Making gnocchi for the first time today -- 2 questions

Ok, Hazan and Bittman say no egg, many others add egg or yolks. To egg or not to egg? Second, should I boil or bake the potatoes? Again, Hazan and Bittman say boil, but others recommend baking so they don't get waterlogged. I'm not one to question the experts, but am tempted to bake. Also, I'd like to make them a few hours before folks get here and then boil and sauce them when folks arrive. Are there any problems with that? Thoughts for a first timer? Help!

  • Posted by: jenmmcd
  • March 20, 2011


ChefDaddy March 21, 2011
@jenmmcd-Thanks for that. Glad it all worked out for you. You know sometimes the only reason for a chef to not use something is cost. 2004 or 05 butter went through the roof for what ever reason. It only lasted a few months but this happens with produce as well. But, the cost of using it became a question of "do I really need it"? I rallied my kitchen staff and told them the problem and we spent a few hours figuring out where we could use an alternative. And, now many of my recipe's that called for butter no longer do with out notice. The ones that were noticable stayed with butter.
jenmmcd March 21, 2011
It's funny you say that, ChefDaddy, b/c that's exactly why I asked the question (and cited my sources). I was talking about this with my husband over brunch this weekend -- how amazing it is that someone like me -- a simple home cook -- can ask questions of real chefs who've been cooking for years and draw on your experience in real time. It's really priceless.

ps. I ended up following Hazan's recommendation and not using an egg. Next time I'll think I'll add one to compare. Then I'm going to try to reproduce the carrot gnocchi that a favorite local restaurant makes. I'm a gnocchi addict!
ChefDaddy March 21, 2011
When following a cook book author's recipe your going to find that they have thier own adaptation that worked for them. Egg or not to egg? By going either way your not going to make a mistake. That's why people like pierino take the time to know the history or origin of a certain dish and what would be done historically. The funny thing just like here, if you were to fill a room with the best chefs from all over the country and you asked them this question you would most likely get a different answer from each one. One person was telling me that a well known chef uses ricotta cheese instead of potato to make his gnocchi.
jenmmcd March 21, 2011
Thanks again for all your great advice. I ended up with super yummy gnocchi thanks to you and one guest even said they were the best she'd ever had. Whoop whoop!
Panfusine March 21, 2011
I've never added egg to my gnocchi, the cornflour & the potato starch seem adequate for binding..
pierino March 20, 2011
I've done this many times before and I always use egg in the flour potato mixture. Definitely boil the potatoes and do use a ricer, but its best to work them into the well while they are still warm but not so warm that the egg curdles.
beyondcelery March 20, 2011
I always do my gnocchi with egg, since they seem to work better. I've also had great luck with EnerG egg replacer (mostly corn starch): I do that for my vegan customers (and my vegan sister-in-law).

As for boiling v. baking your potatoes, I like boiling mine best because baked potatoes are sometimes a little too dry in my experience. You do want to be careful not to over-boil them, or you'll lose potato as they disintegrate into the water. Always use russet potatoes; red or white will be too starchy and give you gluey gnocchi. Always mash/rice your potatoes very well, so there are no lumps. I'll second that recommendation to NOT blend them in a food processor as a short-cut!

I make my gnocchi in huge batches, then freeze them on waxed paper before transferring them to bags or containers for long-term freezing. They keep very well for about 6 months this way and you can boil them directly from the freezer. Setting them aside fresh and boiling them when people get there will work just fine. I do recommend covering them with plastic wrap so they don't dry out or get crusty just sitting exposed to the air.

Here's a link to my recipe for butternut squash gnocchi, if it helps (it's gluten-free and uses non-traditional flour). You can use the same amount of russet potatoes in place of the butternut squash for a potato gnocchi.
jenmmcd March 20, 2011
Thank you all! I do have a ricer, whew, and the pots are boiling away as I type this. I'm leaning toward egg because, really, it seems like eggs make everything better. Thank you, thank you!
boulangere March 20, 2011
hla, I have to confess I'm guilty of the same mistake. I wasn't necessarily trying to make them perfectly smooth, I was just doing a little too much multitasking and therefore in a hurry. One of those "I know what I'm doing, it'll be fine" moments that goes quickly haywire.
boulangere March 20, 2011
Here's vote #3 for boil in the skins, cool in a colander, through the ricer method. Definitely egg; the texture will be much more pleasing, and as littleknitter points out, the color is so lovely. No problem to make them ahead, in fact it's a good idea. Let us know how they turn out!
hardlikearmour March 20, 2011
@ littleknitter: your post cracked me up because it reminded me of my father-in-law. He wanted to make really smooth mashed potatoes, so he used the kitchen aid mixer to beat them senseless. Made some nice wall-paper paste! I got him a ricer for Christmas shortly after.
littleknitter March 20, 2011
I always add egg because I like the taste and the pretty, pale yellow color. As for potatoes, I sometimes boil, then let cool in a strainer as HellonKitchen says. Other times, I'll bake the potato. Either way, after the potato is cooked, I run it through a fine-mesh sieve (I don't own a ricer) then make the dough. Whatever you do, don't try to run the potatoes through a food processor or you will end up with glue! The blades slice through the starch cells, releasing the starch and making an extraordinarily sticky mixture :-)
Sally March 20, 2011
My favorite (and foolproof) gnocchi are made with pate a chou (cream puff dough) and boiled, peeled and "riced" potatoes. I boil the potatoes with the jackets on and let them cool, then peel them and put them in a 350 degree oven to dry out for about 5 minutes. After ricing, mix with pate a chou (easy to make). You can see the recipe at for more details. You can shape them a few hours ahead and refrigerate, or if serving with a sauce, you can cook them and place them in a butter baking dish and reheat in the oven with tomato sauce and Parm. Good luck!!
Helen's A. March 20, 2011
While I don't have a lot of experience with gnocchi, my Austrian mother always makes lots of dumplings with potato dough. Same type of dough when all is said and done. She always uses older boiling potatoes. Simmer whole and more importantly, unpeeled. Once tender, lift out of the water and cool for a bit in a strainer. This allows them to release some of their steam and dry them out. Then press them through a potato ricer.
The egg makes for a more forgiving dough, so I always add one or two depending on how much potato and flour you are using.
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