Gnocchi Not So Good? It’s OK!

Bad gnocchi? It's OK!
When bad gnocchi happens to good people.

Saturday was a not so good cooking day, but a very good learning day.

I was expecting 3 friends in the morning. They were coming over for a hands-on potato gnocchi demonstration before I went down the hill to lead a North Beach tour in the afternoon.

The potatoes were at a gentle boil just about ready to come out. The doorbell rang.

I let in my guests and by the time I got back to the potatoes their jackets had burst. First no-no when making gnocchi – overcooking the potatoes! If you do they’ll absorb water. Not a good thing.

Tour time was looming, so I pressed ahead.

When we peeled the potatoes to put them in the ricer they fell apart. They weren’t just overcooked, but way overcooked. Hmm. Against my better judgment I decided to continue. I also didn’t have time to let the riced potatoes sit to dry out. Another big mistake!

I adjusted for the over-cooked and wetter potatoes by adding more flour. We were able to form a nice dough. We made the gnocchi and cooked them immediately. They were not my best, but they were good.

We had a big tray of gnocchi left so I froze them. Friends were coming later to eat the gnocchi left over from the demo.

After a great tour my friends and I headed back up the hill to eat at my place.

We cracked open a very nice Foss Marai Prosecco. We feasted on a simple antipasti of prosciutto di Parma, Aurecchio sharp provolone, mozzarella di bufala from Campania, mixed olives and taralli (a small biscuit with anise in the shape of a really big cheerio).

The water was boiling so I took the tray of gnocchi out of the freezer. Although they were well floured some stuck to the tray. I scraped ’em loose with a spatula. Not good. I made sure I took them out of the boiling water as soon as they bobbed to the surface. They hadn’t held up well. I could tell right away they were not that firm and that they were going to be gummy.

I was mortified! Good thing I was among friends. We ate most of the gnocchi in the 3 sauces with great Little City roasted sausages. After I apologized again for the not so good gnocchi, one tablemate said to comfort me, “Don’t worry about it. Shit happens.” We all started to get excited about the wonderful cannoli from Cavalli Caffe we bought for dessert!

So, here’s a reminder about the potato gnocchi recipe.

  1. Don’t start to make gnocchi unless you have an hour without any interruptions. Once you start you have to be fully engaged and attentive.
  2. Don’t overcook the potatoes. Keep checking them and take them out as soon as they are knife tender.
  3. Gently boil the potatoes. Don’t let the skins burst. They will if the boil is too vigourous or if you leave them in the boiling water too long.
  4. Spread out the riced potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet or work surface and give them plenty of extra time to dry out before making the dough. This was the fatal error that doomed the frozen gnocchi! I didn’t let the wet potatoes dry out completely so the dough was too wet when the gnocchi went into the freezer. They were a bit gummy when they went in and got more so while they froze.
  5. Adjust the recipe given your circumstances. Here I used more flour in an attempt to compensate for the wetter, overcooked potatoes. Usually this works for gnocchi you’ll cook right after they’re formed.

Luckily, the gnocchi I cooked for the last episode turned out just right; but you should learn from my mistakes as well as my successes, and so I thought I’d pass this little tale along. Maybe it’ll save you some heartache, but if not, don’t be discouraged. These things happen.

16 Replies to “Gnocchi Not So Good? It’s OK!”

  1. Hi there, mine keep coming out really mushy, I don’t really know why. my last batch basically turned into mashed potato in the colander. I’m apprehensive to add too much flour as I know it just makes them taste of cooked flour rather than potato.

    I used to make great gnocchi years ago, but after not making them in years, I’m struggling to get it right again.

    the basic outline I stick to, is 1kg potato, I’ve been using maris piper. to 100-150g of doppio zero flour, and 2x egg yolk. with some salt and pepper. it all combines alright and the dough feels good, nice and light. I put them in boiling water, and as soon as they float I drain them… stuck. please help!!

  2. I think you would get better results and less room for error if you were to bake potatoes first instead of boiling them. You need to add the least amount moisture possible that will hold the gnocchi together. The potato is the star but the flour and egg are there to hold it together and give it structure in the water.

    1. Ciao. Baking is a good alternative to boiling the potatoes in their jackets. I agree that minimizing moisture is a key to tender gnocchi. Buon appetito!

  3. Hi Gianni… So looking forward to try your recipe tomorrow… One small question, how much potatoes should i use to make a main course for 5 people please?? I will try all three sauces just like you did! 🙂

    1. My recipe yields about 48 gnocchi that I serve as a first course so 4 at my table get 12 each. If you’re making the gnocchi as a main course for 5 I suggest you double the recipe so that everyone gets enough. If you have too many you can always freeze the extra gnocchi.

      1. Thanks Gianni for your comment! I haven’t seen your comment before and I have tripled the recipe so I have soooo many gnochhi hehe.. I will freeze the remaining… The sauces were great 🙂

  4. Omg! Something like that happened to me today! But i did everything well except I was waiting for my grandma to finish eating in the kitchen so I could drain them. She was in the kitchen for over an hour from when I boiled the water and everything. Then when I drained them it tasted soooooo mushy. I guess thats why you should drain pasta quick. It was all right 🙂

    1. You’re right the gnocchi have to come out of the boiling water within a minute or so of coming up to the surface. I hope your grandma enjoyed her meal!

  5. I have to say Bravo! to the chef for posting this. Gianni, you were very accepting of your less than perfect gnocchi and I was impressed that you didn’t let it get you down; you just rolled with the punches. And it’s nice to know that even amazing, incredible chefs have gnocchi that don’t turn out perfect at least once in their lives. That means there’s hope for the rest of us mere mortals. 🙂 Bravo.

  6. Gianni, the gnocchi were OK but I wondered how they could be made in Italy, shipped to the US, stored without refrigeration, and eaten whenever…maybe because they were made of that potato flake stuff.

    The more I thought about it, the more I thought: “Hmmmmmmmmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t have….”

    So next time I’ll make my own.

  7. Ciao John X.

    We were up in Sonoma on Monday and I looked at a bag of those gnocchi from Italia while we were eating samples at The Cheese Factory. They’re made with potato flakes. I think that’s the stuff they use for instant mashed potatoes. Never had them. We’re they OK?

    My recipes are your recipes in your kitchen so have your way with them and enjoy. You know my mantra though. Sometimes the best ingredient is the one you leave out. I really like the purity of the gorgonzola simply melted in a little bit of cream. But, there are lots of gorgonzola sauce variations and if you like it that’s what counts.

    Keep on cooking. Often it takes me several tries to get a dish right but I Iove the challenge.

  8. Hey, Gianni:

    I made the Gorgonzola Sauce for some store-bought (but imported from Italy!) gnocchi tonight and it was delicious.

    I modified the recipe just a tad—I added just a hint of nutmeg, and some brandy.

    Thanks for posting the tale of your less-than-perfect gnocchi; I’ve messed up a few of your recipes but it’s because I’m an amateur. It’s encouraging to know even the pros have bad days once in a while. I’ll keep trying.

    John X

    1. Graxie mille Gianni,

      I’ve been wanting to tach my oldest son how to make Gnocchi as he loved this dish when we traveled to Italy in June 2012. Thanks to you, I can share these lessons of what not to do.


      1. Ciao Dan.

        I hope the recipe works well for you and your son. If we’re lucky it will come close to the gnocchi you enjoyed together in Italia.

        I’ll let you know when I schedule my next cooking classes.

        A presto.


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