The secrets of making gnocchi

The secrets of making gnocchi, or the difference between a drum sieve, mouli and potato ricer

Delicious pillows of fluffy potato goodness

“Are you hungry?” If you hear that famous catch-cry Italian grandmothers always utter when visitors come calling, you know you’ll be treated to some delicious food.

And if you’re lucky, the dish might be gnocchi – delicious pillows of fluffy potato goodness.

But if you don’t happen to have an Italian grandmother, you can make your own gnocchi at home. At The Essential Ingredient Newcastle Cooking School, gnocchi classes are always a favourite.

Perfect potato consistency

The secret of making perfect gnocchi is in getting the texture right. For this you need floury rather than waxy spuds. For gnocchi like Desiree, Red Rascal or Dutch Cream spuds. And you need to get the potatoes to the right consistency. You don’t want to mash them because this would turn your gnocchi into hard rubbery balls. And you don’t want that.

To break down the spuds, you can use a drum sieve, mouli or a potato ricer.

A drum sieve is a multipurpose wide sieve through which you can push your cooked potato. It will result in an even texture, without the potatoes going gluey. They are available in a range of sizes, and can also be used as a strainer or sieve. You can process a lot of potatoes easily and quickly, given the size of a drum strainer. It’s easiest to clean and dry. However, a drum sieve will take up a lot of cupboard space, is less robust than a mouli, and requires you to deliver all the muscle

A potato press, or potato ricer is an extrusion tool that works just like a large garlic press. You put cooked potato into the hopper compartment, and  squash the potato through using the plunger. This extrudes the spuds into small rice sized pieces.  If you don’t peel the potatoes, it take more time, as you have to remove the skins each time you press. The skins will clog the holes. A potato press takes up less cupboard space, but has less uses than a sieve or mouli.

A mouli can be used to mill lots of different food, and like a sieve, it will separate out seeds from fruit pulp. It has interchangeable plates, so you can select a coarser or finer mill, and being made of metal, is strong enough to handle harder consistency food than a sieve or ricer. The clean up is more complicated and requires you to partially disassemble the mouli.

Each chef has their favourite, depending on the task at hand.

Whichever form you use to process your potatoes, you can achieve gnocchi nirvarna if you follow this recipe.



Serves 4
1kg of Desiree, Dutch cream or red rascal potatoes – pick one roughly the same size and not too massive.
1 ½ cups of plain flour View
3 egg yolks
2 TBS sea salt (or less to taste) View

Gnocchi Method

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Ball up some foil and place it on a roasting tray and place the potatoes on top. Try to keep the potatoes apart from one another.
3. Roast for about an hour or until potatoes are well cooked.
4. At this point put a large pot of water on to boil.
5. Halve the potatoes and spoon out the inside. Press through a mouli, ricer or sieve.
6. Place the potato on the bench and make a well, sift ½ a cup of flour over, place the yolks in the well and sift another ½ a cup of flour over. Add the salt. Reserve the other ½ cup of flour.
7. Using a dough scraper, cut the egg and flour into the potato until it just comes together into a dough. This should be done quickly, in no more than 30 seconds – you don’t want the potato to go ‘gluey’ or your gnocchi will be tough. The dough should be homogenous and just a teensy bit sticky – if it is so sticky you don’t think you can work with it add a little more of the reserved flour.
8. Dust your dough in some flour and place a tea towel over the top.
9. To roll the gnocchi break or cut off a small piece of dough and roll it into a sausage on a floured bench. How thick you roll your sausage is up to you, depending on what result you want. With your dough scraper, or a small knife or palette knife, cut pieces out of the sausage. From here you can leave them in nice pillow shapes, roll them in a ball and press them with a form or roll them on a gnocchi paddle.
10. Place the gnocchi on a floured tray until you are finished rolling.
11. Grab a large bowl and fill it with ice and water.
12. To cook the gnocchi plunge them into boiling water, once they float to the surface scoop them out and refresh in iced water – if you have particularly large gnocchi you might need to give them 10 seconds before you remove them from the boiling water.
13. Once they are cool you can store them in the fridge for a few days or freeze them for 3 months.
14. Pan fry until golden brown, or warm through in your favourite sauce or even use them as dumplings in a soup.

Three classic pasta sauces to serve with gnocchi


Gorgonzola Sauce

200gm of Dolce Latte Gorgonzola

Approx ½ cup of cream

Approx ½ cup freshly grated parmesan

1 tablespoon of butter

Salt & Pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients except parmesan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring. Simmer for a few minutes until thick and creamy.

Add parmesan and stir through.


2 tablespoons Olive Oil

½ Onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, squashed & chopped

1 carrot, finely diced

1 bottle tomato passata; water to rinse bottle

Salt, pepper


Place large shallow pan over medium heat to warm for 5 mins.

Add Olive oil, onion and carrot

Saute until the onion is see-through

Pour the passata into the pan.

Rinse the passata bottle with a little water – add that to the pan too!

Bring the sauce to the boil by increasing the heat before bringing to a simmer.

Burnt Butter and Sage

2 tablespoons of  butter

A handful of torn sage leaves

A squirt of lemon juice

Parmesan to taste

A handful of walnuts or pinenuts


Consistent movement and temp is what you need to make this sauce. This is a sauce that demands your attention and will burn if are distracted. The name “burnt butter sauce” doesn’t mean you actually want it to burnt. It’s more about being burnished than burnt.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, Over a medium heat in a saucepan , swirling gently until it foams.   

Agitate it gently.  No whisk, spoon or other tool is needed. 

Keep an eye on it until it starts to brown and gets a hazelnut smell. You want the milk solids to slightly catch on the bottom to give the sauce its flavour and colour.

Toss in fresh torn sage leaves, salt and pepper. Take off the heat but keep swirling until the sage softens. 

Add parmesan, lemon juice, and nuts to taste.   

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