Is gnocchi better with potato or ricotta?

Gnocchi is a type of Italian dumpling that can be made with either potato or ricotta cheese. There is an ongoing debate among home cooks and chefs about which version of gnocchi is superior. Both potato gnocchi and ricotta gnocchi have their passionate defenders. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of each type of gnocchi and look at key factors like texture, flavor, and versatility to help determine whether potato or ricotta makes for better gnocchi.

Potato Gnocchi

Potato gnocchi is the more traditional version of this classic Italian dumpling. To make potato gnocchi, boiled russet or Yukon Gold potatoes are mashed and combined with flour and egg to form a dough. The dough is then cut into small pillow-shaped dumplings and boiled until the gnocchi float to the surface, indicating they are cooked through.

Here are some of the main benefits of potato gnocchi:

  • Authentic flavor – Potato provides a neutral, starchy base that takes on the flavors of whatever sauce it is paired with. The potato flavor comes through but does not overpower.
  • Light and pillowy texture – When made correctly, potato gnocchi should have a soft, pillowy, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Ability to hold sauce – The porous surface of potato gnocchi is great for absorbing and holding onto pasta sauces.
  • Versatile – Potato gnocchi can be paired with a wide variety of sauces from rich Bolognese to simple pesto to creamy gorgonzola.
  • Classic crowd-pleaser – Many people grew up eating potato gnocchi, so it has a comforting, nostalgic appeal.

However, potato gnocchi also has some downsides to consider:

  • Labor intensive – Making potato gnocchi from scratch is time consuming. It takes skill to cut and shape the dough into perfect pillow-like pieces.
  • Delicate – Fresh potato gnocchi is more fragile than ricotta gnocchi. It can fall apart or get mushy if overhandled or overcooked.
  • Short shelf-life – Unless frozen, fresh potato gnocchi only keeps for a couple days in the refrigerator before it starts to deteriorate.
  • Moistness – Excess moisture in the potato dough can cause gnocchi to have a gummy or gooey texture.

Ricotta Gnocchi

Unlike potato gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi contains no potato at all. To make ricotta gnocchi, ricotta cheese is mixed with flour, egg, salt, and sometimes nutmeg or herbs. After being chilled, the dough is cut into pieces and pressed with a fork or against a grater to create grooves for the sauce to stick to.

Here are some of the advantages of ricotta gnocchi:

  • Delicate flavor – The addition of creamy ricotta gives the gnocchi a more subtle, delicate flavor than potato gnocchi.
  • Lighter texture – Ricotta gnocchi has a fluffier, airier texture than dense potato gnocchi.
  • Easier to make – Ricotta gnocchi dough comes together quickly compared to potato and doesn’t require any boiling.
  • Longer shelf-life – Refrigerated, fresh ricotta gnocchi will keep for 5-7 days.
  • No eggs needed – Those with egg allergies can often tolerate egg-free recipes for ricotta gnocchi.

However, there are some potential cons with ricotta gnocchi as well:

  • Less authentic – Ricotta gnocchi is not traditional and some view it as inauthentic compared to potato gnocchi.
  • Less sauce absorption – The texture of ricotta gnocchi makes it harder for sauces to adhere to the surface.
  • More cheese flavor – Those who don’t love ricotta may find the cheese flavor overpowering.
  • Delicate texture – Ricotta gnocchi can become gummy or mushy if overhandled.
  • Prone to sticking – The soft dough of ricotta gnocchi can stick together during shaping.

Comparison of Texture and Flavor

When considering whether potato or ricotta gnocchi is better, two of the most important factors are the texture and flavor.


Potato gnocchi has a soft, starchy texture with more density and bite. The dumplings hold their shape well when cooked. Ricotta gnocchi has a lighter, puffier texture that is less substantial. Well-made potato gnocchi should be pillowy and melt-in-your-mouth, while ricotta gnocchi is naturally lighter.


Potato gnocchi has a mild, neutral potato flavor that showcases the sauce it is paired with. Ricotta gnocchi has a more prominent dairy and cheese flavor. Some enjoy the richness and subtle sweetness from the ricotta, while others find it overpowering. Potato gnocchi tends to absorb and complement other flavors better.

Overall, potato gnocchi has a heartier texture and subtler flavor compared to the fluffier, cheesier qualities of ricotta gnocchi. It comes down to personal preference.


An important consideration for any home cook is how versatile an ingredient is. Can it be easily adapted to different recipes and styles of cuisine? Both types of gnocchi can served in a variety of ways.

Potato Gnocchi

The mild flavor and hardy texture of potato gnocchi allows it to be paired with many sauces:

  • Italian – Traditional tomato sauce, bolognese, pesto, Alfredo, etc.
  • Creamed – Gorgonzola, walnut, mushroom, etc.
  • Butter and herbs – Browned butter with sage is classic.
  • Hearty ragus – Short rib, lamb, etc. stand up well to potato gnocchi.
  • Roasts – Pan sauces from roasted meats.

Beyond Italian preparations, potato gnocchi also works well in soups, casseroles, and can even be sliced and fried or roasted for gnocchi “fries”.

Ricotta Gnocchi

Some key sauce pairings for fluffier ricotta gnocchi include:

  • Creamy sauces – Alfredo, melted leeks and cream, etc.
  • Vegetable sauces – Bright, fresh tomato or pesto.
  • Butter and herbs – Sage, parsley, lemon zest all complement ricotta.
  • Cheese sauces – Gorgonzola, cheddar, etc. pair well.
  • Heartier ragu – The fluffiness of ricotta gnocchi holds up to chunky ragu better than a smooth sauce.

Ricotta gnocchi works best in more delicate preparations focused on its cheese flavor, compared to the heartier applications of potato gnocchi.

Ease of Preparation

For home cooks, an important factor is how easy a dish is to prepare. Both potato and ricotta gnocchi can be time consuming to make completely from scratch.

Potato Gnocchi

Key steps in making potato gnocchi include:

  • Boiling and mashing potatoes
  • Kneading dough and letting rest
  • Shaping and cutting individual gnocchi
  • Boiling each batch until cooked through

This process can take 1-2 hours depending on skill level. The shaping of pillow-like gnocchi and getting the perfect soft but firm texture requires practice and finesse.

Ricotta Gnocchi

The preparation for ricotta gnocchi is similar but without a few steps:

  • Mixing ricotta, flour, egg, and any extra ingredients
  • Chilling dough
  • Shaping and cutting gnocchi
  • No boiling required before saucing!

As there is no pre-cooking needed, ricotta gnocchi comes together more quickly in about 30-45 minutes. But both types still require time and some skill to shape properly.

Cost Comparison

For those on a budget, ingredient costs can be a deciding factor. Here is a rough cost breakdown of each type of gnocchi:

Potato Gnocchi

Ingredient Cost
Potatoes (2 lbs) $1-$2
Flour (1 cup) $0.20
Egg (1 large) $0.25
Total $1.50-$2.50

Ricotta Gnocchi

Ingredient Cost
Ricotta (15 oz) $3-$4
Flour (1 cup) $0.20
Egg (1 large) $0.25
Total $3.50-$4.50

Based on typical grocery store prices, ricotta gnocchi costs about $2 more per batch than potato gnocchi. The main contributor is the higher price of ricotta compared to potatoes. However, keep in mind homemade gnocchi of any type is still very economical compared to store-bought fresh gnocchi, which can cost $10 or more per pound.


So which type of gnocchi reigns supreme – light and delicate ricotta gnocchi or classic pillowy potato gnocchi? Here are some key takeaways:

  • Potato gnocchi is more traditional, with a heartier texture and more subtle flavor. It is also more versatile and better able to absorb a variety of sauces.
  • Ricotta gnocchi has a fluffier consistency and prominence of cheese flavor. It shines when topped with creamier, cheese-based sauces.
  • Potato gnocchi takes more time and skill to prepare but is slightly more affordable.
  • Both varieties should be fresh and light – avoid gummy, dense gnocchi.
  • Making either type from scratch results in better texture and flavor than store-bought.

The ideal gnocchi comes down to personal preference. For gnocchi purists who value tradition, potato reigns supreme. Those who enjoy ricotta will appreciate its unique dairy flavor profile. Whichever type you choose, use high quality ingredients and handle the dough gently for the best results.

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