My beautiful daughter Tamara moved back home a few weeks ago and I am overjoyed at having her home so we can watch girly movies, go shopping, get our nails done together and I can cook her wonderful home made meals. She tells me I am turning into her nonna by always having a meal ready for her when she gets home. She has been eating gluten-free for about a year (which has really helped her feel better) but it does present a bit of a challenge for my usual repertoire of home made pasta, cakes and her favorite gnocchi. Last week I was determined to make gluten-free gnocchi for her as it had been so long since she had been able to eat them (photo below is Tamara with her nonna Livia).
It was so much easier than I thought it would be! Armed with Blue Moon potatoes from the local Farmer’s Market, which have a bluish skin and are floury which makes them ideal for gnocchi, I trawled the Internet for information on what to use in place of regular plain flour. There were recipes with sweet rice flour, cornflour, gluten free bread flour, tapioca starch and a whole lot more. I used to use only potato starch (with eggs) with some success, but in the end chose a very good gluten free flour mix made by Ardor Gluten Free here in Melbourne. Owner Vince Lotito has experimented with different combinations and made a flour that is just made for gnocchi.
The result was quite spectacular. I was worried that they would fall apart when boiled due to the lack of gluten, but it didn’t happen. They stayed together beautifully. I don’t roll them on the back of a fork to give them a little curl to hold the sauce in like I do with potato gnocchi made with regular flour. However they were tender and like pillows of potatoes. The eggs play an important role in holding the gnocchi together (as there is no gluten); so I weigh the eggs (minus the shells) to make sure I get the amount right. They were delicious and I am now a convert to the gluten free way for gnocchi…and Tamara is pretty happy too! They also freeze well, dusted in white rice flour. I have also used Casalare Not-so-plain gluten free flour, also made in Australia. If you are not in Australia, I suggest you explore your local delicatessen or health food store. If possible, get a brand that specifies “suitable for making gnocchi”.
Gluten free potato gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce
2-3 large Blue moon, King Edward, Red Otway or Desiree potatoes – about 750g
160-180g Gluten free flour (I use Ardor GF gnocchi flour)
2 eggs (weight without shell 100g)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tin of chopped peeled tomatoes
1/2 onion, peeled and whole
30g unsalted butter
Stem of fresh basil (or about 6 fresh leaves)
Pinch salt (to taste)
Pinch sugar (optional)
Scrub the potatoes and place in a large saucepan, 3/4 filled with cold water. The potatoes should be whole and unpeeled. It is easier if they are a similar size so they all have the same approximate cooking times. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the potatoes are tender (start testing them at 20 – 30 minutes depending on how large they are) when prodded with a fork. Drain (removing one at a time if needed) and peel. You could also bake the potatoes in the oven at 200C, wrapped in foil, for 45 minutes to an hour until tender when prodded with a fork (dependent on the size of your potatoes). Place the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer (or mash them finely) and into a large bowl to cool. I often cook the potatoes hours before they are needed (or even the night before). You should have 690-700g cooked potatoes.
To make the sauce: place all the ingredients in a smallish saucepan on medium to low heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, discarding the onion before serving. Taste and adjust with salt and sugar (if needed).
Make a well in the center of the cool cooked potatoes. Break the eggs into a bowl and weigh (to make sure you have 100g). Whisk them lightly with a fork and place in the well of potatoes. Sprinkle over the salt and mix in with the potatoes using a spoon. Add about 2/3 of the flour, mixing it in with the potatoes so that it is homogenous. Add a bit more of the flour and then bring it together with your hands. You should have some flour remaining. Use this flour to dust your work surface and tip the mass of potatoes from the bowl onto your work surface. Shape into a large loaf or log, incorporating a bit more of the flour on the board if needed. Try not to work the dough too much. Cut off a slice off the log and shape it into a loaf. Cut pieces that are about 2cm long and roll them in a bit of flour.
Have a small pot of salted water ready on a rolling low and steady boil to test the first few gnocchi. Drop in a few gnocchi and scoop up with a slotted spoon or stainer as soon as they float (will only take a minute or two). taste them for salt and for texture – they should stay together and be soft but with texture. If they fall apart (it can happen!), then you may need a bit more flour.
Repeat with the remaining potato dough, making sure you dust the prepared gnocchi with a bit of white rice flour and cover with a clean tea towel (again to prevent them from drying out).
To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a low steady rolling boil. Gently drop the gnocchi in the water (don’t throw the lot in at once as you may overcrowd the pot, drop them in a handful at a time) in batches, and cook them a few minutes until they rise to the surface. The potatoes are essentially already cooked so you will just need to heat the gnocchi through.
Lift the cooked gnocchi out of the water carefully with a slotted spoon, a few at a time, and place on warmed plates. Spoon over the prepared tomato sauce (or other favorite sauce) and scatter with grated parmigiano before serving.