How to Make 3-Ingredient Gnocchi: A Canvas for Random Toppings

Gnocchi sitting on a gray and white marble background before cooking
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Gnocchi proves Julia Child’s maxim for eating well: “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.” If you have red or yellow potatoes, flour and salt on hand, you can make fabulous gnocchi that tastes much better than store-bought and you won’t have a vacuum-sealed plastic package to throw in the trash.

Gnocchi sitting on a gray and white marble background before cooking

Topping ideas

These satisfying dumplings require just simple toppings. My daughter Charlotte made gnocchi for friends this week, topped with cooked corn kernels fresh from the cob, fresh basil, butter, lemon zest and parmesan.

Pesto always goes with gnocchi—either basil pesto or pesto made from kale or fennel fronds or carrot tops or spinach… The little grooves you form in the individual pieces hold pesto in place perfectly.

More topping ideas based on what you have on hand:

  • Fresh tomato sauce
  • Cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, pepperoncini peppers and olive oil
  • Sauce of puréed vegetables (think pumpkin or broccoli with bechamel)
  • Kalamata olives, feta cheese, fresh basil and olive oil
  • Red pepper sauce
  • Mushroom gravy
  • Garlic butter

Gnocchi-making tricks

Both the ingredients and preparation are simple but some tricks will help you turn out more pillowy gnocchi:

  1. Boil the whole potatoes with the skins on. Peeled and cut boiled potatoes will contain more water, which can lead to mushy gnocchi.
  2. Work with the potatoes while they are still warm. Assemble everything you need while they cook so they don’t get a chance to cool down while you look for tools.
  3. Process the potatoes directly on your work surface—ideally a wooden board—to allow the steam to escape from the warm potatoes.
  4. Run the potatoes through a ricer or food mill if you have either of these tools. They will render a smoother mixture. If you don’t own either one (or don’t want to wash either one), a fork also works. Charlotte used a fork for hers pictured in this post.

Conserve water and energy

Save the water you boil the whole potatoes in for cooking the gnocchi. You’ll conserve water and your pot will already contain some flavor for your gnocchi. And remember! Once a pot of water comes to a boil, the heat doesn’t need to blast on maximum in order for the water to continue to boil. Turn it down to save energy.

Gnocchi sitting on a gray and white marble background before cooking
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3-Ingredient Simple Gnocchi

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 3 people


  • 2 pounds new red or yellow potatoes, whole and unpeeled
  • cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • Scrub the potatoes and place them in a pot of water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until a knife slides easily into the potatoes. Remove the potatoes and save the water for cooking the gnocchi.
  • While the potatoes are still warm, process them directly on a wooden board. If using a ricer or fork, first peel the potatoes with a vegetable peeler. A food mill will remove the skins. If using a fork, mash to remove as many lumps as possible. Sprinkle the salt onto the potatoes.
  • A small handful at a time, work the flour into the potatoes to make a smooth dough. The dough shouldn’t be sticky. If it is, add a bit more flour. Don’t overwork the dough.
  • Divide the dough into four even pieces and form the gnocchi with the first piece. Cover the remaining dough with a clean dish towel. Roll the piece of dough into a ¾-inch thick rope, about 18 inches long. Cut the rope into ¾-inch-wide pieces, using either a knife or a bench scraper. Indent each piece with the back of a fork or use a floured gnocchi board by pushing gently into each piece with your thumb as you roll it down the board. Repeat with the remaining dough, one piece at a time.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the pot of water you cooked the potatoes in and bring the water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches, adding only as many to the pot as can fit in a single layer without crowding. The gnocchi will float after 1 to 2 minutes of cooking. Continue to cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl. Toss them immediately with your topping of choice. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.

My cookbook is a finalist for a cookbook award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and has been shortlisted for a Taste Canada award! You can check out the book here.

7 Replies to “How to Make 3-Ingredient Gnocchi: A Canvas for Random Toppings”

  1. Thanks for the recipe? I took a cooking class with an Italian chef via zoom at the beginning of lock down. She shared a secret about getting your pesto to stick to your pasta. She had us boil a small potato then peel and mash it into the pesto before adding it to the pasta. It really worked! I wonder if that’s not necessary when you’re making potato pasta?☺️

  2. What a fun recipe! Great to make with friends.

    1. It is a fun one to make with a group!

  3. When do you add the 1/2 tsp salt?

    1. I’m sorry, I forgot to add that instruction! Sprinkle the salt onto the potatoes before you start to mix in the flour. I’ve updated the recipe. Thank you for asking about this!

  4. Enjoying my discovery of your website! Have you tried freezing for future use? If so pre or post boiling?

  5. Excited to try this recipe! I love making pumpkin gnocchi. Puree from a small pie pumpkin makes wonderful gnocchi and kids love helping. I think I might have used the pressure cooker directions from this blog to cook my pumpkin – it can go in there whole!

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