Picture of home-made potato gnocchi with sauce napoletana.

Gabriella’s authentic Italian potato gnocchi

High above the Amalfi Coast in is the town of Agerola and it’s where I learned to cook Gabriella’s authentic Italian potato gnocchi. Pillowy, soft and perfect.

Cooking lessons the south of Italy

Gabriella Acampora is the owner and operator of a wonderful B&B in the Italian commune of Agerola. She’s the cooking instructor, manager, guest greeter and the wonderful woman who taught me to make her authentic Italian potato gnocchi.

View from the terrace at Nido Degli Dei, Agerola, southern Italy

Located about an hour’s drive south of Naples, Agerola is set high up in the hills above Italy’s Amalfi Coast. It’s where, in a villa set right on the clifftops, Gabriella and her husband Federico run Nido Degli Dei – which translates as Nest of the Gods. It’s a wonderful mix of rustic charm, with the sort of million dollar views you’d expect from the highest end places.

I had booked a three night foodie stay at Nido Degli Dei through Jo-Ann at Active Gourmet Holidays some months before and it was the last stay of my five week holiday through southern Europe (going as far north as Paris) in May 2023. The booking included transfers from Naples train station, with Federico as my chauffeur.

At left, the incredible view of the Amalfi Coast from Nido Degli Dei. This photo is snapped from the B&B’s upper level terrace.

The drive back to Agerola was an experience in itself and despite language barriers, Federico and I managed to communicate . He pointed out landmarks, including Mt Vesuvius and informed me as we drove through the town of Gragnano, that it was the village where 20% of the world’s pasta is made.

Side note: If you can find it, pasta from Gragnano is worth buying. It’s robust in texture and nutty in flavour and wonderful for holding onto the sauce. The BBC has published a nice article about Gragnano and its pasta. Here in Melbourne, I buy Gentile brand pasta from The Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick. It’s a great place for Italian ingredients and foods!

At right, the stunning mountain views on the drive through the mountains to Agerola, southern Italy.

Meanwhile … back in Agerola

Arriving mid-afternoon, I was led to the terrace where Gabriella greeted me with a lovely Campari Spritz. It went down well and I sat and watched Federico and some workmen tinker with the newly installed spa-with-a-view as I took it all in. A couple from the US, Mary-Carol and Ron, were also there from Active Gourmet Holidays and had gone down to the coast for the day and Gabriella was awaiting their arrival to begin cooking the evening’s meal.

My booking included two cooking lessons with Gabriella, not including the first night. But I was invited to join in anyway and this is where we learned to make the gnocchi and so I was able to get involved in the cooking all three evenings.

Making gnocchi

When we arrived in the kitchen, there was an apron and some goodies from Jo-Ann waiting for me that had travelled with Ron and Mary-Carol. Included in that was my apron, which is now my favourite one to wear when cooking.

Gabriella had cooked the potatoes and she drained them as we came in. She braved their steaming heat and eased the skins off and Ron was tasked with pressing them through the potato ricer, straight onto the bench.

At left, Ron busily pressing potatoes under the close watch of Gabriella, with Mary-Carol doing some washing up in the background.

Gabriella then sprinkled some salt and a handful of ricotta cheese all over. She told us the salt in the ricotta helped to draw the moisture out of the potatoes and also added a little more flavour to the mix.

Ron then started bringing the dough together, with a lesson in kneading from Gabriella. She was so good to watch in action and we had plenty of laughs as it came together. “Like this! More flour! Mix it!”

At right, freshly riced potato with ricotta and one egg yolk on top.

Finally the dough was right and all we had to do was roll and cut and shape on the paddle. Easier said than done. It took us ages to do! At one stage, Gabriella did some and she was like lightning. I guess that’s what you get when you begin making gnocchi with your own Nonna from the age of 8! Years of practice.

View from the terrace at Nido Degli Dei. Agerola, southern Italy.

Once it was all turned into little pillows resting on trays, we retreated with a wine to the terrace to once again admire that insanely stunning view.

Photo of the gnocchi we made with Gabriella at Nido Degli Dei. Agerola, southern Italy.

Soon after, we were served generous portions of the freshly made gnocchi, finished with cheese and accompanied by Federico’s Dad’s home made red wine.

The gnocchi was marvellous. So light and airy and the sauce, made with Gabriella’s home-bottled tomatoes was perfect.

The wine… I’m not so sure it was for me. Sometimes, home made products can be an acquired taste. But I drank it anyway and it was perfect for the first night in Agerola.

At left, picture of the serving of the freshly made gnocchi we made with Gabriella at Nido Degli Dei, Agerola. She served it with an amazing tomato sauce using her own bottled tomatoes and fresh cheese.


Now you have the story of how I learned to make this wonderful food, here’s Gabriella’s own recipe. Things to note is she didn’t measure anything (maybe the flour? I can’t recall) – she just knew how much of each ingredient to add. The written recipe she shared with me also had the note of one egg yolk per kilogram of potatoes. I cooked mine with 500g potatoes, but used one whole egg yolk anyway and it was fine.

Buon appetito

Gabriella's pillowy potato gnocchi

Gabriella’s pillowy potato gnocchi

Recipe by Gabriella Acampora
Course: Main course, DinnerCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Mid-advanced
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You will need

  • 500 grams 500 potatoes (see note about potatoes)

  • 175 grams 175 00 flour (see note about flour)

  • 1 medium 1 Egg yolk

  • 2 teaspoons 2 ricotta cheese, drained

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 fine sea salt

Here’s what to do

  • Prepare the potatoes
  • Scrub the potatoes well and add to cold water, then bring to the boil and cook until tender.
  • When completely cooked, drain and let them cool for a minute or two until you can handle them, then peel off the skins. They should come off easily.
  • Place the potatoes into a potato ricer* and press through, straight onto a clean bench top or large plate.
  • Spread out to expose as much surface area as possible, then sprinkle sea salt – about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon per kilo and leave the potato to cool.
  • The broader you spread the potato, the quicker it will cool and as the steam escapes, the potato will dry out.
  • Make the dough
  • When cooled, crumble a little fresh, drained ricotta cheese over and plop an egg yolk on top.
  • Take the flour and sprinkle it all over the potato. It will all get mixed in, so doesn’t need to be too precise.
  • Now the fun bit begins, but first, make sure your hands are squeaky clean and dry.
  • If you’re doing this without help, place a little bowl of flour on the bench as you can use it to clean your hands later and you may need more to get the dough the right consistency. If it’s there on the side, it’s easy to dip your hands into.
  • Start working the flour, egg and potato together by pushing, squeezing, moulding and kneading. It will be messy and sticky at first and your hands will get covered, but persevere – it’s all part of the process.
  • As the dough comes together (it will!), clean your hands off with flour, just get someone to sprinkle straight onto your hands and rub them together, or take a small scoop from the bowl you prepared earlier.
  • Start kneading it as you would a bread dough. Add more flour if it’s too sticky, but you want a soft and smooth, dough like texture that’s not too wet, but not completely dry either.
  • Press it with your finger and if it leaves an indent without squashing the dough, then it’s ready.
  • Shape the gnocchi
  • Roll the whole lot out to form a log, then cut the log into several pieces.
  • Take each piece and cut in half or thirds, then roll each piece into a smaller stick, about 2cm thick. Cut each stick into pieces about 2cm long.
  • At this stage you need to make the dents that help your sauce to stick. You can use a paddle to roll the gnocchi, or just make indents with a fork. It’s up to you.
  • Sprinkle a tray with fine semolina (think of it as bench flour, not the flour used to make dough) and place each piece carefully on the tray.
  • Continue until you use up all the dough.
  • Cook the gnocchi
  • Add about a half or so teaspoon of salt to a large pot of water and bring to the boil.
  • Add the gnocchi a few at a time, so there’s plenty of room for them to boil. This will depend on the size of your pot.
  • When they rise to the surface – and this will only take a couple of minutes – they’re done.
  • To serve
  • These little pillows are great with a plain napoletana sauce. Use home bottled ones if you’re lucky enough to have or be able to get some. Otherwise, good quality Italian canned tomatoes work too.

Tips and tricks

  • A word on potatoes: Gabriella said she only uses yellow flesh potatoes, but be careful to choose all purpose potatoes with a creamy yellow flesh. Here in Australia, I find Sebago potatoes work well and seek out organic ones, because organic tends to taste better.
  • Plain, all purpose flour works fine, but if you can find it, use a good quality Italian flour that’s milled for gnocchi. I’ve used Caputo gnocchi flour with great results.
  • Gabriella suggests one egg yolk per kilogram of flour, but I have successfully used one yolk to 500g flour.
  • You can leave the ricotta out, but it does add a nice little bit of flavour and the extra salt helps dry out the potato as they steam.

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