Edible Italian clouds

I was able to wear a short sleeve shirt today without turning blue. It was bittersweet, however, because it made me realize that I’ve been remiss in blogging lately. Time does fly, but the truth is I started taking grad classes this semester and have literally been surviving off of cereal and my frozen batches of pastitsio that were supposedly reserved for “emergencies”. The pastitsio entries for A Taste of the Mediterranean were always a treat to read and an excuse for me to take a break from studying. So, to those who partook in lowering my gpa preserving my sanity, thank you. I’m happy to announce that the winner for February’s ATOM challenge is Joie de Vivre with her Lamb Pastitsio post! Make sure to check out all the creative pastitsio entries that were submitted, here.

This month we’re featuring Italy with Francesco from The Food Traveller. When I e-mailed Francesco to ask him what he wanted to prepare for ATOM, his heart was set on gnocchi (neo-ki). Last Sunday to prepare for the contest, I set aside some time in the afternoon, put on my nonna apron and cranked out a few hundred of these soft cloud-like Italian dumplings. It was beautiful.

mise en place

Before I start raving about this Italian pasta/dumpling, I need to make a confession. Although I’m not proud of it, a few years ago I fell into the temptation of cooking store-bought “gnocchi”, if you could even call them that. The stuff that’s sold in the vacuum-sealed packages is often a dense, starchy imitation of the traditional, billowy pieces of Italian heaven. Nothing more than an impostor.

As you can tell from the mise en place, the ingredients for this dish couldn’t be simpler. Ingredients that I’ll venture to say a good 80% of people (85% of foodies) already have on hand.

the well method

If you try googling for a gnocchi recipe, you’ll find that everyone pretty much has their own version. You’ll find some that boil the potatoes, a few that bake, some will call for eggs, others will use ricotta – it all depends on who taught them to make their recipe. You’ll often notice this trend in Italian recipes depending on what was available in the different regions.

The recipe that I use is one that I developed after trying different approaches to making gnocchi. This one boils the potatoes in the beginning, finishes them off in the oven and binds everything using an egg, and no ricotta. The reason why I boil and bake is because boiling the potatoes ensures that they do not dry out in the oven. I then finish them off in the oven for the opposite reason – to make sure that any excess moister gets evaporated. Once they come out of the oven, I peel and mash them to make something similar in texture to potato crumbles. If you have a food mill or a ricer you could use that to make sure you don’t over-mash the potatoes. Of course Italian grandmothers never needed these fancy gadgets to prepare their gnocchi; for them a fork and some old fashioned care was all they needed. Once you get the potatoes mashed you’ll want to combine them gently with the egg and the flour to form the dough, making sure to never over-knead the mix.  

my kind of treasure

The good thing about these dumplings is that they freeze extremely well and still taste infinitely better than any of the stuff you’ll pull from off the shelf. I doubled my recipe and froze individual-sized portions to last me the entire month, experimenting with different sauce ideas. The sauce is why it is important to create the ridges on the gnocchi – not only will the gnocchi look more authentic/prettier, but they will also have more surface area to hold on to the sauce. 

I can’t wait to see all the variations of gnocchi for A Taste of the Mediterranean – experiment with different doughs, sauces, presentations and submit your entry by March 31st for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to igourmet!

Potato Gnocchi

yields approx 6-8 servings


  • 2 lbs potatoes, russet
  • 1 scant cup of flour
  • 1 egg
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Boil your potatoes (with the skin on) for 30 minutes or until slightly undercooked. If you poke one with a sharp knife it should still offer some resistance. 
  2. Transfer the potatoes to a 400 degree oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. While the potatoes are still hot, peel them and mash them with a ricer, food mill or a fork (whatever you have on hand).
  4. Let the mashed potatoes cool.
  5. Beat the egg.
  6. Create a well by layering the potatoes with 3/4 cup of the flour and the egg. 
  7. Start kneading the dough slowly and softly incorporating more flour as you need it. You’re looking for a soft dough that is still still slightly moist, but not sticky or tacky.
  8. Cut the dough into four pieces and start by rolling the wedges into 1/4 in. diameter snakes. 
  9. Slice every half inch and roll each gnocchi over the back of a fork to create ridges.
  10. Set aside on a sheet tray until ready to boil.

note: To make sure the gnocchi remain light and fluffy try your best not to overwork the dough by kneading it gently. To freeze the gnocchi for later, freeze them first in a large sheet tray first for about 5 hours then transfer them to individual zip-lock bags for convenience.


15 thoughts on “Edible Italian clouds

  1. Wonderful! I can’t wait for this one! I have a ricotta version somewhere. And congratulations to joie de Vivre for their winning entry!

  2. Congrats to Joie de Vivre for winning the contest!!!! She did a great job :D.

    I have never tried to make my own gnocchi… but now I will. Since I’m one of the judges, I will not participate in the event but I will post about it with some links in it, ok?

    Now you will have some frozen gnocchis for emergency situations in your freezer, Tony ;D

  3. I haven’t ever made gnocchi yet, but I’ve definitely been meaning to… Perhaps this will give me a good excuse to finally try!

  4. Mmmm…this looks wonderful!

    Can I ask what the baguette in the ingredients is for? I didn’t see it used in the recipe – are you supposed to serve gnocchi with baguette? Along that lines, what’s the standard way to serve gnocchi? With a tomato sauce? Or with something more plain? (Sorry for the many questions; I am not particularly familiar with “real” Italian food).

  5. silverkeys – I also wonder what the baguette is for !!!

    As for serving gnocchi, you can use almost anything. Here is some examples (without recipes)

    – gnocchi with melted butter and cheese finished off the grill
    – gnocchi in tomato sauce with mozzarelle and parmesan finished off in the oven
    – gnocchi with pesto
    – ricotta gnocchi with a pisstacchio pesto
    – gnocchi made with chestnut flour with mushroom sauce
    – gnocchi made with squash with gorgonzola
    – fried gnocchi served with a piquant thai sauce
    – gnocchi with a puree of broccoli and white fish
    – gnocchi made with celeriac and garlic in a escargot ragout
    – gnocchi made with potato and cod in a lemon white sauce finished under the grill

    ….. if you need help, suggestion or anything simply contact me. That’s my job this time 😉



  6. I recently tried making gnocchi for the first at home, as I had eaten lovely gnocchi at restaurants and in Italy and once you have done that trying those packed ones from the supermarket is a shock. But, I was disappointed. I think I used too much flour. Yours sounds wonderful! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. I have a question about your gnocchi. Once you freeze and then you want to cook one of the individual packets…..do you let them defrost first or cook immediately from the frozen state. My Mom tried to cook from the frozen state and the fell apart ,,,that’s why I am asking. However she does not add egg to her mixture, she says that makes them a little harder. She likes them light and soft…LOL…Anyway what do you think??

  8. I wanted to add on here I have actually used a good garlic and chive mashed potatoes and mixed them with the flour and some horseradish. Froze them and deep fried them. They get nice and golden brown with an incredible soft inside. I love them all ways but to fry them creates a really nice crust.

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