s flavor was indiscernible; so go ahead and use instant potatoes if you like.

The point is, you want about 14 ounces of mashed or riced potato, however you get there.

Put the potatoes in a bowl, and add 2 large eggs and 1 teaspoon salt.

Stir to combine.

Add 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.

Stir to combine. The mixture will look dry at first…

…but will eventually come together into a soft dough.

Prepare a clean work surface, or use a silicone rolling mat. Lightly grease the mat or your work surface. Knead the dough a few times to smooth it out, then divide it into eight pieces.

Cover four of the pieces, and set them aside.

Shape the other four pieces into rough balls.

Roll each piece into a long rope about the width of your thumb.

They’ll be about 20” to 24” long.

Use a pair of scissors to snip the ropes into ½” to ¾” pieces.

The pieces will stick together a bit.

That’s OK; just pull them apart.

Place the pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed paper lightly coated with flour.

Next, the gnocchi board. This wooden board is going to give your gnocchi their distinctive shape.

Place the bottom of the board on a firm surface, tilt it at about a 45° angle, and place one piece of dough on the board.

Use your thumb to roll it along the board away from you, for about ¾”.

It’ll curl up over your thumb, forming a little pocket.

The pocket’s on the underside.

Check out how fast and easy this is, once you get the hang of it:

Toss the finished gnocchi onto the prepared parchment.

Repeat with all the pieces of dough, placing them back onto the flour-dusted parchment, and giving the pan an occasional shake to roll the shaped gnocchi around in the flour.

Can you make gnocchi without a board?

Yes, though not quite as successfully. The gnocchi on the right were shaped with a board; on the left, with the back of a fork. I found the fork was slippery, and the gnocchi tended to wobble around and slide off, rather than forming a nice, neat pocket.

This is the pocket I’ve been talking about. So nice for collecting and holding sauce!

Was this a lot of work?

Not really; it took me about 15 minutes, maybe, to make about 200 gnocchi. And it was certainly easy.

Once all the gnocchi are shaped, cook them right away, or dust with flour, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for up to several hours. You can also wrap them tightly (in a single layer), and freeze for up to several months.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a large, wide pot of water to a boil; a deep sauté pan works well. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water.

Drop as many gnocchi into the boiling water as will fit without crowding; this should be about half the recipe, if you have a 12” wide pan.

Cook the gnocchi for about 4 minutes; they’ll take about 2 minutes to float to the surface of the water, and should cook for about 2 minutes once they’ve surfaced.

Remove the gnocchi from the water with a strainer or slotted spoon; or turn out into a colander.

If you’re not going to serve immediately, toss with a bit of olive oil, cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To reheat, dip in boiling water for about 20 seconds.

Just before you cook the gnocchi, prepare your sauce.

This is pesto, made with Italian flat-leaf parsley instead of basil.

Why parsley? It’s much less expensive; and it stays bright green for a long time, unlike basil pesto, which darkens quickly.

Now, what I’m showing here is a mistake. I put the pesto in the bowl, then added the gnocchi. I should have done it the other way around: put the gnocchi in the bowl, then stir in pesto until the gnocchi are coated with as much as you like.

The pesto recipe makes way more than enough for this recipe of gnocchi; just use the remainder as a spread for crostini; thin with a bit of olive oil to make salad dressing; spoon over cooked vegetables, or freeze it for another batch of gnocchi.

Spoon the gnocchi into a serving dish, and top with coarsely shredded Parmesan, if desired.

These dishes are small, so I used several; they made nice individual servings.

Pillow-soft, lightly glazed with garlicky pesto, garnished with Parmesan… Are you ready to move beyond spaghetti and meatballs? Give gnocchi a try.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Potato Gnocchi with Parsley Pesto.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. mdeatherage

    I don’t bother peeling cooked potatoes before ricing them. I just cut them in half (or in thirds) crosswise, put the flat surface in the bottom of the ricer, and squeeze. The potato squeezes out and the peel is left to pick out.

    (This may not work as well with ricers that have larger hoppers without flat surfaces, but mine has a cylindrical hopper with a flat ricing plate, and it works just spiffily. If that’s an adverb.)

    Thanks for the feedback. And, as an English major and member in good standing of POEM (professional organizaiton of English majors), I like spiffily VERY much indeed! :) PJH

    Reply
  2. empressqueenb

    Can these be made with a gluten free flour? Has anyone out there tried it? I realize they will probably have a different taste, but will it affect the texture? Thanks.

    Haven’t tried it, sorry. Seems like they SHOULD work, as the flour isn’t really adding much structure… maybe include 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum? PJH

    Reply
  3. Cindy Leigh

    Wow, those look great!
    I recently saw a chef making gnocchi on one of the food channels. He put the dough in a piping bag cut large at the Ned, and simultaneously squeezed the bag while slicing off the gnocchi as the came out the bag, over the pot of boiling water. Super fast. But they obviously didn’t have the lines and curvature that yours do. Yours look better!

    Yeah, I guess it’s like a fast-food burger vs. one hand-shaped and grilled on the deck and nestled in a home-baked roll… They’re both hamburgers, but there the resemblance ends! PJH

    Reply
  4. jen

    I appreciate your encouragement. I’ve had several gnocchi failures so look forward to giving this recipe a try. Those casserole dishes are ridiculously cute–where did you find them?

    Jen, I’ve made these gnocchi a lot – they’re pretty much never-fail… lovely and soft and tasty. The polka-dot bakers we sell here online. They’re cheerful, for sure! :) PJH

    Reply
  5. "KAF support"

    I ran the gnocchi recipe through Weight Watchers Recipe builder, and if you divide into 8 servings, it’s only 5 points. That doesn’t include the sauce, so you can top with whatever you like.

    I adore gnocchi for breakfast, it’s a hearty way to start the day. Thanks PJ!

    ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. fran16250

    What timing! I have a dear friend who is have a gnocchi party. She is making a big pot of sauce and all the guests are making gnocchi. I have been a little nervous about this as I have never made them before. Now that I have a tutorial I will give them a try before the party so I can get a little practice. My husband says he doesn’t like them but I’ll bet he’s never had homemade. I’ve seen these boards but I thought they were for making butter curls. Now I know!

    Reply
  7. "Paul from Ohio"

    MJ your post answered my very question – how many WW’s ‘points’! Thanks PJ, looks like a keeper recipe. Let’s see, now I need to buy the gnocchi board. Would probably make and freeze to use in smaller servings. Pesto sauce is thisclose since the Pine Nuts and Basil are ‘in-the-house’!!!!!!

    Reply
  8. milkwithknives

    Oh, yay! My mom and I were JUST talking about trying to make homemade gnocchi this past weekend! We thought they’d be good in soup. Now I’ll have to tell her about this lesson and arrange a gnocchi party. Would you say this recipe would do okay with other kinds of potatoes? Yams or red potatoes, or maybe half and half with the baking potatoes?

    Also, I’m going to start saying “spiffily.”

    Not sure about the other potatoes, though I’d think they would be fine – you might have to adjust the amount of flour to make dough the right consistency. And – wonder if the OED will pick up on this cool new word? :) PJH

    Reply
  9. mikjoy2

    Hi PJ,

    I have been making gnocchi for years. I never knew there was a gnocchi board!!! I have always used the back of a fork and it’s okay as long as you dip the fork in flour after rolling a few otherwise the gnocchi stick. So as I get ready to place a new order, the gnocchi board will be added to my list. Just when I think I have everything I could possibly need, KA comes up with something else I just have to have.

    Thanks for the great recipes and the great products.

    Joyce

    Reply
  10. gaa

    PJ-
    I have always been daunted by what appeared to be a complex and time-consuming undertaking to make gnocchi but no more!!! My new mantra is if PJ (or Mary Jane or any of the wonderful people in the KAF test kitchen) says it can be done, I can do it!! Your step by step photos on numerous subjects have helped me with my baking more than you know. I will definitely try these (just went on line an got a gnocchi board) but I have a substitution question for you. Can you use white whole wheat flour for part or all of the AP flour? (In my house, we are trying to incorporate whole grains creatively whereever we can). Thanks for all you do (and have done) to elevate the level of my skill in the kitchen (my husband ESPECIALLY thanks you!!)

    What a great experiment! As with other recipes where you are trying to replace some all purpose flour with white whole wheat, start small – 25%of the all purpose flour with white whole wheat. After this is completed, decide if the finished product meets your taste/texture expections. If so, you can increase the amount of white whole wheat in future batches until you reach your desired product. We’d love to hear about your action research! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  11. maduckie

    “jen Says:
    I appreciate your encouragement. I’ve had several gnocchi failures so look forward to giving this recipe a try.”

    My Italian Aunt (an awesome chef) told me to start a pot of boiling water before shaping the gnocci. form one or two and cook them. If they dissolve, add a sprinkle of flour and
    try again.
    ~Inez
    Thanks for sharing that great tip Inez. It’s kind of like baking a test cookie to see if the batch is right. Terrific!
    ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. Margy

    This is for Fran–you’re right, the gnocchi board is also a butter board. You use 2 of them, put a lump of cold butter between then, and roll the lump to make a decorative ridged butter ball– fancy butter for special occasions! I have tomato gravy and pesto in the freezer calling me to make this recipe! Guess I’ll use a fork to shape them until I can get a board.

    Reply
  13. annimcclintock

    Yum.. this looks absolutely delish! Would gnocchi au gratin work? Just seems like the creamy, cheesey sauce would go great. Worried that they’d over cook in the oven after being cooked in the pot. Any thoughts?

    I think they’d be fine. Maybe cook them less in the water? Or, if the sauce is wet enough, don’t cook them at all in the water, and let them cook through entirely in the sauce, as the dish bakes? PJH

    Reply
  14. mdeatherage

    As it turns out, Merriam-Webster already lists “spiffily,” complete with spoken pronunciation. :-)

    To stay more on topic: I’m skeptical of gnocchi for a few reasons. First, I have relatively small counter space even though my kitchen is good sized; it’s hard to find room for the full size silicone rolling mat, which I have. But since I also don’t have a dishwasher, I find the mat difficult to clean and dry unless I hang it over the shower rod. Plus despite the relatively short time, 15 minutes spent shaping pasta would be pretty hard on my back (my counters are regulation height but I’m a bit taller).

    But it does look so good. I’m torn…

    I see your point… how about a half recipe, putting them in a floured 9″ x 13″ pan? Less time standing, and still gives you a nice meal for 2-3 people… PJH

    Reply
  15. mdeatherage

    (Oh, dang, forgot to add this) If you use potatoes other than baking (russet) potatoes, you’ll probably need more starch to hold them together, like PJ said. If you get into sweet potatoes and other non-white potatoes, you’ll probably need significantly more flour as they have very little starch compared to russets.

    In descending order of starch, your potato list is russets, yukon golds, blue/purple peruvian potatoes, white rose, red bliss, sweet potatoes. I think. The further down this list you go, the more flour you’ll need. If you do test gnocchi and think they’re getting tough and not tender, try some cornstarch instead of some of your extra flour.

    Suddenly I’m intrigued by the idea of purple gnocchi in a green pesto, maybe with a tomato and fried egg? That’d be one colorful plate!

    Thanks so much for all this valuable information! Much appreciated… PJH

    Reply
  16. Charlene S.

    I have been making gnocchi for years and your version is better than an Italian grandmother showing you how! (Took me years to get it right all by myself :( Traditionally, you can serve potato gnocchi with a light marinara sauce, pesto or even with a simple sage and butter sauce (just fresh sage leaves sauteed in butter a bit– just toss cooked gnocchi in it to coat.) You can also add and melt a bit of cheese over it in sort of a buttery cloak– called “drooling gnocchi” in Italian dialect! Thanks for the great lesson…and next time, for variety, add ricotta instead of potatoes– super YUMMY!

    Charlene, thanks for the affirmation = much appreciated! I tore a recipe for ricotta gnocchi out of a magazine recently – guess I’d better try it. Maybe make some “drooling gnocchi…” PJH

    Reply
  17. lyna

    There was an article in The Wall Street Journal January 29, “New-World Gnocchi” by Katy McLaughlin, subtitled “A food writer’s quest to master a South American tradition–without the back break.”
    Funny story and family recipe if you care to look it up. (Tried to cut-and-paste the link but it wouldn’t take, sorry)

    Reply
  18. superreader

    Wonderful post, PJ- especially the rolling technique movie! It’s great to be reminded that there’s lots more to do with flour than baking bread! :^) Also that other herbs can be made into luscious pesto!

    - For GF gnocchi I’d avoid the gums- they attract so much moisture & are so gummy the texture will be too heavy. We’ve had the best result with a starchy GF flour mix & the recipes from _The Gluten Free Italian Cookbook_ by Mary Capone. It includes both potato & spinach-ricotta versions along with other traditional Italian favorites like pastas, tiramisù, biscotti and more.

    Reply
  19. me

    hi, this looks so delicious. in the text, you link to a pesto made w/ walnuts (or pine nuts). the recipe for the gnocchi w/ parsley pesto has no nuts. did you use the latter recipe? (Is the pesto that includes nuts too heavy/oily for the gnocchi?)

    i really like some of the ideas in the comments too.
    i always assumed that gnocchi were really time-consuming to make. now i am losing my excuses………

    Hi – Thanks for catching that mistake – I actually did use walnuts in the parsley pesto. They add some nice texture and flavor. And – gnocchi DO look time-consuming, but as you can see from the video, they actually go pretty fast if you have a board. And they’re just the most comforting comfort food out there, in my book… PJH

    Reply
  20. fran16250

    To: mdeatherage, as for being tall with back problems I can relate; I have feet troubles too. My husband has built all of our counters higher than the standard height, but even still I can’t stand for too long either. Whenever I have any shaping to do I will sit at the kitchen table to do it. It saves the back and the feet so I can continue to make the things we love.

    A question I have is can you use soft wheat “00″ flour for making gnocchi? I happen to have a small bag. I think it is used for pasta. What else can I use it for?

    You can also use the Italian Style “00″ Flour in pizza dough, focaccia, bread sticks, grissini or crackers. Happy baking! – kelsey

    And yes, you should be able to use it in gnocchi, too – you may need to use a bit more, due to its lower protein content/moisture absorption. Play it be ear… er, eye. :) PJH

    Reply
  21. vel

    I’ll have to try these. Every time I’ve had gnocchi, they’ve reminded me of little nasty erasers. Tough, chewy and generally unpleasant. Not “pillowy” in the least.

    Reply
  22. fran16250

    PJ,
    with a lower protein content in the “00″ should I add some vital wheat gluten when using it for pizza dough or bread sticks? I seem to recall it being called for in a recipe for crackers and “sandy” type cookies. In this case I would think it is used more for a crispy texture so the protein content wouldn’t be so important.

    Fran, it makes nice pizza dough and bread sticks as is. It doesn’t make a hugely high-rising, thick pizza crust, or big, fat, doughy bread sticks; more a thin crust, or crisp grissini. Best to use a higher-protein flour if you want thicker, chewier crusts or bread sticks – though I imagine you could add vital wheat gluten, if you’re simply looking to use up your Italian flour… Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  23. maria

    When I was a kid we used to eat gnocchi a lot.I didn’t know then their fancy Italian name-just a polish one.They are terrific with beef stew.They have to be cooked first and added to a dish when serving stew.Try this one-it’s very tasty!

    Sounds like a delicious addition to stew, Maria – thanks! PJH

    Reply
  24. gaa

    Made these yesterday for dinner and they were easy and delicious!! And with Lent coming up, they will make a wonderful meatless meal for Fridays! Thank you PJ and KAF!

    Reply
  25. "Holly S"

    Fabulous share!
    I made the gnocchi over the weekend. I have never made it, served it or eaten it. But it looked so good so I went out and got a board – yes hubby it is a vital kitchen tool – then my son and I proceeded.
    I baked my potatoes and then scooped out the inside. I used my food mill and the dough came out very nice. I think the hardest part of making gnocchi was rolling it into a rope. Not enough flour and it stuck to the surface and too much flour and it would slide rather than roll. But we persevered! It was well worth the effort. Thanks!

    Holly, now that you’ve got the routine down, I’m sure next time will be easier. Congratulations! PJH

    Reply
  26. katsmeow

    I tried this last night for my husband and friends and it worked great! I bought the board at a small kitchen gourmet shop and after a few off-kilter looking pieces I got the hang of it and the rest were really easy to do. Everyone was so impressed! Thanks for all the great step by step pictures they REALLY helped!

    Yes, once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty fast, isn’t it? And they’re just SO soft and… comforting. :) PJH

    Reply
  27. Kaco

    After living in Italy last year, I found it quite common to serve gnocchi in the ‘nugget’ form, without using a board/fork to make into shape, even easier. Haven’t seen parsley as a base for pesto, and interesting that you have problems with it browning even with a heavy olive oil based sauce. Also, try red pesto (sundried tomato base) if you haven’t! http://kaco1.tumblr.com/post/3991749210/pesto

    Yes, I always have trouble with basil-based pesto turning brown – though never parsley. I’ll have to try the sun-dried tomato version – sounds like a tapenade, eh? Thanks for the tips- PJH

    Reply
  28. stevend

    I must say that without a uni tasker like a gnoochi board my experience with a small fork worked rather well for the first time without any slipping or fuss. I made up a batch of these potato gnocchi yesterday and froze them for a future date so I can’t report anything as to how they turn out cooked but one of the planned dinners already on the calendar for this next week might have to be replaced. Very easy to make. Thanks for the recipe.

    When you get around to cooking them – enjoy! If you like cheese, you might try them with this Gorgonzola cheese sauce recipe… PJH

    Reply
  29. mgsh

    I made the potato gnocchi only from the recipe for gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Followed the recipe and used the products recommended. Turned out perfect and were easy and fun to make. Can the gnocchi recipe be doubled or tripled? My husband and I am ate the whole thing. Want to try it for company.

    Absolutely, gnocchi can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled… if you’ve got a crowd coming, go for it! Glad you enjoyed them – PJH

    Reply
  30. emilierichards

    Thanks for the blog and video. Made it exactly as you suggested with my KA gnocchi board, but it was clear that after I mashed my “Idaho” potatoes, that was WAY too much flour. I ended up using about 1 3/8 cups and the gnocchi held together and were light and delicious. So I’d suggest cooks be careful as the add and not put more in than the recipe actually needs for a smooth, easy to work with dough.

    Thanks for the tip, Emilie – glad they came out well for you with the adjustment… PJH

    Reply
  31. serenavanessa

    Loved (!!!!) the recipe and using the board was so wonderful! Question with regard to freezing: When freezing you say to wrap in a single layer. I’m assuming this is the single layer on the cookie sheet, can you confirm? After I freeze them can they then be transferred into a larger zip lock type bag? When cooking from a frozen state, can I throw them in the pot straight from the freezer? How should the cooking time be modified? Thanks!

    Yes, single layer on the baking sheet. And yes, once frozen they can be bagged. Yes, throw them right into the water frozen. When they float, take one out and see if it’s the texture you like; if not, continue to simmer. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  32. Jen

    I love this recipe and am planning to make homemade gnocchi this weekend. I have read a couple different recipes and am wondering why you choose to bake the potatoes instead of boiling them. Will the potatoes be too moist if I boil them instead of baking them? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Most likely, yes. Most recipes recommend a baking potato as they tend to be drier and flesh a little firmer Enjoy! Elisabeth@KAF

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