Pillowy gnocchi are the sort of homemade pasta anyone can add to their repertoire and — surprisingly — expect tasty results on the first try. The key to classic gnocchi, made simply from potatoes, flour, salt, and water, is ensuring the potatoes are well dried and cooled before you start making the dough. To ensure this, after we boil and drain the potatoes, we cook them in a dry pot to evaporate all the moisture.
For a weeknight approach that’s no less delicious, instant potato flakes make a remarkably good stand-in. And to top them, keep it simple with a rich sage-butter sauce with chives and a bright squeeze of lemon.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Our take on classic potato gnocchi was inspired by a cooking lesson we got in Paris from Australian chef Peter Orr when he was proprietor of Robert, his former restaurant in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. To process the cooked potatoes, a ricer or food mill works best for obtaining the smooth texture needed for light, fine gnocchi. A potato masher works, too, but the gnocchi will be slightly denser (yet still delicious).
The gnocchi can be cooked, cooled completely, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to a day. For longer storage, after covering with plastic, freeze the gnocchi until solid, about 2 hours, then transfer to a zip-close bag and re-freeze for up to a month. To thaw, spread the gnocchi in an even layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet and let stand at room temperature until soft to the touch, about 1 hour. Heat the chilled or thawed gnocchi by adding them to a skilletful of hot sauce, tossing with a silicone spatula until warmed.
Yukon gold potatoes won’t work in this recipe. The high starch content of russets is needed for light, tender gnocchi. Also, before mashing the potatoes be sure to first dry them in the pot on the stove top, then let them cool on the baking sheet. The drier the potatoes, the lighter the gnocchi. Finally, don’t immediately sauce the gnocchi after removing them from the water. Give them 15 minutes to cool and firm up a bit.
2¾ to 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
In a large pot, combine the potatoes and 4 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes break apart when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and line the rack with kitchen parchment.
Drain the potatoes in a colander, shaking the colander to remove excess water. Return the potatoes to the pot and cook over low, gently folding with a silicone spatula, until the potatoes look dry and slightly powdery and the bottom of the pot is coated with a thin film of potato starch, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared cooling rack in an even layer. Cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt.
Weigh out 1¼ pounds (about 4 cups) of the cooked potatoes into a large bowl; save the remainder for another use. Discard the parchment from the baking sheet, then line with fresh parchment and coat with 1 tablespoon of the oil; set aside. Add ½ teaspoon salt to the potatoes. Pass them through a ricer or a food mill fitted with the fine disk back into the bowl, or mash them with a potato masher until smooth.
Sprinkle the flour mixture evenly over the mashed potatoes. Using your hands, lightly toss the potatoes to distribute the flour mixture. Add the egg and gently mix with your hands until incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently knead just until smooth; do not overknead. Using a bench scraper or knife, divide the dough into 4 pieces.
Roll 1 piece of dough into a rope about 16 inches long, then use the dough scraper to cut it into 16 pieces. Place the pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Dip the back of the tines of a fork into flour, then gently press into each piece to create a ridged surface. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Set a wire rack in another rimmed baking sheet and line the rack with kitchen parchment. Coat the parchment evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil and stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Add half of the gnocchi, then return to a boil and cook, stirring gently and occasionally, until the gnocchi float to the surface. Cook for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi, letting excess water drain, to the prepared rack. Return the water to a boil and repeat with the remaining gnocchi. Let the gnocchi cool for at least 15 minutes before saucing them.
Gnocchi in an Instant
Makes 4 servings
Using instant potato flakes to make gnocchi might make purists cringe, but it’s a surefire way to make the softest, most pillowy dumplings. It’s an easy and mess-free method, too, because it eliminates the need to boil a russet potato, then rice it or put it through a food mill. The gnocchi are delicious tossed with pesto or a simple tomato sauce or dressed with browned butter and finished with fresh herbs.
When kneading the dough, use a light hand to prevent the development of gluten, which will make the gnocchi dense and stodgy rather than light and tender.
1 cup (71 grams) instant potato flakes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ teaspoon kosher salt
In a large bowl, stir together the potato flakes and 1 cup boiling water. Let stand until cooled to room temperature. Add the egg, flour, and salt, then mix with your hands until the ingredients are just incorporated. Lightly dust the counter with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Gently knead until the dough is smooth.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a ½-inch-thick rectangle. Cut the dough into ½-inch strips, then, using your hands, roll each strip against the counter into a ½-inch diameter log. Cut each log into 1-inch pieces. If desired, dip the back of the tines of a fork into flour, then gently press into each piece to create a ridged surface.
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil. Add half of the gnocchi, then return to a boil and cook, stirring gently and occasionally, until the gnocchi float to the surface. Cook for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi to a wire rack. Return the water to a boil and repeat with the remaining gnocchi. Let the gnocchi cool for at least 15 minutes before saucing.
Potato Gnocchi With Butter, Sage, and Chives
Makes 4 to 6 servings
A combination of lightly browned butter and fresh herbs creates a simple sauce that pairs perfectly with the delicate gnocchi.
4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, divided
1/3 cup chopped fresh sage
1 recipe potato gnocchi
¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
In a nonstick 12-inch skillet set over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the sage and cook, stirring, until fragrant and the butter just begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add the gnocchi and ½ cup water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, gently tossing with a silicone spatula.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook, swirling the pan to melt the butter, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in the lemon juice and chives. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.