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Make fluffy gnocchi like an Italian nonna

Put peeled baked potatoes through a food mill; roll dough into a rope; press ½-inch pieces of dough along the tines of a fork to make gnocchi’s ridges.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe

Put peeled baked potatoes through a food mill; roll dough into a rope; press ½-inch pieces of dough along the tines of a fork to make gnocchi’s ridges.

Divine gnocchi can be shaped from just three ingredients: potatoes, flour, and salt. And though most recipes for these dumplings — common all over Italy — also use an egg, gnocchi aren’t as light when you beat in that fourth ingredient. Omitting the egg is the first step toward airy, ethereal gnocchi, which are the easiest pasta to make well at home.

For the fluffiest gnocchi, use as little flour as possible. Taking a page from the cookbooks of medieval Italian pasta makers, these gnocchi are shaped from eggless dough. No egg means less liquid to sop up flour. And if you begin with baked (rather than boiled) potatoes, you’ll have even less moisture, which adds to the richness.

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Gnocchi are best with a hefty sauce, like an ornate, creamy mixture of chopped walnuts and olive oil to complement the velvet texture of the dumplings. Or try a sage-infused butter sauce to draw out the sweetness of the potatoes.

If you’ve made potato gnocchi and you’re looking for a pleasant change, sweet potato gnocchi are also a delight. The moist, slightly sticky orange potatoes take more flour than russets, making the dough harder to shape and the dumplings slightly heavier. But sweet potato gnocchi have a delicate flavor that will shine in the butter-sage sauce.

Neither recipe is difficult, though shaping the floury nubbins on a fork to make ridges will require some practice. Boiling takes minutes, and when gnocchi are done and lifted out of the hot water into their sauce, dinner is ready. You’ll feel like a proud Italian grandmother.

Chris Malloy can be reached at chrisamalloy@gmail.com.
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