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 like an Italian!
Below you’ll find three tips for nailing the proper pronunciation of Gnocchi. A quick explainer of what Gnocchi is and how potato Gnocchi is made. Plus how I learned to make Gnocchi from my Italian Mother-in-Law.
How to Pronounce Gnocchi Properly
Gnocchi isn’t a particularly long word, yet three segments of it 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, instead, 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
In order to pronounce Gnocchi correctly, let’s start at the beginning with the letter G.
The G in Gnocchi is not silent. In fact, as a general rule in Italian, you pronounce the letters you see. There are few instances of silent letters in the Italian language.
In the case of Gnocchi, the G and the N are pronounced together as one sound, “noh.”
Here are two ways to nail the pronunciation of Italian words with gn.
The first is the one I learned from my Italian teacher. Scrunch up your nose like you smell something stinky when saying it.
The second, force a smile as shown in the video below. I swear it works. Here take a listen!
How to Pronounce Gnocchi Video Playlist
Gnocchi Pronunciation Tip 2: Double Letters in Italian
Now it is time to tackle that double c.
Remember, if you see a letter, you say it. That goes double for double consonants. For example, the proper pronunciation of Orecchiette has two double letter sets.
The Italian language uses double letters to stress and lengthen sounds.
Take gnocchi, for example. You are not pronouncing two separate instances of C. Instead, you are pronouncing a double C sound.
The trick with double consonants in Italian is to treat the second letter almost like a pause.
It might seem like a small detail, but double letters are one of the subtleties in Italian that are critical. Why? Getting it wrong can mean the difference between saying “pizza” the food, and “Pisa” the town.
The second video in the gnocchi pronunciation video playlist above includes a double consonant lesson from Manu of Italy Made Easy.
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.
Fun fact, if you see a word in Italian with a K, it comes from a foreign language!
Still, there is a phonetic K sound in Italian. The quick answer here is ch in Italian sounds like k.
Video three in the playlist above illustrates how to pronounce Italian words with chi, like Gnocchi.
Learning Italian is easier when you hear words in their native context. For Gnocchi, I love the fourth video in the playlist above. It is a quick video by an Italian Chef making Gnocchi.
Curious about 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. Gnocchi are small single-bite pieces of Italian pasta dumplings.
Most commonly made with potatoes, Gnocchi can also be made with other ingredients like spinach and pumpkin. My favorites are potato or ricotta gnocchi because they originate from Piedmont, the Italian region I now call home.
There is even a type of Gnocchi made from stale bread and milk called Canederli from the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy.
Turning inexpensive ingredients into outstanding dishes is the best part of Italian cuisine!
The final video in the playlist above goes into the history of Gnocchi.
Potato Gnocchi is the cheapest and easiest to make at home. Because the recipe does not include eggs, Potato Gnocchi is the perfect balance between comfort food and a surprisingly light pasta dish.
It also 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 ever.
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 the dough into ropes.
Rolling dough into ropes was already something I was familiar with.
Since I was old enough to reach the counter, my Mother, Sister, and I made a Norweigan pastry called Kringla for the holidays.
We would roll spoonfuls of dough into ropes. Then twist it into the shape of a pretzel.
So 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 both Mommotta and my Mom.
How to Make Potato Gnocchi
While homemade Gnocchi is satisfying, inexpensive, and easy to make, I love it because it reminds me of my two Moms. If you want to give it a try at home, here is a quick and easy tutorial.
- Mix 1kg of cooked, riced potatoes with 300g of flour and a pinch of salt.
- Spread 50g of flour on a cutting board.
- 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 flour in a bowl on the side.
- Mix in just enough flour that the dough no longer clings to your hands.
- Cut the dough into four segments.
- Roll one segment at a time on the floured cutting board into a rope.
- Aim to have a rope of dough the thickness of your thumb.
- 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 to prevent it from breaking apart in the water.
- When they float, they are ready!
- Last but not least, have fun dressing Gnocchi.
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. Cut cubes of high-quality blue cheese and melt them with butter in the pan. Add cooked Gnocchi, season to taste, and enjoy!
Tips for Making Potato Gnocchi Lite
Here are the five tips for making light, flavourful Potato Gnocchi. Plus, a simple blue cheese sauce that elevates a simple Potato Gnocchi to a gourmet treat.
- Do not use eggs! Although Gnocchi can be made with eggs, they weigh down the pasta. Skip them and use the flour-to-potato ratio listed above.
- Be brave and use Yukon Gold potatoes. Although starchier potatoes like Russet work well, the flavor isn’t there. It takes a little practice to nail the perfect flour-to-potato ratio when using Yukon Golds, but the result is worth it!
- Italian 00 Flour is lower in protein (better for you) and lighter. So ditch the All-Purpose and keep 00 Flour around for Gnocchi and Pizza dough.
- After the potatoes are cooked, put them through a fine potato ricer to add air to the final dough mixture.
- Handle the dough as little as possible.
Learning to pronounce Gnocchi correctly makes ordering it in Italy a lot easier. Pronounce the G with its partner letter n. Make sure to pause on the double c and remember, in Italian ch makes the sound k.