January 13th, 2014

Pan-seared Potato Gnocchi with parsnips


In the case of potato gnocchi, I have felt like I’m on a quest for something elusive. Once, a long time ago at a restaurant that no longer exists, I had a sumptuous plate of hand-formed dumplings, pillowy-light bites cloaked in garlicky brown butter sauce: a pleasure to eat. In the wake of that ethereal meal, I would often order potato gnocchi when I’d find it on a menu. Just as often, I would wind up disappointed. The dough was either gummy, or the restaurant had used something pre-fab, vacuum-sealed in a box, a factory line of same-shaped dumplings that cooked up rather dense and chewy. Blecch. No, thank you.


This fall, I had lunch at an eatery in downtown Franklin called Gray’s on Main. They offered a potato gnocchi dish where the dumplings were tumbled with Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and pancetta in a butter sauce. Ah! These cushions of potato had golden butter-crisp exteriors gleaned from a final spin in the skillet. That contrast made them exceptional. At last, I had found the elusive!

Before it vanished.

Their house gnocchi plate is no longer on the menu.

The solution: it’s time to learn to make them myself.


There’s an aspect of gnocchi-making that reminds me of biscuit-making. With a terse list of ingredients, it is not just the quantities of potato, flour, salt and pepper, eggs–or no eggs—that distinguishes the outcome. It’s the process–the light hand in forming the dough. Fluffy biscuits and pillowy gnocchi have this in common. You want to mix and fold the dough deftly, quickly, but not handle it too much. Overworking is what causes that unpalatable toughness.

Indeed, it a matter of practice: Learning the feel of the dough, that “right discrimination” that informs your hands and brain that, yes! this it. This has the right consistency.


The kind of potato you use is critical. Waxy reds or new potatoes won’t work. The humble Russet, boiled in its jacket, peeled and run through a ricer or food mill is The Way. Eggs or no eggs? I have found recipes espousing either. Rachel writes that the Romans prefer the dough with: sturdier in the boil and pan. Head north of The Eternal City, and gnocchi di patate are made without.


While I was mixing up the riced potatoes with flour, I could feel how an eggless dough would work. But I ultimately added the eggs.
It makes a richer dough. And, as I wanted to finish the gnocchi in the skillet–get that lovely crust—using eggs made good sense.



Divide the dough into quarters, rolling each one into a ropey length. After you cut them into little pieces, you’ll roll and press each one with a fork. My gnocchi look a little wonky, I know. No worries. They still tasted delicious. I’ll get better at forming them, with practice.


There is little doubt when they are done—the dumplings will rise to the surface after a couple of minutes in the rolling boil.


Look at these plump dumplings! At this point, they would be delectable, plunked into a red sauce. We are taking it another step:
Pan-seared in a skillet with a saute of shallots and parsnips in butter, topped with a few curls of shaved Parmegianno-Reggiano.

Elusive no more.


adapted from Julianna Grimes at Cooking Light
4 medium Russet potatoes, scrubbed
2 medium parsnips, peeled
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting, rolling out dough
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4-5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup shaved Parmegianno-Reggiano
2 green onions, finely sliced for garnish

Place potatoes and parsnips into a large saucepan and cover with water. Place over medium high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. After 12-15 minutes, remove the parsnips, which should be tender but still firm. Set them aside on a plate to cool.
Continue boiling the potatoes until they yield to a fork–another 15 minutes. Drain and allow the potatoes to cool. Peel them and run them through a potato ricer or food mill (with a shredder-ricer blade) into a large bowl. Season the riced potatoes with salt and black pepper.

Sprinkle the flour over the potatoes and rapidly mix by hand. Add the lightly beaten eggs. Mix well to incorporate the eggs into the mixture, but do not overwork the dough–otherwise it will become dense and tough. The dough will actually have a light airy feel to it.

Dust your work table with flour. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. If the dough becomes too sticky, dust it with a bit more flour. Cut the rope into bite-sized pieces. You may then roll each piece gently with the tines of a fork to make the distinctive indentations—but you don’t have to.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil on medium high heat. Drop the gnocchi in, a dozen or so pieces at a time. You don’t want to overcrowd them. Gently swirl them around in the boiling water so that they don’t stick to the bottom. They will cook quickly.
After a minute or so, they will rise to the surface. Allow them to cook another minute, and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Place the cooked gnocchi in a large bowl.

Slice the cooled parsnips into bite size pieces.

In a large skillet set on medium heat, melt the butter. Saute the diced shallots until translucent. Add the parsnips and thyme. Continue to saute for 2-3 minutes. Remove the mixture. Increase the heat to medium high and add a layer of gnocchi to the skillet. Sear the gnocchi until they are nicely browned on one side and remove. When all of the gnocchi are browned, toss them with the parsnip-shallot mixture until well combined.

Portion into warm bowls. Sprinkle each with shaved Parmeggiano-Reggiano and sliced green onions.

Serves 4 as main dishes, 6 appetizer/first course


Posted in Pastas, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

17 Responses to “Pan-seared Potato Gnocchi with parsnips”
  1. Fluffy Says:

    Nothing finer than southern spuds made Italian

  2. ernestine Says:

    This early morning
    your meal sounds so appealing to me.
    I have never made Gnocchi
    but remember well a friend of mine
    in Michigan where I grew up
    that her mother made this and was so good.
    I do not know if I would attempt this
    for just “me?”
    But it sure is tempting…

  3. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Ernestine, It would be a lot for just one. The recipe does cut in half, in which case you could make two meals out of the batch–one pan-seared and the other simply boiled and sauced in red.

  4. Consuelo Says:

    Hello dear, nice recipe!
    I found a trick solution that helps to have ALWAYS soft gnocchi.
    I am from Italy and my baker from Milan, one day, after I was complaining about my hard gnocchi, told me to use potato flakes(I use Bob’s Red Mill) instead that fresh potato.
    He said, in this way you don’t need to be worry about the potato that you use, too dry too watery….
    I never ever had any problem again!

  5. Julie Says:

    melt . . . my mouth is officially watering! thanks for the continued inspiration, nancy ;-)

  6. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Consuelo—many thanks for your tip!

  7. heather Says:

    Love the idea of pan-searing them! Thank you Nancy!

  8. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    love love that you pan seared your gnocchi first. genius idea and brings out more flavor- like a roasted potato wedge almost

  9. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    My husband and I still talk about the gnocchi that a friend of ours from Trieste made for us…they were like eating clouds, they were so light. Your gnocchi with parsnips sound wonderful.

  10. Juliana Says:

    Wow Nancy, I love potato gnocchi, and I only made it once, which I must admit did not turn out that good, so I kind of gave up on it.
    Yours look so good and I absolutely love the idea of the golden coat…
    Thanks for the recipe my dear and hope you are enjoying your week :D

  11. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    That golden brown from the pan-searing is beautiful. I want a bite.

  12. Barbara Says:

    Great job with the gnocchi, Nancy! It’s the first thing I order at my favorite Italian restaurant. I’ve made Gnudi, but for some odd reason never gnocchi. I’ll pass on the parsnips though. Never liked that veg….love rutabega and lots of other root veggies though.

  13. KgReciPes Says:

    So Delicious. But why only eggs? Can I use some meat too?

  14. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    You know Nance I have been intending to make gnocchi for years now and just have not gotten around to it due to either inertia or fear of failure. Your recipe looks just so wonderful that I am inspired and have added this to my to do list for 2014. All those root vegetables with the pillowy, billowy gnocchi is just divine to look at.

  15. Beth Says:

    How wonderful that you’ve managed to duplicate gnocchi! It’s tough to master, and now you can make it whenever you like.

  16. Tammy Says:

    I have never had gnocchi like the ones you’re describing. Every time I have ever ordered it, I have been disappointed. Maybe the right idea is making them myself?

  17. nopalea Says:

    mmmmm, very good these preparations

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