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Potato Gnocchi and Vodka Sauce

Soft, pillowy, cloud-like homemade gnocchi pair perfectly with vodka sauce for just the right balance of sweet, salty, and tangy. Top with Parmesan cheese, fresh tomatoes, and your favorite accouterments.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: pasta, tomato sauce
Servings: 6


  • Large bowl
  • Large saute pan
  • Potato ricer or masher
  • Large pot
  • Food processor


For the potato gnocchi:

  • 2 lb russet potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt

For the vodka sauce:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 1 medium sweet onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (such as San Marzano brand)
  • 1/3 cup vodka
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil (or substitute 1 tsp dried basil)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half (or heavy cream)
  • Parmesan cheese for topping


Preparation, part one:

  • Using a fork, poke holes in the potatoes. Place them in a large pot and fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the potatoes. On high heat, bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and simmer the potatoes until they are soft, tender, and easily pierced by a fork or skewer.
  • While the potatoes cook, add the olive oil to a large saute pan on medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until the onion is beginning to become translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes aromatic, another 1-2 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and cook, mixing together, until the tomato paste begins to caramelize, 1-2 minutes. If you are adding red pepper flakes, add them with the tomato paste.
  • Once the tomato paste has begun to caramelize, add the can of tomatoes and the vodka. Crush the whole tomatoes little with a fork while bringing to a rapid simmer on medium-high heat. Once the sauce begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the balsamic vinegar and salt and black pepper to taste, then cover the pan and let simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • After the sauce has simmered, taste it. If it is too acidic, add sugar little by little to taste. Add more salt and pepper to taste, then turn off the heat. Ladle the sauce into the food processor, add the basil, and process it until smooth, processing in batches if necessary. Return the sauce to the saute pan (heat off).

Preparation, part two:

  • When the potatoes are done, drain them and rinse them in cold water to cool them down. Then peel them and either pass them through a potato ricer into a large bowl or place them in the bowl and mash them, taking care to make them as smooth as possible.
  • Mix the flour and salt for the gnocchi in a bowl; mix the egg, lightly scrambled, into the potatoes, then add the flour mixture to the potato and egg mixture. Mix with your hands until just combined; press into the bottom of the bowl and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead together until the flour has been absorbed. The dough should be soft, slightly sticky, and delicate. Move it to the side onto a floured surface and cover it with a dishcloth.
  • Prepare baking sheets with floured parchment paper where you will place the finished gnocchi.
  • Re-flour your original work surface. Break off a chunk of dough and, using your palms, roll it into a rope of the desired diameter of your gnocchi (3/4 of an inch is a good choice). Then, using a knife, cut the rope crosswise to make roughly square gnocchi. Transfer the finished gnocchi onto the prepared baking sheets, making sure that the gnocchi do not touch each other. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

Preparation, part three:

  • Fill a large pot about halfway with water; add a generous pinch of salt. Bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, begin to heat the pureed sauce that you set aside earlier on low heat. Stir in the half-and-half or cream. Taste and add, appropriately, salt, pepper, and/or sugar to achieve your desired balance.
  • When the water boils, cook the gnocchi in batches. They will be done after 1-2 minutes or when they float. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer them directly into the sauce. Repeat until all of the gnocchi are cooked. Allow the sauce and gnocchi to simmer for a few minutes; add some of the gnocchi water to the sauce if it is too thick.
  • Your dish is ready to serve! Serve with Parmesan cheese for topping; sprinkle with parsley if you desire. Other good additions include sun-dried tomatoes, fresh cherry tomatoes, arugula, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, or a dollop of ricotta cheese.