Back when my husband and I first became acquainted outside of art school (some people call it dating), we both participated in an ambassador program that had us painting, drawing, art appreciating, and eating throughout Italy. The culture, beauty, and history of Florence, Venice, Bologna, Siena, and Rome combined with thinking critically about art and intention…well, changed my life forever.
Of all the amazing memories that I recall of my time in Italy, one of my favorites is the first meal that we had in Florence in a tiny eatery across from our hotel. Within what felt like minutes of being seated to large rustic wooden tables covered with bubbly frizzante water, red wine, fresh baked bread, and olive oil, we were greeted with a beautiful pesto gnocchi. It was served up in gigantic flat dishes that seemed even larger than the tabletops they were placed upon. The pesto was bright green and deeply fragrant, and the gnocchi itself was tender bites of perfection. I sadly cannot remember the name of that trattoria where we feasted almost every single night, but I do remember that they served the best friggin’ gnocchi I have ever had.
So today, to bring back some savory memories, I whipped up a batch of my own gnocchi- with just a touch of pesto. And, it’s a pretty good gluten free and vegan substitute for the meal I had years ago. I mean, except that the authenticity and scenery of Florence is pretty much non-existent (unless of course you live in Florence- in which case- you probably don’t need a recipe like this at all because you are constantly surrounded by delicious balls of pasta, right? Oh, and make me your house-guest for a year or two… k?). But it works well in a pinch.
I dressed mine simply with olive oil, green beans, and nutritional yeast, and laced a thick basil pesto into the gnocchi itself… rather than serve the pesto as sauce.
Here’s how I did it:
Gnocchi ~ Vegan & Gluten Free
- 4 medium potatoes, mostly peeled, and cut into 1 inch sections
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 2 tbsp water
- 1 cup sorghum flour
- 1/2 cup potato starch
- 1/4 cup sweet white rice flour
Fill medium sized pot about half full with salted water and bring to a boil. Once water reaches a boil, carefully place chopped potatoes into the water. Wait for water to return to a boil, reduce heat slightly and cook for about 9 minutes, or until potatoes are easily mashed with a fork. Drain in colander and rinse with cold water.
In food processor, combine basil, nutritional yeast, garlic, olive oil, salt and water. Pulse until smooth.
Place potatoes and basil/nooch puree into large bowl and mash together with a potato masher until smooth and uniform. Try to get out the lumps as best you can.
Use a fork to mix in the prepared flaxseed meal and sorghum flour until stiff dough forms. Use your hands to mix in the remaining potato starch and sweet white rice flour. If your dough happens to be too wet for some reason (size, shape, etc. of potatoes can be a variable), mix in more sweet white rice flour until it resembles the gnocchi below.
Now, traditionally gnocchi is made by rolling out into long ropes and cutting the ropes into small 1 inch sections. I tried to do that and it didn’t work as I had planned, soooo… pretty much grab little sections of the dough, and squeeze firmly in your palm until compact little dumplings form. I squeezed mine pretty darned firmly and compactly to shape them and then cut off any excess with a knife. I also found it helpful to have slightly wet hands while forming the gnocchi. Indent with fork and repeat until all dough has been used.
Bring another large pot of water to boil and drop gnocchi in, about 10 at a time (depending on the size of your pot). Boil for about 1-2 minutes, or until they float. Drain and rinse quickly with cold water.
Serve with your favorite pasta sauce, or just drizzle your gnocchi with a touch of olive oil, and dust with nutritional yeast and fresh ground black pepper. The green beans make a nice addition too.
Not quite like the food of Florence, but it’ll do!