Every person on a health journey has a weak spot. That one dish they simply cannot say no to, no matter how good they usually are with resisting temptation. For us, this seductress has to be pasta. Or, to be more specific, gnocchi.
“While gnocchi are widely considered a pasta dish, the soft dough dumplings are usually made of potato, flour and eggs,” explain Italian food experts Pasta Evangelists. Not necessarily the healthiest mix. However, the sauces that pair well with gnocchi are not too bad for you: “we recommend serving with a light sauce like tomato and basil to ensure you retain the gnocchi’s unique texture. Pesto also has the perfect consistency to accompany gnocchi’s delicate texture.”
But what if we told you that you can make those dumplings healthy using an array of vegetables that are not only scrumptious but also full of nutrients? Well, here are three gnocchi recipes that make a great meal without foregoing any health benefits.
1. Sweet potato gnocchi
There isn’t a more obvious alternative to potatoes than sweet potatoes. Despite its misleading name, this type is far healthier than your traditional spud — abundant in fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. The star of the show has to be vitamin A though, which is incredibly important for vision, reproduction and the immune system, with sweet potato containing 769% of the recommended daily intake. This heavenly gnocchi swap is sweeter yet maintains the original texture of the dumpling. Pair it with sage and brown butter to really bring the flavour out.
- 1kg sweet potatoes
- 300g “00” flour
- 1 egg
- Pierce the skin of your sweet potatoes with a fork, then place them on a baking tray. Cook in a preheated oven at 190°C for 50 minutes.
- Allow to cool and halve the potatoes.
- Pour the flour on your work surface and pass your sweet potatoes through a ricer to remove the skin and mash the potatoes.
- Create a well in your mixture, then crack your egg into it, sprinkling a little bit of flour over the top.
- Whisk using a fork until a rough paste forms. Use your hands to generate dough, then lightly knead for 10 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add flour, but be conservative with it.
- Quarter the dough, flour the surface, and shape it into a long rope.
- With a butter knife, cut the dough into 2cm squares. Sprinkle some flour over each piece, and roll it in your hand to create cylindrical shapes the size of your thumb.
- Add the classic gnocchi shape using a fork or a gnocchi board, rolling down without squashing.
- Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water, until your gnocchi rises to the surface, in about 1-2 minutes.
2. Cauliflower gnocchi
Cauliflower is one of the trendiest vegetables right now, second only to avocado. We’ve seen cauliflower rice, cauliflower wings, and even cauliflower steak — so cauliflower gnocchi was inevitably going to happen. However, there’s a reason this plant is so popular. It’s delicious, easy to cook with, has an impeccable texture that suits many dishes, and it is also incredibly nutritious. As a cruciferous vegetable, it’s naturally high in fibre and B-vitamins, as well as antioxidants and phytonutrients that are known to stave off cancer. This recipe is best matched with pesto, vodka sauce or any light topping of your choosing.
- 450g cauliflower, frozen or fresh
- 85g flour
- Salt to taste
- Cook the cauliflower for about 5-8 minutes in a big pot of boiling water on high heat until tender.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes over a tea towel, then squeeze as much of the water out.
- Using a food processor, pulse to crumble the cauliflower.
- Add flour and salt, and pulse further until a dough is formed.
- Flour your work surface, quarter your dough and roll each into a rope.
- Cut each rope into gnocchi pieces.
- Add a drizzle of olive oil into a large nonstick skillet, and brown the gnocchi over medium heat. Then, add a splash of water to steam.
3. Pumpkin gnocchi
Low in calories, full of vitamin A, and bursting to the brim with antioxidants, pumpkin is not only an autumn favourite — it’s also a healthy choice. It’s number one for anyone on a weight-loss journey, thanks to its high fibre content — that keeps hunger pangs at bay and removes cholesterol from the body — as well as blood pressure stabilisers like potassium and vitamin C. If that’s not enough, you’d be happy to know that pumpkin can help you with your skin too, as it is high in beta-carotene which acts as a natural sunblock, promoting glowing skin. What’s more, it’s so delicious that it doesn’t need much in terms of sauce. Butter and sage would be enough, or you could serve it with spinach and pine nuts to really maximise your health.
- 400g pumpkin or squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2.5cm chunks
- 200g plain flour
- 120g ricotta
- 50g parmesan, finely grated
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Steam the pumpkin using a colander set over a pan of simmering water for about 20 minutes until tender.
- Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher until a smooth purée is formed.
- Line your work surface with kitchen paper, spread the pumpkin on it and pat dry, removing as much moisture as possible.
- In a large bowl or food processor, combine the pumpkin purée, ricotta, parmesan, egg, and a dash of salt and pepper.
- Once fused, add the flour and use a wooden spoon to mix, forming a soft dough. Be careful not to overwork the mixture.
- Flour your work surface and quarter your dough. Roll into a 1.5cm thick rope, and cut into 2cm pieces using a floured knife.
- Using a fork or gnocchi board, gently mark your pieces with the traditional ridges.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook your gnocchi until they rise to the surface (this takes around 1-2 minutes).