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How can you tell if a recipe is good?

How can you tell if a recipe is good?

In fact, you cannot really tell it until you make it – until you have made it several times.

How can you tell if a gnocchi recipe is good? Why gnocchi?

I have chosen gnocchi because there are hundreds of different recipes, it is a classic staple of Italian cuisine, and if the recipe is good, it is delicious. (According to Massimo Montanari, Professor of Medieval History at Bologna University and scholar in Food studies, gnocchi has been a favorite recipe since the Middle Ages.)

In this post and in subsequent posts, we will study the various recipes and procedures for making gnocchi that you can find online. We will see that some recipes are good because they include photos of key steps, some are good because they explain how to vary the recipe depending on qualities of the key ingredients, and some are good because they are bad, because they show you what not to do.

Gnocchi has only two main ingredients: potatoes and flour. Flour comes in varieties of course, but not too many, and if you use a good brand, then the product will be quite consistent from package to package. Potatoes are a different story. Not only do they come in different shapes and sizes, but as we will see in more detail below, they vary enormously in terms of other qualities such as the amount of starch.

My mother’s rule of thumb – which is a common one—is that “the weight of the flour should be half that of the cooked potatoes”. Some people say this is too much, some people recommend using only yellow potatoes, and others say the potatoes must come from last year’s harvest. My advice is to add a small amount of potato starch to get a fluffy texture.

There are a few other elements to consider, such as the temperature of the mashed potatoes and how long to knead the dough (it should never be over-kneaded). Here things become interesting, because the answers depend critically on the potatoes, in particular, on how much starch they contain. In his book On Food and Cooking, the famous food scientist Harold McGee says that there are two main varieties of potatoes: one is drier and more chalky, the other is moister and more dense. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the chalky variety contains more starch (p. 219). Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell which kind of potato you have just by looking.

As McGee explains, starch molecules generally love to attach themselves to water molecules and change their texture, but this phenomenon varies depending on the temperature of the water. Also, after being heated, as they cool the structure of starch molecules changes again and they release liquids. Thus, the overall texture of dough made with potatoes changes twice when cooking. This is critical to understanding why the temperature of the mashed potatoes influences the amount of flour the potato mash can absorb, and how the texture will turn out after cooking (and cooling). For example, when you add flour to hot potatoes, you get a dough with a soft texture. However, the gnocchi made from such a dough often turn out to be hard after cooking, with a strong taste of flour. The result will be different, if you add the same amount of flour to cold (cooked) potatoes. Generally, it is best to add the flour when the potatoes are warm – not too hold, but not yet cold.

This is my recipe.

Serves 3

Large potatoes 2 (about 550 gr. once cooked).  Note: you must weigh the potatoes after cooking.

All-purpose flour, half the weight of cooked potatoes (about 226 gr.)

Egg yolk 1 (optional, see below)

Potato starch 1 tablespoon




Boil potatoes – skin on – in salted water until they are soft.

Drain potatoes in a colander, peel, and pass them through a potato masher pressing them directly into a bowl. Check the weight of potatoes. Since the flour should be half the weight of the boiled potatoes, you will then get the right amount of flour. Let stand until warm to the touch.


Add the potato starch, salt, the egg yolk, and add the potatoes. Quickly mix them but do not over-knead (about 2 minutes).


Place the dough on a chopping board you have previously dusted with flour. Using your hands, press the dough into an oval 1.5 cm, adding flour if needed.


Cut dough into long strips, 1.5 cm wide. You don’t need to roll them, and this way you avoid adding extra flour (you do not want to add too much flour since it can make a mess of the cooking water).


Cut into small pieces – about the same size as large olives.


Roll the gnocchi on a fork to make grooves. This gives them a nice shape and the grooves also help hold the sauce.


Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil and add the salt.


Add the gnocchi, gently mix them with a wooden spoon, and cook them for about 3 to 4 minutes. The gnocchi are cooked when they float at the top of the boiling water.


Strain the gnocchi, then mix them with about half of the sauce. Place on plates and top each serving with a large spoonful of the reserved sauce.

Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano cheese, serve and enjoy!



McGee, H. (2004). McGee on food and cooking: an encyclopedia of kitchen science, history and culture. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Montanari, M. (2011). Il riposo della polpetta e altre storie intorno al cibo (Laterza). Roma: Laterza.

This recipe was prepared in Boston, Massachusetts, in the month of February 2019.

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Some more recipes from Mirna

Every week you can find one of my new recipes on Cook with Gusto’s website.
If you are looking for healthy, easy, and delicious recipes, that is the right website for you.
Thank you for your visit!



So, it’s been two years

So, it’s been two years since I updated my blog.

First: thank you for reading my blog in the meantime. I hope it has been helpful for those searching for info about the University of the People. 2muchfood was born to describe my experience as a student, my passion for cooking, and numbers.  After living in 3 different cities in 3 different countries, after working for 2 IT companies, after meeting 64 new colleagues and making 7 + 1 new friends, after 52 flights between 18 cities, after staying in 35 hotels, B&Bs, and apartments, after taking 13 online MOOC courses in data analysis and programming, after trying 93 new recipes, I confirm I still love food and numbers. 

In short, I lived in Belfast, then in London, and now I am back in Italy. 

The next posts will touch on our favorite topics –  food trends, recipes, reviews, and analytics – and the words we use daily to describe them.

Here we go.

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Black rice with grilled vegetables and mixed olives











2 cups black rice

4 cups cold water

1 red, 1 orange and 1 yellow pepper

2 zucchini

200 grams ripe cherry tomatoes

10 black and 10 green olives, halved

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

5 leaves fresh basil, washed and chopped coarsely

salt and pepper to taste

1 strainer

1 nonstick frying pan

1 large pot

1 large mixing bowl

1 large baking tray

baking paper

Place rice in strainer and rinse with cold water.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in nonstick pan.  Add rice and toast for 1 minute stirring to avoid sticking.  Transfer rice to large pot, cover with all of the cold water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook at a simmer for 35-40 minutes (add water if necessary).

While the rice is cooking…

Heat oven to 180 degrees.  Wash and clean the vegetables.  Cut the peppers and zucchini into thin strips, but leave the cherry tomatoes whole.  Put vegetables in large bowl and mix gently with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and all of the sugar.   Important: do NOT add olives or salt yet.  Cut baking paper to fit inside baking tray covering the bottom and sides, spread the vegetables evenly in the tray.  The tray should be large enough that the vegetables fit inside in one layer.  Put tray in oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove tray from oven, add olives, oregano and salt (very little salt since the olives are already salty), mix gently in tray, and spread evenly again in one layer.  Set oven to broil (high), put tray back in oven, and grill vegetables and olives for 10 minutes.

Check rice (black rice sometimes cooks unevenly), and when fully cooked strain and place in center of serving dish. Remove vegetables from oven and arrange in circle around the rice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with chopped basil.  Serve immediately.

by M & S

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Pasta salad with salmon, chive and zucchini, #nomayonnaise

Gragnano Pasta is famous all over the world for its rich taste. They produce it by using durum wheat semolina and the special local water. In the past times, Gragnano was called “the City of Macaroni” and now the PGI label is rewarding its absolute quality.

Vesuvio is a new shape of Pasta and I received it as a gift when I visited the “Pastai Gragnanesi “stand in Florence, during the

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Limoncello cream


Limoncello liqueur Cream, made with pasteurized eggs

Why is it important to use pasteurized eggs? For your safety, see more here.


Almond sponge:

100 g almond flour (or grind almonds)

110 g sugar

100 g egg white

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Vegetarian super burger

Vegetarian super burger


This healthy recipe is perfect if you’re on a diet: it’s light and it satisfies your hunger. Select high quality ingredients, since they’re the secret of its success.


Lentils 1 cup

Black Rice ½ cup

Dried tomatoes in oil 8 (8 half dried tomatoes)

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