Making Potato gnocchi always makes me nervous, I can never anticipate the outcome from the very fact that so many factors are inconsistent.
I remember that a few years back on one of my first dates with my future to be wife I decided to cook Gnocchi. I had little time and plain white potatoes which was left in my pantry nevertheless I was sure I could get it right, I was dead wrong. Because I was in a hurry I didn’t dry out the moisture in the potatoes as I should have and baked it on high temp just to make them soft and these were not starchy potatoes to begin with.
Somewhere along the way of making the Gnocchi dough, when I added more and more flour to my batter I realized this dish will not win any special awards. I made it anyway and it was a tough and heavy Gnocchi, well, she married me anyway but I learned my lesson right there, don’t mess with Gnocchi unless you’re 100% sure you can nail these little deceiving dumplings.
I had a few more glorious failures along the road but with experience I can truly say that this potato dough can be mastered and even though in every gnocchi recipe there are never absolute amounts we can have a few guidelines to improve our success rate dramatically, lets go over a few.
What kind of Potatoes?
The potatoes are one of the key factors in making the Potato gnocchi dough, there are many kind of potatoes we can use but the main thing we need to remember is that they need to be starchy. Having a starchy potato will save us from adding big amounts of flour hence making our Gnocchi lighter and fluffier. in North America the popular brand is Russet or the Idaho potatoes, in Australia the Sebago potato is popular, in Italy the Russet and the Bintje brands are the best sellers, my personal favorite is the Desiree.
one last thing about the potatoes, starchy potatoes evolve in time, an old potato from the same specie will have more starch and less water then a similar potato, which is very good for our Gnocchi. So don’t throw away the potatoes lying in the back of the basket for ages which started to grow little green life forms on the skin, use them for this dough its perfect.
Another key factor for the success of the little potato dumplings are the form of cooking, Boiling or baking is the question. I will be concise on this point, definitely baking, no other method of cooking will evaporate the water as efficient as in baking. No tricks, just throw the potatoes in the oven as is, no need to sprinkle with salt (some say it helps the water dehydration, it’s not), definitely don’t peel the potatoes, remember we want to dry them out so place them in 180°C/350°F and bake for about 60-90 minutes.
Potato gnocchi Flour
The flour proportion will determine the consistency of the Potato gnocchi, too much flour and they will be dry and dense, use less flour then the dough needs will end up in a dough that will not hold it together in the hot water or pan and will break apart fast, we need to find the minimum amount of flour needed in order to make the fluffy airy gnocchi and that’s all about experiencing with this potato dough for a few times.
Potato gnocchi secret formula
In general from many times of making Gnocchi I came out with the following formula
In general from many times of making Gnocchi I came out with the following formula, flour to potato ratio should be 1/8 flour to potatoes for example for 1 pound/16oz (450 grams) of potatoes there is 2 oz (56 grams) of flour. it works however potatoes vary and starch levels vary so take this equation and add or remove flour as you go, how much is needed? until you feel a firm dough that can be shaped and will not be too sticky. from what I saw in various recipes on the net and in books, the amount of flour is exaggerated by far more than the dough needs, some to a ridiculous extent of flour amount.
kind of flour I use is “00”flour, I find it to be absorbed in the dough better and creates a more silky and smooth Gnocchi but all purpose flour is good as well and I had great gnocchi with regular flour so don’t go overboard in getting a “00” flour, just bear in mind there is no single Italian recipe that deems for this kind of flour, they all refer to a regular white flour so you’re in a good group if you use a plain one.
What about the Eggs? that’s good question, eggs are an additional glue to the dough and gives it elasticity and chewiness, but again we need to be careful with the amounts as well, too many eggs will moisten our dough to the point we will need higher flour amount, its all about walking on a thin line. I’m using 2 eggs for every 3 pounds (1.3 Kilo) of uncooked potatoes, if using less you can play with it and use 1 full egg and 1 yolk, just go with this general guideline and you’ll be fine.
OK, let’s make them
The workflow is pretty strict, as soon as the potatoes come out of the oven we skin them ( wait 10 minutes not to burn your fingers and for the egg not to cook in the batter) but the dough needs to be warm, place them in the potato masher, add some flour and eggs knead as little as possible just to the point the dough is forming, we don’t want to overwork the dough or for it do develop gluten. So add some more flour and continue kneading gently this way until the dough is shaping up.
Shaping the Potato gnocchi is optional, traditional shape is done with ridges on the little dumplings, it’s made either with a fork or with a small wooden paddle called rigagnocchi. the idea behind the ridges is to create extra marks on the Potato gnocchi in which the sauce can cling to so you will have a larger amount of sauce pet each bite. personally, I prefer my Gnocchi natural without the markings from the reason that we have to pull some pressure in order to create the ridges which makes the Gnocchi denser and less light as I prefer, and of course its extra work …
Potato gnocchi dough has best consistency when fresh but it can be stored in the fridge warped with a plastic wrap up to one night, again if eaten on the spot its way more light and airy.