I have always loved pasta. For me it’s the culinary equivalent of a warm, cashmere jumper, woolly pair of socks and a cuddle. Especially when teamed with a glass of red on a chilly evening… the ultimate in comfort food. So when I developed a severe allergy to wheat, dairy, certain nuts and wine a few years ago I went through a mourning process as I had to distance myself from these foods which had become culinary companions through life and its trials, milestones and celebrations. It was like having to part company with some really fun-in-the-moment but toxic friends, who I knew, deep down inside of me, were doing nothing positive for me or my health.
Because my system was so reactive and my eczema so extreme I went completely cold-turkey and ate only pure, whole foods, prepared from scratch, basically proteins and loads of veggies and salads. I was determined to heal. No fillers. And definitely no pastas or pizzas, not even gluten-free. Healing has taken a while but I’m so glad to be able to say that I can now have dairy, wine and good-quality grains without a reaction, (but I choose to only occasionally) depending on what’s happening in my life emotionally. It’s all linked and digestion isn’t possible if you’re stressed, something I had to learn the hard way.
Gnocchi has always been one of my favourite pasta dishes and it was one of the dishes I missed the most. I had been meaning to try out a gluten-free, low-starch version for a while and finally this week, discovering I had bought a few too many sweet potatoes decided to have a go. This version is absolutely amazing (beginner’s luck) and if you keep your hand very light when mixing all of the ingredients, you will find yourself with the most delectable, soft and cushiony gnocchi. It is also a wonderful meal to prepare with your family. Working and rolling out the dough is so much fun for big kids and little. Edible play-dough! It’s raining and cooler here in Sydney this weekend, so here’s a beautiful and healthy activity you can indulge in indoors while nature takes care of your garden. I hope you love this recipe as much as my family does and do let me know how you go!
Ingredients for Gnocchi
- 1.3 kg sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped, about 3 medium sweet potatoes)
- 1 cup tapioca flour
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- extra tapioca flour to sprinkle onto surface as you roll out the dough
Ingredients for Sage & Garlic Burnt Butter Sauce
- 200 g butter or ghee
- several garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- good handful of sage leaves
- salt and pepper
Method for Gnocchi
- Peel and wash ( or wash and peel, depending on whether you are using organic or not) sweet potatoes and cut into similarly sized chunks.
- Steam (or boil) sweet potatoes until cooked through and tender. I use a steam oven and steam them at 100 degrees C for 20 minutes.
- Once slightly cooled, mash either by hand with a potato masher or with a hand-held stick processor ( you could also use a larger food processor).
- Add all of the other ingredients to the sweet potato mixture and mix very gently with a spatula until it all comes together to form a dough.Do not over-process otherwise you’ll find yourself with very heavy, leaden pasta. Depending on your mixture you might need to add an extra tablespoon of coconut flour. It can’t be too sticky otherwise it won’t be firm enough to roll, shape and cut into pieces.
- Prepare a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Set up a large pot of water to heat on the stove as you prepare your pasta.
- Start taking tennis ball-sized pieces of dough and roll gently on a (tapioca)-floured surface until a long, even snake-shaped length of dough forms. As you roll it you might have to halve this ball into two smaller ones.
- Cut these into small ( or larger if you don’t mind larger pieces) evenly shaped pieces, rolling gently in tapioca and on little wooden gnocchi mould if you have one. If not, this isn’t essential and won’t affect the taste, just the aesthetics, maybe. If your ‘snake’ breaks thats ok, work with half of one.
- Place the small gnocchi onto the tray, you might need two. Finish working the dough the same way.
- Once water is boiling use a slotted spoon to place gnocchi into pot in small batches. You will know that they’re ready when they float to the surface. Collect these from the surface with your spoon and place into a dish until all have cooked.
Method for Sauce
- Place butter into pot large enough to hold your gnocchi.
- As it starts to melt, add sage leaves and cook for several minutes.
- Towards the end of the cooking (maybe 3 minutes), add the crushed garlic. Adding it later prevents it from burning and turning bitter.
- When you notice sauce turning slightly brown and nutty, empty cooked gnocchi into burnt butter sauce, tossing and coating and seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Switch off heat.
- Serve as is or with grated parmesan cheese. I’ve also added a bit of gorgonzola to my gnocchi. Also very delicious.
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