Ever since discovering my husband has a severe intolerance to wheat, our kitchen has been bustling with experiment after experiment as we try out new recipes or attempt to recreate old favourites with new ingredients. There has been a fair share of failures — but also some truly happy discoveries. Like this gnocchi recipe made with potato starch, a light and powdery starch that is naturally wheat and gluten free. It’s possibly even — dare I say it? — better than the regular gnocchi recipe that uses plain flour.
This is what we’ve found:
They’re easier to make than regular gnocchi because there’s no worry about overworking the gluten in the dough too much and ending up with chewy, tough gnocchi that you can bounce off a wall.
The result is an incredibly light and fluffy gnocchi – a dream, really.
Baking the potatoes is the key to this – and even more key, is using the right potato. It’s a longer process, but not any harder and you’ll be rewarded for your patience. As the liquid is drawn out through baking, you don’t need much starch to get it to come together. We’ve made them with boiled potatoes too but you end up having to use twice as much potato starch to get the right consistency and they are just a little gummier than the ones made with baked potato.
They don’t freeze that well, tending to fall apart when cooking in the pot after being frozen. So while this recipe makes a large batch, you can easily halve it or use it as a good excuse to invite a bunch of friends around for dinner.
We like to shape them into little round balls, around the size of a hazelnut. These small gnocchi are often called gnocchetti (“little gnocchi”) or, in Florence, topini (“little mice”). No need to roll them off a fork and such — it really is so easy.
Serve the gnocchetti with your favourite sauce. My favourites are a good old tomato sauce with plenty of Parmesan cheese or the simplest of all, a butter and sage sauce. They’re also special done in this step up from butter and sage, with hazelnuts and pancetta thrown in – the recipe is included below.
- 1 kg of starchy potatoes (russets, dutch creams or king edwards, for example)
- 500 grams of rock salt*
- 100 gr potato starch
- 1 egg (60 gr weight), beaten
- 1 tsp salt
Rinse and pat dry the potatoes but leave them whole, skins on. It helps for cooking time if they are roughly of similar sizes. Place the rock salt in a baking tray in an even layer. Place the potatoes on top of the salt layer and bake at 180ºC for an hour or until a fork can easily pierce the potatoes.
Remove from the oven and let cool ever so slightly so they are warm but can be handled and remove the skin with a small sharp knife. Place the potato flesh in a large bowl and mash or put through a potato ricer so you have a smooth, fluffy consistency.
Add the egg and beat into the potato until combined. Then fold through the salt and flour until you have a soft dough. Pinch off fist-sized portions and with the palm of your hand, roll into a 1cm thick log, then cut the log into 1cm small pieces and roll each one until round and even. Continue until you have used up all the dough.
Cook the gnocchetti in simmering, salted water for a few minutes. Drain (saving some of the cooking liquid if needed for adding to the sauce) and serve with your favourite sauce or the one below.
*You can skip this part if you wish, baking the potatoes by themselves but the salt layer helps to absorb any excess moisture, all helping to make that fluffy, airy potato filling.
Pancetta and hazelnut sauce
- 4 thick slices of pancetta, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 70 grams whole hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- ½ glass white wine
- 50 grams cold butter
- handful of chopped parsley or a few sage leaves
Saute the pancetta in a skillet with the olive oil and cook until golden brown. Drain the excess fat, add the hazelnuts to the pancetta and toast a few minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Simmer until you have barely any liquid left in the pan. Add the cold butter and herbs and when melted, toss the drained gnocchetti into the pan to coat, with a little of the reserved cooking liquid from the gnocchetti if needed. Serve immediately.