The Reason You Should Skip Eggs When Making Gnocchi

At some point, we've probably all watched (or even tried first-hand) the fun and hands-on process that is gnocchi-making. These pillowy dumplings are more than a staple of Italian cuisine — gnocchi is a history-steeped food that some food historians date back to the Roman Empire. It's also a dish that, when made from scratch, requires time and patience. 

There's the mixing of wet and dry with bare hands (for most people, that means egg and flour), the dividing of dough into smaller parts, and the time-intensive shaping of each gnocchi before cooking. And even then, there's the great debate about the best way to cook gnocchi. (Hint: depending on the freshness of your gnocchi, boiling isn't always best.)

You can be as creative as you want with your homemade gnocchi, adding in all kinds of herbs, spices, and colorings to make the dish reflect your unique tastes. And while we love the versatility of eggs in all sorts of dishes, too, it turns out that skipping the eggs when making gnocchi can yield an even tastier final product with a softer, lighter texture.

Why eggs in gnocchi should be avoided

What could possibly be the downside of using eggs in gnocchi? Haven't cooks been doing it forever? Sure, it's a common approach, but learning new ways of doing things is what makes cooking fun, right? As Emeril Lagasse once famously said: "It's okay to play with your food."

The problem is that even though eggs are commonly used as a binding agent for all types of dumplings and pasta, they can provide an excess of moisture that gnocchi doesn't really need. Real Simple explains that adding eggs to gnocchi "makes for a dough requiring more flour," which may make your dumplings dense and heavy. Fluffier pillows of gnocchi is something we can all get behind.

Making gnocchi from ricotta cheese has become popular, as it provide a light and smooth (and eggless) gnocchi with just the right amount of bite. Ricotta is a great choice because it's light in flavor and combines easily with other spices. If you must stick with potato, Paula Wolfert of Food & Wine suggests using the creamier Yukon Gold, while other cooks prefer starchy Russet potatoes.

If you'd like to whip up your own gnocchi, Andrew Rea of "Binging With Babish" has a YouTube video about making gnocchi with either ricotta or potatoes, while Jamie Oliver's vegan-friendly recipe caters to potato-lovers. Or, for a funkier twist, there's Guy Fieri's sweet potato gnocchi, which is super customizable with optional protein toppings and not an egg in sight.