Monday, April 4, 2011

Gluten-Free Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce

While working at Fundación Alicia in Spain, one of our last duties as an intern was to make a dish that is typical of where we live — that was an intimidating task considering that two of the staff were elBulli chefs. My Italian roommate and fellow intern, Michela, wanted to do a trial run of her dish, gnocchi, at the apartment. Again, we cooked side-by-side, as I made the gluten-free version of her gnocchi.

She explained that gnocchi is a very basic ratio: 1 kilogram of potatoes to 100 grams of flour to 1 egg with a generous pinch of salt. While working at a restaurant in Bologna, she made 10 kilogram batches of gnocchi on a regular basis. (That is 22 pounds: a lot of gnocchi.) The secret to perfect gnocchi, she confided, was that half the potatoes should be starchy (russets/Idaho) and the other half waxy (red). The flour has very little impact in this recipe, and I figured that potato flour made the most sense to use since it's naturally gluten-free. It makes so much sense that I wonder why all potato gnocchi is not made with potato flour.

For her presentation, Michela made sauces in colors of the Italian flag for the gnocchi — red tomato sauce, white gorgonzola sauce, and green pesto. This presentation does make a statement for a special occasion, but I wanted to simplify the sauces to just one. Tomato sauce is so easy to make, delicious, and still makes for a special dinner. Once you try this recipe, you will never go back to jarred pasta sauce. Though gnocchi do require significant work, it is a great way to show your love for someone through good food.


For the tomato sauce:
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Dried chile flakes, to taste (optional)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade (very thin strips), save some for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, for garnish

For the gnocchi:
  • 500 grams (about 1 pound) russet or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut medium dice
  • 500 grams (about 1 pound) red potatoes
  • Salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 100 grams (about 1 cup) potato starch, plus more for dusting


For the tomato sauce:

In a wide pan, with low walls, sauté the garlic and olive oil over low-medium heat until aromatic. Add in the canned tomatoes. Bring up temperature to medium. Add in salt, pepper, and chile flakes. Stir occasionally. Once the tomatoes start simmering, use a potato masher to break down the tomatoes into a smooth yet hardy texture. Allow to cook, simmering and stirring occasionally, thickening for about 20-30 minutes. Add in most of the basil, reserving some for garnish. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Meanwhile, prepare the gnocchi.

For the gnocchi:

Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Cook over high heat until fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain through colander and immediately run potatoes through food mill or ricer (in batches, as needed) onto a large jelly roll pan. Make sure that the potatoes are evenly distributed in order to cool off efficiently. (This prevents heavy gnocchi.) Allow the potatoes to cool to room temperature.

Then place the potatoes onto a clean working surface. Make a small well and add the beaten egg with a small amount of the potato starch. Start worked with your clean hands and knead the dough until evenly distributed. Add more potato starch gradually, while kneading, until dough is still wet, but not sticky. Form the dough into a large, smooth ball. (At this time, dust the jelly roll pan for a place to store the cut and dusted gnocchi.)

Using a bench scraper or a butter knife cut a ½-inch slice of the dough and roll into a rod about ¾ inch in diameter and dust with potato starch. Cut the rod of dough into small pieces, using the first joint of your index finger as a guide to ensure consistent sizing. Transfer to jelly roll pan, and make sure the entire surface of the gnocchi are lightly dusted. Repeat until all of the dough are in the form of gnocchi. Have a large pot of salted water boiling and add in the gnocchi. Once the gnocchi have risen to the surface, they are done, about 2-4 minutes. Transfer with a spider to your pot of tomato sauce, gently fold, garnish, and serve immediately.

Serves: 6-8 people

Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

The gnocchi can be made ahead and kept frozen. To do this, freeze the jelly roll pan of gnocchi until frozen solid. Transfer to an airtight container for storing. Have a pot of boiling salted water ready to put the frozen gnocchi in.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure


Ann said...

Your description refers to potato flour as in "...I wonder why all potato gnocchi is not made with potato flour." However your recipe calls for potato starch. These are very different. Can you clarify? I really want to make GF gnocchi and am afraid I bought the wrong ingredient.

Erin Swing said...

Ann - Either potato starch or flour would work for the gnocchi recipe. I actually believe that potato flour may work better since it will add more potato flour and color to the gnocchi. However, for baked goods, rouxs, etc, I only use potato starch because on the flour's "potato-y-ness."

Diane Crook said...

Hi Ann, My daughter has celiac disease and I am trying to convert my family recipes to her needs. I have tried gluten free baked goods (oh my goodness....YUCK!!) purchased in stores. I just found your recipe for gnocchi that sounds super delicious!! I have a few questions (1) where can you purchase potato starch & potato flour? We are 2 hours away from a whole foods, etc. (2) how long can you freeze the gnocchi made the way you do it? (3) can you use potato flour and/or starch to brown meats or coat chicken/beef before you pan fry for Chinese food? (4) what is the difference between corn starch and potato starch (and/or potato flour)? (5) do YOU have more recipes I can look up and use? :-) Thank you for creating gluten free so we do not have to lower standards of flavor, texture, etc. Warm Regards.....Diane Crook, South Carolina, USA

Adam Okoye said...

You can buy potato starch (which really shouldn't be confused with potato flour - especially when baking) from Bob's Red Mill's website. All of their non-wheat flours are processed in a separate facility from the wheat flours and they are, in general, a great company.

Dena said...

Thank you so much for this recipe! I make gnocchi often, and last night we had some friends over and I had planned to make it for them, but one of them is gluten free (celiac). Yikes! A quick search revealed your recipe, plus the tip about half starch, half waxy potatoes. I've always used all russets! Anyway, the little dumplings turned out scrumptious, and although not exactly the same as my normal recipe, they were very passable and very delicious.
I followed suit with the Italian colors by making a baked pesto chicken, frying half the gnocchi in a pan with butter and salt & pepper, and made your tomato sauce recipe. Mmm-mmm good! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a lovely recipe! What is a ricer? Would a food processor work as well?

Anonymous said...

My exhusband was from Croatia, in Istria. He always wanted his njoki (croatian) covered with chicken gravy with white wine over the chicken, carrots, tomatoes and onions. simmer it for a couple of hours while making the njoki. I never made them gluten free, but I am going to try this recipe, in hopes that it will be as good. It really makes a mess to cook it all, but its a good memory. Even my children after all these years ask for it for a special dinner.

Anonymous said...

In reading the article and recipe I was not sure whether you used potato flour or potato starch as both were mentioned. I made recipe with potato starch which was very good but, was wondering if the potato flour would be less sticky when placing on platter?

Erin Swing said...

It's best to use potato starch, but potato flour will work also. The dough should be a little sticky. If your dough is too sticky, try adding a little more potato starch.