I don’t like gnocchi. Yes, a bold statement to make for a foodie, but the truth is that I have only ever been impressed once (and that was in Italy where you expect it to be good). I continue to persevere by snatching a soft little dumpling from the plates of unsuspecting friends when they order it – but have yet to be wowed.
Until now, that is… I think my aversion for these potato parcels stems from my intense dislike of mashed potato… I will NOT touch the gloupy, grainy, white schlop (oh just thinking about it is setting off my gag reflex) that people all around the world seem eat as a staple. I put this ferocious dislike down to two things. Firstly, I am obsessed with textures of food – something that I was mocked for many, many years, and it was only last year that Ms TT looked up from reading the paper to acknowledge that perhaps my texture quirk was actually an (under-appreciated) advanced level of food knowledge that I had absorbed via osmosis from eating Chinese food (the article was about a chef who had studied in China to learn about the importance of “mouth-feel” in Asian food). This in combination with the thing that resembled “mashed potato” we were served in boarding school (I’m certain this was potato form a packet) which has an awful texture- has scarred me for life. Since gnocchi is essentially a mashed potato based food… well you can figure it out the connection…
However, as I said above, I will have to eat my words. The lesson here is to not make broad statements that you will need to retract!
It was a cold winters night and Ms Visiting Chef (VC) and I wanted comfort food – she suggested gnocchi. Aside from my initial shudder of revulsion I considered that this could be the challenge – not only to make gnocchi from scratch, but to make a type that I would enjoy. The first step to improvement, of course, was to scrap the potato. – which does then beg the question: it is still technically gnocchi? Wikipedia tells me that gnocchi can be made from anything and that in fact “the use of potato is a relatively recent innovation” – aha, perhaps more evidence of my super-food-knowledge in action! We decided to make our gnocchi out of pumpkin and sweet potato (which interestingly I enjoy). This was a brilliant combination. In the end we had these yummy, slightly sweet, soft parcels that contrasted beautifully with the salty sage sauce. The only thing that would have made it better would be some toasted pine nuts (for that crunchy mouth-feel). Definitely worth the effort – well, VC’s effort since she did the cutting and rolling of the gnocchi (I think I need a permanent sous chef!).
Pumpkin and sweet potato gnocchi in a burnt butter sage sauce (gluten-free)
1/4 medium jap pumpkin, deseeded and cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten 2 cups gluten-free flour – we really didn’t measure out the flour but went by touch (you can use plain flour if you are not fussed about gluten, or in our case we made up a batch of gluten-free flour from – Gluten-free Goddess)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 block salted butter
salt & pepper and ground nutmeg to taste
1 bunch sage
1 bunch spinach
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Roast the pumpkin and sweet potato uncovered until tender (this may take a while – you don’t want burnt bits in it so if the veges start to burn, cover with foil). Remove from oven and allow to rest. Puree the pumpkin, potato, and garlic in a food processor until smooth. You don’t want the puree to be wet – if needed you can simmer the puree over medium heat until the ‘juices’ boil off.
In a large bowl, mix together the puree, parmesan, nutmeg, salt and egg. Gradually add flour, kneading gently into mixture in bowl until dough holds together and is almost smooth. If dough is excessively sticky, add more flour. The dough should be smooth, but tacky. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead gently but briefly just until smooth. Flatten the dough into a circle and divide into eight wedges. Working with one dough segment at a time, roll dough out on floured surface to about 1-cm-thick rope. Cut the ‘rope’ into 1.5cm pieces. Gently roll each gnocchi along back of fork to make ridges.
Transfer gnocchi to a lightly floured tray. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour (at this point the gnocchi can be frozen for later – just boil straight from frozen). Cook gnocchi (in batches) in large pot of boiling salted water until the gnocchi will float to surface – using slotted spoon remove gnocchi from water into a large warmed bowl.
While cooking the gnocchi, blanch the spinach, add to the bowl with the gnocchi. To prepare the sauce. Bring butter to the boil in a small saucepan, add sage, continue to cop until ‘burnt’ / brown. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add the sauce to the gnocchi, mix through and serve up! Delicious!