Introduction: Making a Gnocchi Rolling Paddle & Pan-Seared Gnocchi With Browned Butter Sauce

About: If there's one thing I've learned about being an adult, it is this: there's always another project. Over the years, I've tackled a ton of projects and built some cool stuff, and now I'd like to help people wh…

Gnocchi is a favorite in my house, and one that's very simple to make, albeit slightly time-consuming.

This Instructable has a delicious gnocchi recipe, which you can skip to Step 7 if that's all you're interested in. However, this is so much more than a simple recipe! I'll also teach you how to make a new kitchen gadget for making the trademark ridges in your gnocchi. After all, presentation is half of the fun of eating!

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Material for the Gnocchi Paddle:

  • piece of close-grained hardwood 3/8" to 1/2" thick, 4"+ wide, and 8"+ long

Ingredients for gnocchi, given per pound of potatoes used:

  • 3.5 oz flour, white or unbleached
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 egg

Ingredients for browned butter sauce:

  • 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1-2 Tbs minced garlic
  • salt and black pepper to taste


For paddle:

For making gnocchi:

  • large pot for boiling
  • potato ricer (can mash potatoes instead, but the texture isn't as good)
  • mixing bowl
  • sharp knife or bench knife
  • frying pan

Step 1: Stock Preparation

You can start with any size material, but the idea here is to arrive at final stock dimensions of 3/8" to 1/2" thick, 3-1/2" wide, and 8" long.

Stock preparation can take any steps you like, but my general methodology is as such:

  1. Rip board to rough width
  2. Joint one face so that it's flat
  3. Plane the opposite face to be parallel to the first face
  4. Plane the board to desired thickness
  5. Joint one edge perpendicular to a face
  6. Rip to final width
  7. Cut to length

You will notice in my photos and video that I included an accent strip of maple in my black walnut board. This is optional, of course, and I chose to do so solely for the artistic effect.

I have included a template in this step that is scaled 1:1 when printed on 8.5"x11" paper. This makes it very easy to cut the template out and trace it on the prepared board.

Step 2: Cut V-Grooves for Rolling Board

Here's where the fun starts. Set your table saw to 45 degrees and retract the blade so that just the top corner of the tooth protrudes. Using a scrap, make a test cut by cutting one groove, moving the fence 1/8", and making another cut. The grooves should barely overlap, as in the photo.

Set up a stop block at the far end of the table saw, which will keep the groove cut lengths consistent. In my case, I used a scrap of plywood and clamped it to my saw bed. The stop block should be set to make grooves a total of about 4-1/2" long.

Set the table saw fence at 1/4" for the first cut. Push the board through the blade until it hits the stop block, then carefully pull it back. Move the fence 1/8" and repeat...and repeat...and repeat until the fence reads 3-1/4". You should now have grooves running in the middle 3" of the paddle's width.

Step 3: Cut Paddle Shape

If you have already traced the final shape of the paddle from the template supplied in Step 1, then you're ready to move onto cutting. If not, I've provided the dimensions needed to draw onto the paddle, which should be done now.

With the shape traced out, bring the board over to the band saw and remove the waste. Alternately, this can also be done with a coping saw. Take your time and cut close to, but not over, the line traced before.

Step 4: Drill Hanging Hole (Optional), Smooth Curves

I've provided a location for a hanging hole in the handle, which is drilled with a 3/8" diameter drill bit. I would recommend a brad point bit here since they leave clean holes. Drill this at the drill press or, if you're feeling adventurous, with a hand drill. Use a countersink bit to add a slight chamfer to both sides of the hole.

Next, use a file (or rotary sander) to smooth the curves previously cut by the band saw. You'll want to smooth these to the lines traced from the template earlier.

Step 5: Chamfer Corners

The front edge of the paddle should be chamfered over to protect the fragile grooves you previously cut. Using a hand plane (or chisel, or router with chamfer bit), cut a 1/8"x1/8" chamfer in the top and bottom edges of the front of the paddle, and then do the same on the front sides.

Then, set your router to take a 1/16"x1/16" chamfer and use it to chamfer the remaining edges of the paddle. When done, there should be no square corners anywhere on the paddle, which helps protect it when it knocks around inside a kitchen drawer.

Step 6: Sand and Oil

Using 150-grit sandpaper, sand both faces and the edges of the paddle. I found it easiest to wrap the paper around a block of wood, and sand with the grain. You *could* use a random-orbit sander, but I think it's too aggressive for this project. Repeat with 200- or 220-grit sand paper.

For finish, I chose to use simple food-grade mineral oil, the type that you might use on a wooden cutting board. It's easy enough to squirt some on the board and rub it in, allow it to sit for a while to absorb, then wipe away the excess. Note that you'll have to renew this finish every so often since the oil will dry out or be washed out over time.

Step 7: Cooking Time! Boil, Peel, and Rice the Potatoes

And now for the main event!

Place your potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. You can peel before boiling or afterward - some potato varieties peel easier prior to boiling. Add a couple pinches of salt to the water, and bring them to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a light boil and set the timer for 30 minutes. At the end of 30 minutes, remove from heat and drain the water.

Rinse the potatoes in cold water and let sit until the outsides are cool to the touch. Peel off the skins now if you haven't before. Put the potatoes in the ricer and squeeze the riced potato...mush...into a mixing bowl. Let sit to cool for at least 20 minutes, maybe longer if you have a lot of potatoes. You want the core of the lump to be cool enough that it doesn't start cooking the eggs (added in the next step).

Step 8: Mix Gnocchi Dough

Add the egg(s) to the potatoes and mix with your hands. You'll want the egg incorporated into the entire mass of potatoes.

Next, add in the flour and mix it lightly with your hands until the flour is entirely incorporated. If you have a second set of hands, it might be helpful to have the flour slowly poured in to minimize clumps. You don't want to mix this too long otherwise the gluten starts to form in the flour and toughen the dough. Keep the mixing time to a minimum, under a minute if possible.

The dough should form into a loose ball, and it should be just dry enough not to stick to your hands. Add flour to the dough as necessary to dry it out.

Step 9: Roll Out, Cut Into Pieces, and Roll Grooves Into Gnocchi

Dust your countertop with flour so that the dough doesn't stick. Also rub some flour onto your hands to help the dough from sticking to them.

Grab a hunk of dough the size of a baseball or a lemon and gently roll it into a ball in your hands. Then roll it into a "snake" about 3/4" in diameter on the countertop. If the snake gets too long, cut it in half and continue rolling. Using a knife, cut the snake into ~3/4" long pieces, which should look like little pillows.

Take some flour and rub it onto the rolling paddle you just made, again to keep the dough from sticking. Using light pressure with your thumb, gently roll the gnocchi piece down the grooves. The result should be a piece of gnocchi with a dimple on one side and grooves everywhere other than the dimple.

It is probably a good idea to place the rolled gnocchi onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment/waxed paper so that they don't get clumped together on the counter.

Step 10: Boil and Pan Fry

Bring a large pot of water to boil. At the same time, get a frying pan heating up (medium heat) and ready for searing the gnocchi.

Once the water is boiling, drop the gnocchi into the water. Don't add too many at once, otherwise the water won't come back to a boil soon enough, and the gnocchi will disintegrate. Once the gnocchi start floating, set a timer for one minute.

Cut about a tablespoon of butter and melt it on the frying pan. Once the timer goes off, transfer the gnocchi to the frying pan with a slotted spoon, being sure to shake off any excess water from the pot. You'll want to fry the gnocchi until nicely browned on all sides, stirring/flipping/tossing as necessary to achieve this.

Once satisfied with the level of sear, transfer the gnocchi to a plate.

Step 11: Make the Browned Butter Sauce and Garnish

Cut off 4 to 8 tablespoons of butter and put into the frying pan, again on medium heat. Once melted, add a sprig of rosemary, 1 to 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, and about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper (adjust to suit your taste). Stir this around until the butter has turned brown. Do not let the butter burn.

Pour the browned butter over the gnocchi and top with shredded cheese. Parmesan or Romano would be good choices here. Now, go enjoy the fruits of your labor and EAT that delicious gnocchi!

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Step 12: Afterword

Since the gnocchi takes a while to make, it's a good candidate for batching a bunch out at one time and saving for later. I made about 4 lbs of potatoes worth of gnocchi when I made this, and placed cookie sheets full of gnocchi in the freezer. Once hard to the touch, these can be transferred to a freezer bag for long-term storage. They can easily store for a year in the freezer.

If making the recipe using frozen gnocchi, you'll have to boil less gnocchi at a time and boil them longer, say 2 minutes instead of 1 minute once they start floating. Don't add too many frozen gnocchi to the pot or it won't come back to a boil quick enough, and you'll end up with potato mush.

Obviously, the butter sauce isn't the only sauce that works with these. I love gnocchi with a good pesto sauce or any tomato-based sauce for that matter.

If you liked this Instructable, don't forget to VOTE for it in the Meat Free Meal Contest!

Also, if you like what you see, subscribe to my YouTube channel for more!

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