potato gnocchi: a cautionary tale

wpid-gnocchi.jpgMy intentions for this post were solid. One of the first recipes in the latest Bon Appetit is for Potato Gnocchi and it struck me as the perfect evening meal for multiple reasons. For one, it called for only three ingredients–one of which (potatoes) I had in spades thanks to my in-laws’ abundant fall harvest. It also seemed a meal that would pass muster with my kiddos. And the leftover pasta sauce in my fridge would make a perfect foil.

It had been years since I made gnocchi and the article promised stellar results for minimum effort. What could go wrong?

I chose the biggest potato in our bunch–a whopping 1 1/2 pounds.

huge and gnarly

huge, gnarly

Thinking I was being smart, I cut the potato in quarters so it would take less time to bake. What I hadn’t thought through was that the cut edges–of which there were more now that I’d cut the potato in four–were dry, not moist. When I attempted to rice the peeled potato per recipe instructions, it didn’t shoot through so nicely. I removed the potato flesh from the ricer (things were getting messy now) and mixed in a bit of milk, hoping to soften it for ricing. Slight improvement, but I eventually gave up and mashed the potato flesh with a masher.

mashed by hand

mashed by hand

Next up was rolling it into ropes, then cutting those ropes into 1-inch pieces.wpid-gnocchi-ropes.jpg.jpegwpid-gnocchi.jpg

So far, things were (mostly) on track. After boiling a large pot of salted water, I added half of the dumplings for a quick cook. Three to four minutes is all they’d need to float to the surface, after which they’d be fished out with a slotted spoon. I didn’t time it too closely and maybe let them overcook a bit as they came out slightly soggy. Fortunately, I had a second batch to work with. But. Somehow I got myself in a conversation with my oldest daughter while this second batch boiled; when I pulled them out–possibly six or seven minutes later–they were puffed-up crumbled potato flakes. Yuck. (no photos–it was that unappetizing)

In the end, I had a half-batch of gnocchi, which was all I needed as they were ok, but not great. As simple as the recipe was, it required a greater degree of precision than than I’d given it. But now I know and next time I’ll not overbake nor will I overboil. And after hearing this cautionary tale, you’re in the clear πŸ™‚

If any of you have kitchen fails you’d care to share, please do so in comments below. Seeing as how America will soon be celebrating Thanksgiving, I’d be grateful to learn from food for fun’s amazing readers. What hasn’t gone as-planned in your kitchen and what was your fix?

not bad, but not amazing

not bad, but not amazing



45 thoughts on “potato gnocchi: a cautionary tale

  1. I applaud the effort – for I know with certainty that I would totally screw this up – and three ingredients can be deceptive. Happy Thanksgiving Liz! Wishing you and your family a delicious, de-lovely, delightful holiday!

  2. I think one of my most favorite sentences ever…

    “I’ll not overbake nor will I overboil”

    could be the opening line to your someday but inevitable personally penned cookbook! Love that you tried and shared the tale of the gnocchi!! Happy Happy T-Day!!!

    • Will you make the T-shirts, Bonnie? I’ll make bumper stickers and we can always use the acronym INONWIO. Yes?

      Happy happy to you, too. Enjoy your long weekend.

  3. Props to you on the steps you were willing to take, and on your beautiful dishware, as always. Shaving parmigiano reggiano onto it must have helped. I almost feel like I know too much about that potato, as the clarity is amazing on its skin. I can’t think of any recent kitchen disasters (taking no risks means little error but also boring), but I do recall going to my best friend’s house as a girl and making a big bowl of Fruit Loops cereal and wanting more fruit flavors. So we pulled the squeezable lemon juice (you know, the yellow plastic things) out of the fridge and (I want to say her grandmother even warned against it) poured it all over the cereal and milk. Needless to say, the milk got chunky and curdled, and to save face, we spooned it into our mouths and said we liked it anyway. Epic fail.

    • I love your story, Kerbey! That’s fantastic, especially that you sucked it up and sucked it down. Blech. And eewwwww.

      I have a bit of a weakness for fun thrift-store dishes. Only buy if it’s a bargain, but a lot of bargains still add up.

      Potato porn? And here I thought this was a family-friendly blog πŸ˜‰

  4. I love gnocchi, it can be tricky though the ratio of potato to flour is important I think. My favorite is made with ricotta not potato they are lighter. Your gnocchi look good, sorry you had some missteps. I have had more than a few failed recipes and mistakes over the years.

  5. Shoot. Well, it sounds like it was fine…just not amazing! I need to try making gnocchi and now that I have notes on your experience I’ll make sure to really follow the instructions to a “T”. Cute plate! πŸ™‚ Happy Thanksgiving Liz!

    • Thanks, Seana. Looking forward to seeing your photos when you do make a batch. Am all over the cute plates, bowls, glassware, etc. It’s all about the thrift store πŸ™‚ Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. Would imagine your feast will be amazing! As long as you make enough to feed your son πŸ˜‰

  6. Well it looked like a lot of steps with much room for error, Liz. The final result photo looked pretty yummy to me. And from a extremely gnarly looking potato, too, as you rightly pointed out.

    As the only man pitching in here, may I say:

    What husband doesn’t want to come home to some gnocchi?

    • Oh how this comment rocks! I’ll pass your thought on to Larry. Nicely pitched, Mark.

      The final dish wasn’t horrible, but I’d been hoping for so much more and also it looked nothing like the photo.

      Wishing you and yours a happy and blessed Thanksgiving πŸ™‚ Am thankful to have you over at food for fun.

  7. If I started telling you about food fails, I’d make WordPress crash! I’m making chocolate-covered cherries today, trying to recover from, and learn from, my previous fail in that area!

    • That’s funny, Kerry–let’s not make WP crash πŸ˜‰ I just read about those cherries! Loving the magic. Curious: What was your first fail with the cherries?

      I have been munching on chocolates lately (just finished my first candy bar!) that were most definitely NOT fails πŸ˜€

  8. Thanks for sharing your gnocci fail with us, Liz! Who knew they could be so much work?!

    One kitchen fail that stands out in my memory…I was newly married and made potato soup (darn potatoes are trouble). I wasn’t paying enough attention and had the burner too high. The bottom of the pan scalded badly…very badly. And the lovely ash taste spread throughout the entire pot of soup. *yum*

    Happy Thanksgiving, lovely! I hope you and yours are well!

    • oh gosh, those potatoes, Kaela. Sounds messy! Hate the dairy scum on pots–so hard to scrub off. Potato Soup avec la fragrance du ash. Or something like that. Bon appetit! Thanks for stopping over, friend. Thought of you last week as I finished book 52 πŸ™‚ Note that I took it easy on myself this year: For instance, Indiana Jones Trilogy counts for three books. Right?

  9. I’ve had a few mishaps in the world of pasta. I think the worst was when I tried making frascatelli (http://attemptsindomesticity.com/2013/02/11/branching-out-with-frascatelli/). It was a frustrating experience, especially considering how the recipe (also from Bon Appetit, hmmm…) made it sound so easy. You’re basically supposed to make pasta by flicking water from your fingertips onto semolina flour. Yeah, not so much. In the end I took the wet flour pieces and squished them into small discs. Much better though not quite as the recipe intended! Oh well. Next time, right? πŸ˜‰

  10. Oh dear, I can definitely relate. I am so bad at following recipes, especially when there are people I want to talk to in the kitchen. I admire your perseverance though – seems like you came out with a pretty darn decent dinner anyhow!
    We had a bit of a situation tonight while trying to make a fancy recipe for roasted sweet potatoes with fresh figs for our thanksgiving dinner (which we had tonight, a day late). I had counted on using frozen figs if we couldn’t find fresh, but when we defrosted them they looked like unappetizing blobs of slugsand tasted even worse. My husband was already halfway through the recipe at this point, so we sautΓ©ed a whole mess of extra green onions in olive oil and tossed the baked sweet potato fries with the green onions, balsamic, salt, and pepper and threw the whole thing in the oven for another ten minutes. It turned out to be a happy accident that we plan to repeat next year! Yay! Seemed like the kind of Liz-like culinary adventure you are famous for. πŸ˜‰

    • nuts, but you turned tragedy to triumph! Love that the dish will become tradition now. Sounds like the dish was perfect for your husband as well. Hoping your Thankgiving was great fun and that you are staying warm.

  11. Yum! I love gnocchi. I’ve made ricotta gnocchi, but not potato gnocchi. It’s been on my to-make list for years…. You’ve certainly inspired me πŸ™‚ I might try to attempt this when I get the chance! Thanks for sharing your cautionary tale!

    • I saw a bag of frozen at the store and was tempted. Gnocchi can be so good! Hoping you end up with a great batch eventually and me, too πŸ™‚ Thanks much for coming by.


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