Full disclaimer: This is by far the healthiest recipe I have ever made. A few days ago, Giulio and I were at a lost over what to eat for lunch. He suggest a steak and I begrudgingly agreed, but as I was tucking into half a kilo worth of meat with absolutely no sides, I realised that we might be allergic to vegetables. It’s not that we don’t like vegetables. We do. It’s just that between the pasta and the steaks and the currys, we never seem to get our five a day. It doesn’t help that our fridge at home is so small, it’s basically ornamental. A head of lettuce is all I need to fill it to the brim!
So this morning, I was adamant to right this veggie wrong. Then I thought why stop there? Why not go one better and combine my easy gnocchi recipe with an (almost) completely raw vegetable sauce?
I’ve been meaning to make gnocchi for weeks. These little balls of potato-ey goodness look like they’re too much trouble. I know I’m not the only who person who thinks this since the internet is awash with recipes using pre made gnocchi. You can even buy the pre made stuff in supermarkets here in Tuscany! But I assure you, homemade gnocchi are actually easier than you think. Especially since I am about to share the very best gnocchi recipe you will have ever seen (now I sound like Trump). It’s one my nonna’s tried and tested Calabrian masterpieces. We come from a tiny town in Southern Italy where wheat was scarce, but potatoes plentiful. When my grandparents were younger than I am now, they worked their fingers to the bone on someone else’s land. It sounds ridiculously feudal, but it was the reality until well into the 1960s. The rich land owners would spent their days reading and pursuing the Arts (I imagine) while farmers like my grandparents worked in exchange for a portion of the crops.
A lot of our really traditional Italian recipes use potatoes in the place of flour and my nonna is an expert in turning these starchy little buggers into something incredible. In fact, her gnocchi are so good because they only use tiniest amount of flour. Less flour means super fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi like you have never seen. It’s funny to think that if my grandparents could’ve afforded more flour, they mightn’t have perfected this recipe! Silver lining people, silver lining.
The traditional gnocchi recipe sauce is a bolognese sauce or meat sauce, but since my goal was to eat more vegetables, I sidelined it for something more seasonal and summery. Cue my father-in-law’s incredible vegetable garden. I was particularly excited to stumble across the last of these, zucchini flowers. Their sweetness and colour are the stars of this dish.
This sauce is so easy, you can make it in the few minutes it takes to cook your gnocchi. I’ve deliberately kept all the ingredients raw except for the garlic and onion, which I sauté for a few minutes before adding the fresh ricotta. Raw vegetables are ridiculously good for you and they work really well with the soft gnocchi, providing great texture and crunch.
So what are you waiting for? Give my easy gnocchi recipe a go and I promise you, it’ll very quickly become a weeknight dinner favourite!
Easy summer veggie gnocchi
1kg russet potatoes
2½-3 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
For the sauce:
1/2 white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
250g fresh ricotta
1 zucchini, grated
2-3 zucchini flowers, sliced
handful of cauliflower florets
handful of mint leaves
1/2 green chilli, finely sliced
zest of 1/2 lemon
Scrub the potatoes, place in a large saucepan of cold salted water and bring to the boil over high heat. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until very soft. Drain and leave to cool for a few minutes before peeling. While the potatoes are still warm, use a mouli grater to mash until very smooth. Add 3 teaspoons of salt, mix well and leave to cool.
Add the egg yolks and stir. Gradually add the flour, one cup at a time until the mixture comes together and isn’t sticky. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the mixture resembles bread dough and holds its shape. Divide into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 30cm-long rope.
Cut into 2cm-long pieces and place on a lightly floured surface. Using a gnocchi board or a fork, gently roll the pieces to get that characteristic gnocchi shape. Make sure the fork is well floured or it will stick. Set aside.
Cook the gnocchi, in batches, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water with ½ tablespoon of olive oil for 3-4 minutes or until they float to the surface. Don’t stir or the gnocchi will fall apart.
While the gnocchi are cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft (5 minutes). Stir in the ricotta and remove from the heat. Season to taste and add your grated zucchini.
Drain your gnocchi and add to the pan. Mix to combine and serve scattered with raw zucchini flowers, cauliflower, rocket, mint, chilli and plenty of shaved pecorino cheese.
If you prefer a red sauce for your gnocchi, switch things up with a handful of cherry tomatoes tossed in the pan with a little extra virgin olive oil, diced garlic and fresh basil leaves!