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Technique: How to make perfectly pillowy gnocchi

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I learned this version of gnocchi from a French chef who was a mentor at a restaurant where I worked. Pate a choux — the dough behind gougeres, eclairs, and more — is the magic component that transforms the potatoes into pillowy, light nuggets. Use russet potatoes for their dry texture, and once you cook them, dry them even further in the oven for a few minutes to keep the gnocchi light. The dough is soft, so use a gentle touch and a well-floured board when shaping the gnocchi. To make the characteristic ridges, roll each one over the back of a fork.

Keep the water at a gentle simmer when you cook the gnocchi, as boiling water may cause them to fall apart. They are perfect for making ahead: Place them in a buttered baking dish, and before serving, make the sage-infused brown butter, pour it over the gnocchi, sprinkle with Parmesan, and bake until hot. Alternatively, make the brown butter in a large skillet, swirl the warm gnocchi in the pan, and serve directly in bowls with Parmesan. If you like, you could also toss these in tomato sauce.


This is the kind of dish that takes a little extra time, but immersing yourself in the process makes for ideal cooking therapy. If you have a friend to join you, so much the better.

Gnocchi with brown butter and sage

Serves 4


2pounds (about 3 large) russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2teaspoons salt (plus more for the pot)
½cup milk
3tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (plus more for the dish)
½cup flour (plus more for rolling)
2large eggs

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a baking sheet.

2. In a large pot, place the potatoes. Add cold water to cover and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender. With a slotted spoon, remove potatoes and spread on the baking sheet. Cut each quarter in half and place in the oven for 4 minutes, to evaporate excess moisture. Drain the water from the pot.

3. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Pass them through a ricer into the now empty pot or mash them with a potato masher until no longer lumpy.


4. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk, butter, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt to a rolling boil. Stir to melt the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously until well mixed.

5. Return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan.

6. Remove the pan from the heat again and stir for 1 minute to cool the mixture slightly. One at a time, vigorously stir in the eggs, incorporating the first egg completely before adding the second one. The dough will separate and look slippery, but it will come back together. It will be stiff and sticky. Stir the egg dough into the potatoes until combined.

7. Set the oven at 400 degrees. In a wide pot, bring 2½ inches of salted water to a gentle simmer. Have on hand a lightly floured baking sheet. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

8. As soon as the dough is cool enough to handle, generously flour the work surface and place a handful of dough on it. Roll the dough into a rope about 1 inch in diameter. With a knife, cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. If you like, roll the gnocchi over the back of a fork to make ridges with the tines. Set them on the floured baking sheet until all the dough is used.

9. In batches, drop the gnocchi into the simmering water without crowding the pot. The gnocchi will rise to the top within a few minutes. They are done as soon as they rise to the top. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to the buttered baking dish. Continue cooking the gnocchi in batches until they are all cooked. At this point, the gnocchi can be refrigerated, covered with plastic, for up to several hours or overnight.


8tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into slices
2tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼cup or more finely grated Parmesan, to taste

1. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Cook, swirling the pan often, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until most of the water evaporates and the butter browns and releases a nutty aroma. Stir in the sage leaves and remove the pan from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour the butter over the gnocchi in the baking dish and sprinkle with ¼ cup of Parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the gnocchi are hot all through. Sprinkle with more Parmesan, if you like. Sally Pasley Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas can be reached at

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