Follow our step-by-step guide and learn how to make little dumplings that are as light as air.

By Claire Sullivan
March 04, 2021
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If you're in the mood for comfort food, it's time to get acquainted with potato gnocchi. Similar to dumplings but most often treated like pasta, gnocchi is a dish that's simple to make from scratch, but achieving light-as-air results require a few secrets. Thats where we come in: We're sharing our tried-and-tested technique and recipe for potato gnocchi and the sensational creamy tomato sauce they were meant to be paired with.

Creamy Tomato Sauce
Credit: Chris Simpson

First, a little more about gnocchi. It seems they started out as Italian peasant food hundreds of years ago, and unlike many Italian foods, they are beloved all over the country rather than belonging to one region or city. While the ingredient list is minimal—just potatoes, ricotta, flour, and Parmesan—and the process straightforward, things can go awry resulting in gluey sinkers rather than fluffy pillows. But armed with this triple-tested recipe from our food editors, a perfectly comforting dish is in your future.

rice potatoes
Credit: Chris Simpson

Start by Baking and Ricing the Potatoes

Though many gnocchi recipes call for boiling potatoes, we bake ours instead. Start with russets, which we choose for their floury (not waxy) texture, and be sure to select potatoes that are all about the same size, which will ensure they all cook in the same amount of time. As for why we bake them, the answer is simple: Baking instead of the usual boiling prevents the potatoes from adding too much moisture to the gnocchi dough. Preheat your oven to 400 ̊, and prick your potatoes all over with a fork before placing them on the center rack and roasting until soft and easily pierced with a knife, about one hour.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, halve and scoop out insides, discarding skins. Pass through a ricer or food mill onto a baking sheet (this produces a lighter consistency than a masher or fork can); you should have about 2 1⁄2 cups. Let cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Potato-Ricotta Gnocchi
Credit: Chris Simpson

Roll and Cut the Dough

Using your hands, mound potatoes on sheet; make a well in center and add 1/4 cup of ricotta, which helps to keep the gnocchi fluffy. Sprinkle everything with salt, nutmeg, and flour. Working from outside edges in, incorporate flour and ricotta into potatoes to form a dough. Gently knead, adding more flour if needed, one tablespoon at a time, until dough is soft, smooth, and slightly tacky (but no longer sticky), about two minutes. To test dough, pinch a small piece off and roll it into a rope; if it doesn't hold together, knead a few more times. Transfer to a clean work surface and divide into six pieces, then roll each into a rope about 3/4 inch thick. Lightly dust ropes with flour, which will prevent sticking when cutting. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut each rope crosswise into 1⁄2-inch "pillows." Transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet.

We like the ease of making these dumplings without ridges, but if you prefer a lined look, roll each one gently across the tines of a fork after cutting. Want to enjoy your homemade gnocchi a little later? Then you'll be pleased to know that these dumplings are a make-ahead wonder. After forming your gnocchi, simply freeze the shaped pieces on a lightly floured baking sheet lined with parchment, then transfer them to a resealable plastic bag. They can be cooked straight from the freezer—it'll just take them an extra minute to rise to the top.

gnocchi in tomato sauce
Credit: Chris Simpson

Boil and Sauce

Now it's time to cook those beautiful homemade gnocchi. Heat your preferred sauce in a large skillet over medium-low. Meanwhile, cook the Potato-Ricotta Gnocchi in a large pot of generously salted boiling water until they puff up and float to top, about two minutes. Cook one minute more, then use a spider or large slotted spoon to transfer directly to skillet. Simmer, gently tossing a few times, until sauce evenly clings to gnocchi, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat; toss with Parmigiano-Reggiano and a few spoonfuls of pasta water (for silkiness). Season to taste and serve, topped with more Parmigiano and basil.

Making Our Creamy Tomato Sauce

With just a few basic ingredients—canned whole peeled tomatoes, butter, olive oil, garlic, and heavy cream—and 40 minutes of mostly hands off time, you'll have a simple but sublime Creamy Tomato Sauce. It can be made in advance, cooled completely, then refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days, or frozen for up to six months. It's perfect for the gnocchi but has many others uses, too.

But it's not the only option for pairing with these dumplings. "I love the coziness of our cream-kissed tomato sauce, says senior food editor Lauryn Tyrell, who created this recipe, "but I also like to serve gnocchi with brown butter, fresh marjoram, and red-pepper flakes; with crumbled sausage and Broccolini; or tossed with store-bought sauce in a casserole dish. I go for Rao's, then top it all with mozzarella and melt it under the broiler."

Food Styling by Judy Kim; Prop styling by Suzie Myers.

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