My beautiful daughter Tamara moved back home a few weeks ago after a rather nasty breakup with her boyfriend of one and a half years. 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. The were recipes with sweet rice flour, cornflour, gluten free bread flour, tapioca starch and a whole lot more. I liked the sound of a recipe using potato starch (or potato flour) in place of regular flour. I felt I couldn’t go wrong mixing potato with potato.
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. They were a bit difficult to roll so it took a bit more time than it would normally take to prepare them. And you can’t roll them on the back of a fork to give them a little curl to hold the sauce in. However they were tender and like pillows of potatoes. Using regular plain flour to make gnocchi you run the risk of incorporating too much flour and them becoming chewy. This doesn’t happen when you mix potatoes with potato flour. We ate them covered in a rich tomato basil sauce. They were delicious and I am now a convert to the gluten free way for gnocchi…and Tamara is pretty happy too!
Gluten free potato gnocchi with a simple tomato basil sauce
2-3 large Blue moon (or Desiree) potatoes – about 750g
1 cup potato starch
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tin of chopped peeled tomatoes
1/2 onion, peeled and whole
50g unsalted butter
Stem of fresh basil (or about 6 fresh leaves)
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. Place the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer (or mash them finely) and spread out onto a chopping board. Allow to cool completely. In the meantime make the tomato sauce. Place all the ingredients in a smallish saucepan on medium to low heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, discarding the onion and basil before serving.
Make a well in the center of the cooled cooked potatoes. Break open the egg in the center of the potatoes and sprinkle over the cup of potato starch and salt. Mix with your hands until the mixture is uniform and make a large loaf shape. Cut off a slice of the potato mixture and cut into cubes that are approximately 5 or 6 cm across. Roll each cube between the palms of both hands until you form balls. Set aside and work on the rest of the potato loaf one slice at a time (covering the loaf with some plastic wrap to prevent it drying out). Cover the gnocchi you have rolled as you prepare them with a clean tea towel (again to prevent them from drying out).
Boil a large pot of salted water. Gently drop the gnocchi in the water (don’t throw the lot in at once as you may overcrowd the pot, drop then in a handful at a time ) 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.