This “unpasta” is an Italian specialty par excellence. A first course in northern Italy, our version combines the traditional potato base with some gluten free garbanzo flour to add protein and a wonderful flavor.
Growing up, I remember festive holidays standing around the kitchen table shaping little gnocchi balls. We’d talk about our day, our sport achievements, how we’re doing in school… Or maybe because this is an Italian dish made from what we often think of as an Irish staple—potatoes—it simply brought together my diverse heritage. Whatever the reason, it is a family favorite that spans generations.
If you’ve never tried gnocchi before, this is a true treat. If you have, you may be thinking “how clever to use garbanzo flour instead of the more traditional semolina wheat.” Truthfully, the traditional and original version of gnocci, which probably predates Roman history, was always made without wheat flour. Adding wheat flour came along later and mostly to substitute a lower cost ingredient. Unfortunately, semolina wheat has the same drawbacks as other whole wheat (contains gluten, oils go rancid after milling, often grown using fungicides high in mercury content—a neurotoxin, etc.)
This version lets us make our pasta and eat it too. It’s very simple and children love making the little “unpastas”.
Top with one of these sauces and serve with a mixed green salad for a satisfying and distinctive meal.
2 pounds potatoes
2¼ Cups garbanzo flour (approx.)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Peal the potatoes and boil them in salted water until completely cooked.
2. Thoroughly drain all water away and mash potatoes while they are still warm—take particular care to leave no lumps.
3. Thoroughly blend in the eggs until the mixture is smooth.
4. Stir in about half the flour until the mixture is stiff. It will still be sticky.
5. Transfer the potato mixture to a floured surface and knead while adding additional flour until you obtain a soft but elastic dough.
6. Next, take a piece of the dough, sprinkle with some flour and roll it with your hands into a sausage-like shape with a diameter of about ¾ inch. Slice the cylinder of dough into little squares about ¾ inch long and roll each into a little ball. Repeat this until all the dough has been transformed into small balls.
7. Take a large fork, preferably wooden, and hold it in one hand prongs down. Use the thumb of your other hand to gently press each ball of dough against the fork prongs, very gently just to flatten, then use your thumb to loosen the top edge of the flattened dough and drop it onto a tray or sheet of wax paper—do not layer or they will stick together. The gnocchi should roll off the fork and curl up like ribbed shells. Repeat until all the dough is transformed into gnocchi. The gnocchi can be frozen for use or used immediately. For freezing, place the trays of gnocchi in the freezer. When frozen transfer to ziplock bags for longer-term storage.
8. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add a little olive oil on top of the water to prevent the gnocchi from sticking together. Drop the gnocchi a few at a time into the water and cook. They are done cooking after they have floated to the top for about 30 seconds.
9. Scoop the cooked gnocchi out of the water onto a heated serving dish. Sprinkle with a small amount of butter and serve with sauce.
Experiment with other root vegetables, use sweet potatoes for an even more festive dish, add beets or even spinach for color and flavor. You will probably need to adjust the water.