Gnocchi in Butter and Basil Sauce

I made these gnoc­chi in but­ter and basil sauce last Fri­day — but if you read my last post, you’ll under­stand the delay in pub­lish­ing. Sigh… I like to have at least one bag of gnoc­chi in the freezer for a quick meal, or a dessert — yes — but­ter, brown sugar and some quickly pan sautéed blue­ber­ries are an amaz­ing com­bi­na­tion. That’s the thing — gnoc­chi are so ver­sa­tile: you pan fry them with just some but­ter and basil like I did here, or toss them in mari­nara sauce and sprin­kle with parme­san for a more sub­stan­tial meal. You can also served them tossed in pesto.

Gnocchi in Butter and Basil Sauce

This is gnoc­chi in their sim­plest form - pota­toes and flour. The orig­i­nal recipe I worked from spec­i­fies adding an egg only as an option if they don’t hold up dur­ing boil­ing — but it’s a safe bet to include one on the onset — you don’t want to find your gnoc­chi col­laps­ing after mak­ing 200 of them! That would suck.

The dough is very for­giv­ing, and the key is to add just enough flour to hold the gnoc­chi together with­out them falling apart in the boil­ing water. The bal­ance of flour to potato, as well as the type of potato, is impor­tant — the essen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tic of gnoc­chi is that they are fluffy and light — never tough and rub­bery. As in those ready made dried gnoc­chi you buy in the Ital­ian aisle…yuck.

This recipe calls for boil­ing pota­toes - medium size round red or white pota­toes that are suit­able for boil­ing, as well as roast­ing or fry­ing. They are firm tex­tured and keep their shape well when boiled. The skin of this potato is thin, waxy, moist, and less starchy than other pota­toes. A good exam­ple is the Yukon Gold variety.

Gnocchi in Butter and Basil Sauce

Don’t be intim­i­dated by mak­ing mul­ti­tudes of these –to make the gnoc­chi you sim­ply roll the ready dough into a log a lit­tle less than 1.5 inches in diam­e­ter. Use a sharp knife to slice the log into indi­vid­ual pieces, then press with a fork. That last step is impor­tant, because the lit­tle indents will help sauce adhere to the gnoc­chi. There are more com­pli­cated tech­niques of doing the same thing, and even a spe­cial­ized gnoc­chi board that I would have no clue how to use… For now I’d just like to eat, not split hairs…

Gnocchi in Butter and Basil Sauce

I totally rec­om­mend mak­ing a big batch and freez­ing some gnoc­chi — you’ll be glad to find them in the freezer later! And hey, do you like dumplings in gen­eral? (because who doesn’t) Check out my won­ton soup recipe from last year That thing is so hot it’s basi­cally pin­ning itself :)

Gnoc­chi in But­ter and Basil Sauce
Recipe type: Main Course
Cui­sine: Ital­ian
Serves: 6
  • 1½ pounds boil­ing pota­toes, such as Yukon Gold
  • 1½ cups unbleached all pur­pose flour
  • 1 egg, or 2 egg whites
  • ½ stick of butter
  • hand­ful of basil leaves, torn
  • salt and pep­per to taste
  1. Steam the pota­toes until ten­der. You can also boil them if you don’t have a steamer, but if you do, boil them whole, and leave the peels on so that they don’t absorb a lot of water. Too much water will make the gnoc­chi rub­bery. Take off the peels when cool enough to handle.
  2. Mash the pota­toes until smooth and no lumps remain. Ide­ally, use a food mill or a potato ricer. Don’t put the pota­toes in a food proces­sor as this will make them gluey!
  3. Lightly flour a work sur­face and add the mashed pota­toes, egg, or 2 egg whites, and about half of the flour. Start knead­ing until the dough begins to hold together, add a bit of flour at a time until the dough is smooth, but no longer sticky. Shape the dough into a ball, and cut in half.
  4. Roll out the one half of the dough into a cylin­der about 1 inch in diam­e­ter. Using a sharp knife, cut the cylin­der into indi­vid­ual piece into a long cylin­der about 1 inch in diam­e­ter. Then cut each cylin­der into indi­vid­ual pieces about ¾ inch in length. Press each gnoc­chi with a fork to leave an imprint. Do the same to the other half of the dough.
  5. At this point, you can freeze an unused batch — make sure to freeze indi­vid­u­ally first on a large sheet, and once frozen, trans­fer to freezer bags.
  6. Drop the gnoc­chi into a large pot of boil­ing salted water. In a short time, they will start ris­ing to the sur­face. Let them cook for about 10 sec­onds, then retrieve with a colan­der scoop, or a large slot­ted spoon.
  7. Cool the gnoc­chi, and let them dry out a bit. Melt but­ter in a non stick pan and fry the gnoc­chi until lightly golden and crisp * Sea­son with salt and pep­per to taste and serve.
  8. * This is my pre­ferred method, as opposed to just turn­ing the boiled gnoc­chi in some melted but­ter and serv­ing. It does take extra some patience if you are hun­gry! Don’t try to pan brown the gnoc­chi if they’re still hot and moist — they will just stick to the pan.

Adapted from Mar­cella Hazan’s Essen­tials of Clas­sic Ital­ian Cooking


  1. Yum! This looks delicious!

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