6 Tips to Take Your Homemade Gnocchi to the Next Level

First, try using ricotta instead of potatoes—it'll give you perfectly fluffy dumplings ready in just 20 minutes.

Gnocchi are one of the world's great comfort foods. There are dozens of kinds, a whole world of shapes and sizes. Some contain breadcrumbs; others cheese, herbs, or purees. The most pervasive form of gnocchi contains potato, but gnocchi can thrive without this common ingredient. How? By marrying flour with ricotta instead.

Ricotta gnocchi aren't new, but this old-school version has gained recent popularity, partly because they're easy. Boiling, peeling, and handling hot potatoes is the hardest part of making gnocchi; but with ricotta, you start with something cool, flavorful, and easy to handle. With just ricotta, flour, and 20 minutes; you can make the perfect ricotta gnocchi—so long as you follow these six simple steps.

01 of 06

Skip the egg.

First, gnocchi recipes usually call for an egg, but there's really no need. Egg helps ingredients bind together into a dough; but egg introduces extra moisture, and this makes for a dough that requires more flour, which isn't good. The less flour you use, the fluffier your final gnocchi. Skipping the egg lets you use less flour, making for a fluffier meal. (Don't worry—ricotta holds the dough together.)

02 of 06

Don't overdo with the flour.

Use as little flour as possible—even when working without an egg. You want the dough to be just a little, tiny-bit sticky. If you use too much flour, the dough loses its stickiness and you'll be on a highway to denser gnocchi.

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03 of 06

Nail the basic technique.

Making gnocchi comes with fantastic creative possibilities. When forming dough, you can build flavor layers with additions: cheese. spices, anything you can dream. But before conjuring next-level flavorings, get comfortable with a basic ricotta gnocchi recipe:

  • Whole milk ricotta (1 cup)
  • White flour (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • Grated Parmesan (1 tablespoon)
  • Generous sprinklings of salt and pepper

This one yields 2 servings.

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04 of 06

Use your hands for mixing.

Using your hands lets you feel the dough's stickiness. While using as little flour as possible, you need the dough to be firm enough to easily shape the dumplings. Using a bit too much flour the first time or two you make ricotta gnocchi is not a deal breaker. You'll get a feel for your flour threshold with experience.

05 of 06

Take your time when shaping.

Once you've massaged ingredients into a uniform ball, you're ready to shape your gnocchi. You don't have to knead the dough; simply lightly flour a work surface (for rolling dough) and a baking sheet or pair of plates (for holding gnocchi). Let's go:

  1. Tear a golf-ball-sized chunk from your dough.
  2. On the floured surface, roll it out into a rope ½-inch thick.
  3. Using a butter or pastry knife, cut the rope into pieces about ½- by ½- inch, and place them on your tray. (There's no need to mark the gnocchi with a fork to create furrows, but you can if you want.)
  4. Repeat with a second golf-ball-sized hunk, and again until your original mass of dough is gone, transformed into a tray of gnocchi ready for cooking.

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06 of 06

Don't let your water reach a full boil.

Cooking gnocchi only takes 2 or 3 minutes. Unlike pasta, gnocchi don't require fully boiling water. In fact, a light boil or strong simmer is preferable, making for a gentle environment; whereas a hard boil can break gnocchi apart. Also, cooking below a boil reduces cook time.

Once they've bobbed to the surface, give your gnocchi another 15 or 30 seconds before removing them with a slotted spoon. Transfer gnocchi directly into their sauce—be it pesto, marinara, butter and sage, whatever you've prepared. Thoroughly but gently, toss the gnocchi and let the sauce coat and permeate into them, keeping your comforting ricotta gnocchi intact and ready to enjoy.

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