Skip the Potatoes and Use Cheese to Make the Best Gnocchi Ever

You'll never eat boxed pasta again.

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As a passionate pasta lover, I am always looking for ways to feed my (healthy) pasta obsession. I love making pasta at home, but with a busy schedule I can’t always take the time to do so. However, all my pasta dreams came true after watching Dan Langan’s Easy Ricotta Gnocchi class on the Food Network Kitchen app. Inspired by an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Dan taught me how to make cheesy, delicious restaurant-worthy gnocchi in a hurry. Here’s how he did it.

Cut the Prep Time in Half

Traditionally, gnocchi dough is made with starchy potatoes, which are boiled, dried out a bit and then mashed before they are added to a flour and egg mixture. For people like myself who consistently wish there were more hours in a day, this method is a little too time-consuming. Dan’s secret? Use ricotta cheese as a substitute! Dan says it’s a great time-saving hack that lets you skip the potato prep altogether and go straight into making the dough. Plus, who doesn’t love extra cheese in their pasta?!

Since there are many different types of ricotta out there, Dan recommends taking note of the consistency of whichever kind you buy. “[The ricotta] will affect how sticky or wet or dry your dough will be, depending on where you pick it up from,” he says. When it’s time to mix your dough, you’ll want to adjust the amount of flour you use based on how the ricotta affects it.

Use a Fork to Shape Your Gnocchi

Shape is an integral part of any pasta dish but achieving the iconic gnocchi ridge at home is not as difficult as it seems. Instead of using fancy kitchen gadgets, you can use a flour-dusted fork to lightly stamp the ridge design onto your gnocchi. Dan also says that a bench scraper is a great tool to keep at hand when you’re creating the shape. “By maintaining the use of your bench scraper, it helps you by not fiddling too much with the shape of the gnocchi,” he says. This tool will help you keep the design intact.

Don’t Overcrowd the Pot

When it’s time to cook your gnocchi, make sure you’re not overcrowding your pot (this is something I learned the hard way). “Every single time you add some gnocchi to your pot, it’s actually gonna decrease the temperature of the water,” says Dan. “You want to maintain the temperature of the water to quite a high temp. It will cook it through as opposed to creating a gluey-like substance.” You’ll know your gnocchi are done when they are firm to the touch.

If you’ve made too many to fit into the pot, Dan recommends putting them in the freezer to save for later. “Next time all you have to do is make a sauce to go with it,” he says.

The Secret to a Good Sauce Is Pasta Water

I used to always dump my pasta water into the sink without remorse, but after following Dan’s class I understand why saving it is incredibly important. “[Pasta water creates] a nice liquid sauce base, so it brings everything together,” Dan says. “First, it obviously thins it out, but then the starchiness of the flour will naturally thicken it over time and will create this nice emulsified butter sauce.”

The pasta water makes a huge difference in the consistency of the sauce, especially when making a butter and cheese sauce like the one Dan makes. The lesson here is don’t be like the old me. Save your pasta water.


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