To native English speakers, Gnocchi doesn’t look like it sounds. Is the G silent? Where does the k sound come from without a k? That’s where these tips I picked up in my Italian classes can help anyone pronounce Gnocchi properly just like an Italian.
What follows are tips for nailing the proper pronunciation of Gnocchi. A quick explainer of what Gnocchi is and of how potato Gnocchi is made. Plus, my own personal story of learning to make and to pronounce Gnocchi correctly from my Italian Mother-in-Law.
Gnocchi isn’t a particularly long word yet three are three segments of it that trip up native English speakers. One, in Italian double consonants like the cc in Gnocchi, are both pronounced. Two, in Italian there is no letter k, rather ch takes its place. Three, the sound the letter combination Gn makes in Italian doesn’t exist in English! No wonder why so many of us pronounce Gnocchi wrong.
Gnocchi Pronunciation Tip 1: Pronouncing Gn in Italian
Let’s break down how to pronounce Gnocchi correctly from the beginning starting with the letter G in Italian. The G in Gnocchi is not silent, rather it’s pronounced with its partner letter n. The Gn in Gnocchi sounds a bit like ny. It’s a unique sound in Italian that’s just a little bit below nasal. The trick to pronouncing Italian words with a Gn – gn is to try one of the two following methods. The first I learned from my Italian teacher. Scrunch up your nose like you smell something stinky or the second, force a smile as shown in the video below. I swear it works. Here take a listen!
Gnocchi Pronunciation Tip 2: Double Letters in Italian
Now that you’ve got a feel for the ‘gn’ in Gnocchi it’s time to tackle that double c. In Italian, if you see a letter, you say it with very few exceptions. That includes double consonants. For example, the proper pronunciation of Orecchiette has two!
The use of double letters in Italian is to indicate stronger, longer pronunciation of the letter. You’re not actually saying c twice, you’re pronouncing the double letter sound. The trick with double consonants in Italian is to treat the second letter almost like a pause. Unfortunately, double letters are one of the subtleties in Italian where getting it wrong can mean the difference between saying pizza the food and Pisa the town. Here’s Manu from Italy Made Easy, one of my favorite instructors with a great explanation.
Gnocchi Pronunciation Tip 3: Words with Chi in Italian
Lastly, there is the k sound that seemingly comes out of nowhere! The Italian alphabet has no K in it unless it’s from a foreign word or name, like Karen. Yet there is still the phonetic sound of K in many words. The quick answer here is anytime you see a ‘ch’ in Italian pronounce it like a k. Just keep in mind Chi and Che are pronounced key and kay respectively. Here’s a video of a native Italian-speaking teacher to help!
Put it all together and you’ve got Gnocchi! When it comes to Italian words, it’s best to hear them pronounced by an Italian in their native context. For Gnocchi, I love this quick video by an Italian Chef making Potato Gnocchi for GialloZafferano.
Curious what Gnocchi is and how it’s made? I’ve got you covered.
What Gnocchi Is
Gnocchi is the plural form of the Italian word gnocco, which means dumpling which is exactly what Gnocchi are. Small single bite pieces of Italian pasta dumplings. Most commonly made with potatoes Gnocchi can also be made with a multitude of other ingredients like spinach, and pumpkin. There’s even a recipe called Canederli that’s made from stale bread and milk.
Personally, my favorites are potato or Ricotta gnocchi which comes from the Piedmont region I now call home. You have to love Italian innovation for turning inexpensive ingredients into outstanding dishes! The history of Gnocchi itself is pretty fascinating. Take a look.
While Ricotta Gnocchi is among my favorite, good old fashion potato Gnocchi made without eggs is the cheapest and easiest to make at home. It yields just the right balance between comfort food and a light Gnocchi dish. It also just so happens to be my Italian Mother-in-law’s (aka Mammotta) recipe.
Learning to Make Gnocchi in Italy
In 2012, my now Husband brought me home to Italy for the first time. During this trip, his Mom (aka Mammotta) taught me how to make the lightest, fluffiest Gnocchi I’ve ever had. Potato Gnocchi without eggs!
At the time we could barely speak to each other due to a language barrier. Thankfully, food and love translate and Mammotta patiently demonstrated how she makes Gnocchi. After boiling the potatoes, running them through a potato ricer, and adding just the right amount of flour, Mammotta began rolling out the Gnocchi into ropes.
At that moment I smiled. My Mother, Sister and I make a Norweigan pastry called Kringla together for the holidays. Ever since I was old enough to reach the counter, we would roll spoonfuls of Kringla dough into ropes (just like Gnocchi) before twisting it into the shape of a pretzel. When it came time for me to help Mamma roll out the Gnocchi, it came naturally to me. After Mammotta demonstrated the first round, I quickly and expertly rolled out a perfect rope of Gnocchi myself and impressed Mammotta! I didn’t have to speak Italian to get the gist of her excitement. Now, whenever I make Gnocchi, it reminds me of my Moms.
How to Make Potato Gnocchi
Mix 1kg of cooked, riced potatoes to 300g of flour and a pinch of salt. Spread 50g of additional flour on a cutting board with a little extra flour on the side. Turn the potato flour mixture out onto the pile of flour. Flour hands and work in the rest of the flour from the board. The dough will be sticky so keep a little extra in a bowl on the side. Mix in just enough flour so that the dough no longer clings to your hands and have extra ready for the board when you roll out the ropes of Gnocchi.
Cut the dough into four segments. Take one segment and on the floured cutting board, begin rolling the dough out into ropes approximately thumb thick. Cut the rope into pieces about an inch in length. Roll the segments of dough between your thumb and a fork.
Cook the Gnocchi at a low boil so it doesn’t break apart in the water. When they float, they are ready. Last but not least have fun with dressing Gnocchi. From Brown Butter Sage sauce to tomatoes sautéed with olive oil and basil, you can hardly go wrong. A favorite in our house is potato Gnocchi with a blue cheese sauce. Simply cut cubes of high quality blue cheese and melt them with a little butter in the pan. Add cooked Gnocchi, season to taste and enjoy!
Tips to Making Potato Gnocchi Lite
Here are the five tips that are the keys to making light, flavourful Potato Gnocchi, plus a simple blue cheese sauce that elevates a simple Potato Gnocchi to gourmet treat.
- Do not use eggs! Although Gnocchi can be made with eggs, if what you’re aiming for is a light dumpling skip them. Instead…
- Be brave and use Yukon Gold potatoes. Although there are starchier potatoes that work well and most recipes call for them, the flavor just isn’t there. The real secret comes next.
- Italian 00 Flour which is lower in protein (better for you) and lighter.
- After the potatoes are cooked put them through a fine potatoe ricer instead of mashing them and then and only then measure your potato to flour ratio.
- Handle the dough as little as possible.
While homemade Gnocchi is satisfying, inexpensive and easy to make, I love it because above all it reminds me of my two Moms.
Subscribe for more Italian Food Pronunciation Tips!