By Lucy Yanckello, Ph.D.
Pasta is one of the most popular foods in the world. Many believe that the potato-based nuggets known as gnocchi fall under the category of pasta, but some categorize them as dumplings. No matter what you consider gnocchi to be, it is often used in similar ways to pasta. However, pasta is mainly wheat-based, whereas gnocchi are potato-based, so which is healthier?
What is gnocchi? Is gnocchi a pasta or potato?
Gnocchi originates from Italy and is typically made using flour, eggs, and mashed potatoes. Other ingredients can be used in place of potatoes, including the Italian cheese known as ricotta.
In Italian, the word gnocchi means “knuckle,” which is what the dumplings resemble. Gnocchi are often rolled onto the back of a fork to create indentations that hold onto whatever sauce they are tossed in. Some believe that gnocchi is a type of pasta, whereas others believe it is a form of potato dumpling.
What’s the difference between ricotta gnocchi vs. potato gnocchi? Which is better: potato or ricotta gnocchi?
Traditional potato gnocchi are made of potato bound together with flour and egg, whereas ricotta gnocchi replaces the potato with ricotta cheese. Because of ricotta’s springy texture and the lack of potatoes, ricotta gnocchi has a lighter texture than potato gnocchi. Both potato gnocchi and ricotta gnocchi are formed by rolling the dough into a log and cutting it into small nugget shaped portions. Because ricotta gnocchi are made with cheese, there is a higher protein content than is present in the carbohydrate-forward potato gnocchi.
Is gnocchi healthier than pasta? Should I replace pasta with gnocchi?
Similar to pasta, gnocchi is high in carbohydrates and low in protein. Although both are carbohydrate-heavy foods, it has been shown that regular pasta may have less of an effect on blood sugar levels. One publication points to the fact that pasta doesn’t raise blood sugar after a meal to the level that potatoes do. However, it is important to note that the study compared plain potatoes to pasta, not gnocchi to pasta.
Which is better for weight loss: gnocchi or pasta?
A two ounce portion of pasta contains around 43 grams of carbohydrates, with only two of those grams coming from fiber. Similarly, a two ounce portion of gnocchi contains 19 grams of carbohydrates, with only 0.9 grams coming from fiber. Although gnocchi does appear at first glance to be lower in carbohydrates, because it is denser, a two ounce portion will be smaller. Due to the smaller and denser nature of gnocchi, it is more likely that you will end up eating bigger portions than if you chose regular pasta. Although all foods can be part of a healthy diet in moderation, if you are trying to lose weight opt for other options than gnocchi or pasta.
Which is better for muscle building: pasta vs. gnocchi?
A high-carbohydrate diet is beneficial for those looking to build muscle. It has been found that in comparison to a low-carbohydrate diet, eating a high-carbohydrate diet before high-intensity exercise increased stamina, extended time before exhaustion was reached, and led to a higher amount of calories burned. Additionally, it is necessary to eat optimal levels of protein to gain muscle, and a two ounce portion of pasta contains 7.5 grams of protein, while the same size portion of gnocchi contains only 2.5 grams. Ricotta gnocchi may be a better option than potato gnocchi for those looking to gain muscle, since there is a higher protein content in the cheese-based dough.
What is the difference between gnocchi vs. tortellini vs. ravioli vs. agnolotti?
Gnocchi are potato-based dumplings that are not stuffed. Gnocchi are typically boiled and tossed in a tomato-based sauce.
Tortellini, ravioli, and agnolotti are all stuffed Italian pastas made with semolina flour. Tortellini is a stuffed pasta in the shape of a ring. It usually has a meat or cheese-based filling and is traditionally served in broth. Ravioli are also a filled pasta. Ravioli usually consists of cheese, meat, or other ingredients stuffed between two thin pieces of pasta. This type of pasta is often square, and is typically tossed in a sauce that compliments what the ravioli is stuffed with.
Agnolotti are a type of ravioli, from a specific region of Italy known as the Piedmont region. It can be square or in a half-moon shape, and are stuffed with beef or vegetables. Unlike ravioli, agnolotti does not typically contain cheese in the stuffing.
Where can I buy the best fresh gnocchi and pasta online?
At Wildgrain, we specialize in making high-quality, fresh pastas that are delivered directly to your door. Wildgrain is the first bake-from-frozen delivery subscription service for breads, pastries, and fresh pastas. Some of our popular pastas include potato gnocchi, cheese tortellini, fresh fettuccine, and fresh tonnarelli. Learn more about Wildgrain and our artisanal baking and cooking methods.
About the Author
Lucy Yanckello received her Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. She currently works as a medical writer and enjoys being able to help people better understand nutrition and science.
This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional nutrition and/or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific nutrition and/or medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.