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Gnocchi: My Fickle Frenemy

February 28, 2010

Last night I made dinner and then Z and I ran out to watch Syracuse crush Villanova!! WOOOOO!! Both teams played a great game.  I was so happy to see the Dome filled to capacity, the most attended game in the history of college basketball. But now, back to dinner…

When Z was in Australia I did a lot of cooking experiments to occupy my time. I think my roommates thought I was crazy. They would come home on a rainy Saturday and find me up to my elbows in chopped vegetables or pastry attempts. Truthfully, none of them turned out very well. It’s hard to put your heart into something when really your heart is halfway around the world. But I was proud that I at least made attempts, and most things were at least edible and mildly enjoyable. That is, except for one thing: gnocchi.

Aah gnocchi. If any recipe is my frenemy (friend-enemy), its gluten free gnocchi. It all started with one of my usual “its the weekend and I have nothing to do” plans. I love gnocchi, its potato based, so why would it make any difference whether or not it was gluten free? I bought the ingredients, using gluten free flour in place of all purpose, and ended up making about 100 little gnocchis. Glorious! I was ready for dinner, the sauce was set. I boiled the water, just as the instructions said. In plopped my little guys and, 1 minute later when I went to see if they had floated to the top, they were…hey, wait! Where’d they go?!

I tried making the same recipe three times that weekend. I’m not even joking. I must have been on crazy pills. The second time I followed a different recipe that called for 2 tablespoons of salt, so not only did the gnocchi disappear in the water, but the dough was absolutely disgusting! I ended up with 5 baggies in the freezer with un-cookable (and 2 bags of inedible) gnocchi. In times of desperation I pan fried them as a side dish; again, they didn’t stay together, but made a kind of flour-y mashed potato patty. I know, it sounds sooo appetizing!

A year later, I have developed my culinary knowledge and know that the reason flour is added to gnocchi is to act as a binding agent, and that gluten free flours lack said binding agent, which is why you have to add things like xanthan gum when you are baking anything gluten free (unless you want it to fall apart in a crumbly mess). This also turned out to be the reason my gnocchi vaporized when placed in hot water. Touche, gluten, touche.

As I have been challenging myself with recipes lately, another rainy Saturday seemed like the perfect time to meet dear gnocchi again. This time I did my research (i.e. look up recipes for gluten free gnocchi rather than regular gnocchi and substituting flour). And I discovered a common ingredient: corn starch! Why didn’t I think of that?! The perfect gluten free binding agent! I adapted the recipe I found on for the gnocchi I made tonight. I am a terrible gluten free cook and can’t be bothered with too many types of flours and/or starches, so if a recipe calls for more than one type of flour, I add all of the amounts together and use my favorite Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free flour. Easy!

Gluten Free Gnocchi adapted from

2 lbs potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 cup corn starch

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of salt

Mix the flour and corn starch together and set aside.

Put the mashed potatoes in a large bowl and add the xanthan gum, butter, eggs, and salt. Mix together with your hands (gooey fun!)

Add half of the flour mixture to the potatoes and start to knead. Slowly add more flour until the dough comes together but is no longer sticky. You want it tacky, but not sticky (the Examiner describes it as play dough like, I couldn’t have come up with a better description myself!) I ended up using only half of the flour mixture, but I recommend you make the whole thing just in case. I saved the rest for the next time I make the recipe.

Take pieces of the dough and roll out snakes that are about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut each piece about an inch long. Continue to do this until all of your dough is 1/2 long round pieces.

(All gnocchi recipes now say something about taking a fork and making ridges. I have no idea what this means, or how to do it. I have seen ridges on gnocchi, but whenever I try to do it I end up smooshing the little guys, or poking right though them! So I just skip this step…I think it is purely decorative).

Leave the gnocchi out for 15 – 20 minutes to dry out a bit, then cook them or put them on a tray in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can store them in baggies and cook whatever amount whenever you want!

To cook: bring a saucepan of water to a boil, add some salt, and carefully drop them in. With gluten free gnocchi you don’t want to mess with them too much. Keep your spoon outta there!

Once they float to the top, scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Fresh gnocchi will take less time to cook than frozen ones, but you cook them the same way.

So I got to the “to cook” step, and I hesitated. I had spent all of that time rolling and cutting (again!) and did not want my little guys to die in a boiling inferno. But, I had to risk it. The water boiled. I dropped a few in. And I stared. Are they still there? Are they still there? They were!!!! The recipe was perfect, and my potato munchkins flocked to the top of the water. I scooped them out and bit right in: delicious!!

Now for  the sauce. I wanted to do something simple, yet full of taste. I didn’t want anything to overpower my little potato pillows of joy! And I had half a tub of ricotta left over from our crepes…

Roasted Tomatoes and Baked Ricotta Sauce

1 12oz can of diced tomatoes

3 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon basil

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400*

Drain most of the liquid out of the tomatoes and put onto a baking sheet. Chop the garlic and mix with the tomatoes. Add a teaspoon of basil, salt, and pepper to taste. Put in oven for 20 minutes.

While the tomatoes are in the oven, mix the ricotta with the tablespoon of basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Put some parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spread the ricotta sheet over it 1/2 inch thick. Spoon the olive oil over the ricotta and rub in to the top.

After the tomatoes have been in for 20 minutes, move them to the bottom rack and put the ricotta on the top rack. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the ricotta has dried out and is golden along the outside.

*Note: Don’t get impatient and crank up the oven to broil. Parchment paper can burn if the oven is too hot. I did, and when I took my ricotta out and the paper was almost on fire. Oops! Just keep an eye on it; if it starts to burn, turn the oven down. The ricotta will still cook even in a low heat oven, and the tomatoes are probably ready to go.

To prepare the dish, spoon the gnocchi into a bowl with the tomatoes. Gently toss them together. When the gnocchi first come out of the water they will be very delicate, but after a few minutes they will begin to firm up and be easier to mix with the tomatoes.

Serve the gnocchi on a plate and crumble over the baked ricotta. Bask in the glory.

I have not been so satisfied with a dish in such a long time! I could not believe that the gnocchi turned out perfectly! I may add a little more xanthan gum next time to make the texture a bit less mushy, but in all they were delicious! The tomatoes were nice and simple, and the ricotta…yum! Best new thing to do with ricotta, if you ask me. The crumbly-ness went perfectly with the gnocchi, and everyone knows tomatoes and cheese are meant to be together. The dish was simple and flavorful. All of the hard work (and failed attempts) with gnocchi paid off; I’m so glad I tried to make them again. I highly recommend this, and the sauce would be great with any type of pasta! This was a wonderful yumventure for a rainy Saturday. I think gnocchi and I may be friends again 🙂

Today has been busy with errands, cleaning, and the gym. Its been a nice recovery weekend from my college reunion 🙂 I can’t believe its already March tomorrow!! Spring is in the air!

Do you have a recipe that beats you every time?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    February 28, 2010 9:08 pm

    Congratulations you finally conquered gnocchi! You are officially unstoppable Sophie!

  2. February 28, 2010 10:27 pm

    Yay Sophie!! You made an awesome batch of gnocchi! And that ricotta tomato sauce sounds to-die-for! I love that you conquered this cooking battle, you’re a rockstar!
    I would say that I have the hardest time with pan sauces. They can be so hit or miss.
    Have a great night!

  3. March 1, 2010 9:30 am

    Love your story! And a big thumbs up to finally being able to enjoy perfect gluten free gnocchi 🙂 Sometimes spending all that time researching and reading recipes is better spent than time in experimenting in the kitchen with no direction, huh? I’ve been there too!

  4. March 1, 2010 10:10 am

    I had a few issues with gnocci my first few times, too! Yours look fantastic, and the baked ricotta with gnocci sounds heavenly.

  5. March 1, 2010 11:50 am

    I’m so glad you were able to make it work. They sound delicious and I the details you shared about your frustrations made this exciting to read. The sauce sounds divine!

  6. March 1, 2010 5:39 pm

    glad you conquered these!! i have been meaning to give them another shot, as they didn’t quite turn out great the first time either 🙂 (even with gluten! haha)


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