Gnocchi is essentially mashed potato-based pasta dough. It’s no wonder I’m obsessed with it.
Can I claim expert execution every time I roll that dough out? Nope! Not by a long shot. But it still tastes, and looks, like gnocchi every time.
My secret? This general rule of thumb – 1 medium-sized potato to 1 / 3 cup flour. It leaves ample room for error, all while helping avoid the consequences of dumplings that fall apart in the boiling water, or too-rigid dough.
And once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll have a better feel for the potato to flour to egg to water ratio. Or at least you’ll know when you completely botched the whole thing. Hopefully.
Of the dishes I cook, I make macaroni and cheese most often. In all shapes, sizes, and colors. If there ever was an expert – and I’d be hesitant to make this claim if it weren’t true – I might be it. Besides professional chefs. They actually know what they’re doing.
Here are some tips & tricks I’ve teased out –
- Too much flour in the roux leads to a cakey sauce, and poor texture if you’re reheating leftovers.
- More moisture is key – including pasta water, milk, cream, or half and half.
- For better or for worse, pricey, aged Gruyere and cheddar cheeses are the best cheeses to use as a base. Ina Garten is all about this combo, and for good reason. It’s because she’s right. Use goat, blue, or other cheeses as accent cheeses. If you’re going with a homier stovetop mac, it’s not a bad idea to throw Velveeta in the mix. If you’re wondering how restaurants manage to serve you mac & cheese in that impossibly gooey & silky sauce, I’d bet my life that Velveeta had something to do with it.
- If you’re baking your mac, you need to undercook the pasta by at least 2 to 3 minutes, beyond just the time it takes to boil the pasta to al dente consistency. A hard-biting noodle should be a feature of every macaroni and cheese you serve.
- Add a splash of neutral cooking oil into your cheese mixture. Trust me.
I wanted this gnocchi to encapsulate the culmination of these mac & cheese lessons learned. The sauce came out as saucy as sauces get – rich, thick, over-the-top.
Reheated in a microwave, it tasted like the first bite out of the oven. I’m far from having my macaroni and cheese deemed perfect by the gods, but these pointers have well along the way.
What are some of your go-to tricks for the perfect mac? Any mac & cheese recipes you swear by?
I N G R E D I E N T S
F o r t h e G n o c c h i
- 6 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & quartered (approximately 2 pounds)
- 2 cups flour
- 1 large egg, whisked
- Large pinch of salt
- Flour, as needed
- Water, as needed
F o r t h e C h e e s e S a u c e
- 3 cups sharp, aged cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 quart whole milk
- 3 / 4 stick butter, salted or unsalted
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
F o r t h e T o p p i n g
- 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
D I R E C T I O N S
- Preheat the oven to 350*.
- Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Combine with the panko breadcrumbs and garlic powder in a bowl. Set aside.
- Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the potatoes, and cook until fork tender. Strain. Turn the potatoes into a mashed consistency using either a hand mill or a hand mixer (a hand mill is better).
- On a floured, hard surface, lightly combine the mashed potatoes, flour, salt until uniform throughout. Create a well in the middle of the dough and add the egg. Continue to fold the dough until the egg is fully incorporated, and the dough is a light yellow color. The dough should be sticky, but should not stick to your hands. If it is too dry to combine, or too sticky to handle, add small amounts or water or flour until it reaches the right consistency.
- Form the dough into a small disk, cover in plastic wrap, and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, melt the 3 / 4 stick of butter in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the flour. Whisk for a couple minutes, until the flour mixture is bubbling. Add the milk, the salt, pepper, nutmeg and vegetable oil. Allow to thicken on medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes. The mixture should coat a wooden spoon at this phase. Once thickened, add the cheeses. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat until ready to add the gnocchi.
- After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out the dough to 1 inch thickness. Cut the dough into long strips. Form a long tubular piece of dough from each strip, using your hands to stretch and roll the dough back and forth. Once the dough reaches about 1 inch in diameter, cut the strips into 1 inch pieces. Place the gnocchi on a plate, and sprinkle with flour.
- Boil a pot of salted water. Put the gnocchi in the water a dozen or so pieces at a time. Once the gnocchi rise to the surface, they are done. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place into the cheese mixture. It’s encouraged for some of the cooking liquid to make its way into the cheese sauce as you’re transferring the gnocchi. Stir until the gnocchi are incorporated into the cheese sauce.
- Pour the gnocchi into a baking pan or cast iron skillet, and top evenly with the panko mixture.
- Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the panko is browned and the cheese is bubbling. Serve hot.