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Potatoes, flour, egg yolks. Gnocchi is practically the simplest — and more versatile! — food ever invented, so why does it seem like we’re always messing it up? If you, like us, have always relied on the store-bought stuff or restaurant outings to get your fix, take note. We spoke to The Gnocchi Queen, Top Chef runner-up Nina Compton, about all the dos and don’ts of making your own little parcels of yummy potato pasta at home.

DON’T

Overwork the mixture. According to Compton, you’ll just end up adding even more flour and the result will be dense and doughy. “The trick is to really work it right away,” she says. “And cook it right away too.”

DO

Go by touch. If it’s tacky, add a little more flour. But not too much. “It should be just firm enough to roll out,” she adds. “It shouldn’t be like this dense piece of dough.”

DO

Practice. That’s how Compton learned. And we all know what they say: practice makes perfect. Or try, try again. Or … well, you get the picture. “I became the Gnocchi Queen by practicing and experience. Doing it every day and getting better,” Compton says.

DON’T

Make it for the first time at a dinner party. Instead, use yourself or a close confidante as a guinea pig. “Do it at home first, behind closed doors,” the chef says. “Do some trial and error and then if that goes well, then you make it for everyone else.”

DO 

Use Yukon Gold potatoes — those are Compton’s favourite. But once you have the base down, try and experiment. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes and polenta all make excellent potato alternatives.

DON’T 

Overcook the potatoes. “They become very gummy and starchy. Then you have to add more starch to it,” Compton explains. Cook potatoes whole, until they’re just fork-tender.

DO

Use a ricer. Don’t have one? A fork or potato masher will do, but be warned that your parcels might not be a smooth as previously imagined. Call them rustic, if you will.

DON’T

Worry about perfection. Once your dough is rolled out, aim to cut the pieces about a quarter-of-an-inch wide. Better yet? Use a piping bag to squirt out your pieces. You also don’t have to worry about making fancy shapes with your fork — pinching the pieces together will do just fine, says Compton.

DO

Cook the gnocchi right away.

DO

Experiment with sauces. “It can be anything, a very simple butter and cheese sauce, or some people like to add a meat ragu,” Compton says. “You could add vegetables, or cook them in a tomato sauce with some fresh herbs. It can be so many things, but I’d say keeping it simple is the best way.”

 

Ready to kick it up a notch? Try Compton’s Semolina Gnocchetti with Sausage recipe.