vegan • plant-based • dairy-free • gluten-free

Gnocchi are traditionally served as the first course of an Italian meal, in place of pasta or soup. This recipe makes 4 main-course portions (6-8 as a light lunch or appetiser).

Gnocchi are quicker and simpler to make than you might think. Once you’ve sourced the right ingredients, it’s mostly a matter of getting your hands dirty, which can be quite fun 🙂

Gnocchi

Definition: (in Italian cooking) small dumplings made from potato, semolina, or flour, usually served with a sauce.
Origin: Italian, plural of gnocco, alteration of nocchio ‘knot in wood’.
Pronunciation: /ˈn(j)ɒki/

– Oxford Dictionary


Why sweet potato?

There always seems to be a debate going on about the pros and cons of sweet potatoes over regular white potatoes – regarding sugars, starch levels and GI ratings. For a plant-based diet, the colour is an important clue as to the benefits of sweet though. Along with dark leafy greens, orange vegetables tend to be the best sources of beta-carotene.

While ready-made vitamin A can only be found in animal products, beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A supports the neurological system, immune system, eyesight, bones and skin. It’s also an antioxidant, so it helps to slow down the ageing process and reduces inflammation, so it’s pretty amazing stuff.

The recipe calls for 300g of sweet potato mash, which works out at around 375g raw. Unless you can buy them loose, sweet potatoes usually come in 700g or 750g bundles, so we tend to bake a whole batch of them at once and put the rest in the fridge for other uses. If you cut them in half once they’re baked and just scoop out the very centre for the gnocchi mix, you can then slice up what’s left and add it to salads. The skins are a good source of fibre and potassium, so that way nothing’s wasted.

The sweet potato can be baked in advance of making the gnocchi – even the day before, if you prefer.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentils

How the recipe was born

Before adopting a plant-based diet, we used to love traditional potato gnocchi with pesto, parmesan, and a few green beans thrown in. Though it’s perhaps not the healthiest choice, it’s undoubtedly delicious, so we were keen to try and reimagine it – this time with sweet potato.

We’d recently acquired a Vitamix blender, when I had what I thought was a flash of brilliance in the middle of the night – making red lentil flour to go with the sweet potato. Mum then had a new book delivered – The Homemade Flour Cookbook, by the brilliant Erin Alderson of Naturally Ella (not to be confused with Deliciously Ella). In it was a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi, made with lentil flour and served with pesto.

It seems there is nothing new under the sun, and any claims to genius on my part were quickly dashed.

Erin uses eggs and dairy in her recipe – as is the tradition – so the challenge was to make a plant-based version. I managed to produce some curious orange pebbles in the process, but after a couple of attempts found that the ideal mixture is very simple – just those two ingredients. They’re quite delicate to handle, but they do stay intact without an additional binder.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

About the red lentil flour

If you like, you can have a go at making your own flour at home. This is ideal if you want to pre-soak the lentils, recommended for reducing antinutrients. Whatever you do, avoid flour made from pre-cooked ingredients for this use, otherwise you’ll end up with soup. Trust me, I tried it 🙂 This includes heating the lentils while soaking if you’re making your own flour – just soak them with a good pinch of salt at room temperature for 12 hours, rinse and dehydrate.
How to make your own flour »

If you’re just starting out, are pushed for time or pushed for energy, just buy some organic gluten-free flour ready-made – it’ll still be way better for you than regular flour. Organic lentil flour is not easy to track down, but although it’s a bit stickier, buckwheat flour works okay with this recipe, and that’s readily available. You can even get sprouted versions by Rude Health or Planet Organic.

Other GF flour blends might be fine too, but I recommend adding the flour gradually and testing a couple to make sure they don’t fall apart in the water – you might need to add a binder if so.


Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Storage

These gnocchi are best eaten fresh. You can store them in the fridge overnight, or you can also freeze them and defrost on the day of use. However you store them, it’s best to lay them out separately, or they’ll stick together – pretty annoying after all that preparation.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Gnocchi

Yields4 Servings

 375 g sweet potato
 150 g red lentil flour
 ½ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

For the sweet potato mash
1

Have these handy:

  • A baking tray
  • Non-stick baking paper
  • A medium-sized bowl
  • A fork
2

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (360°F).

3

Pierce the sweet potatoes in several places with the fork, and place them whole on the baking tray. It's best to line the tray with baking paper, as the potatoes tend to ooze sticky syrup.

4

Depending on the size, bake for around 40 minutes, or until soft all the way through.

5

Once they're cool enough, cut them in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh into the bowl. Mash it to a fine paste with the fork.

For the gnocchi
6

Have these handy:

  • A large chopping board
  • A large saucepan
  • A slotted spoon
  • A small sharp knife
  • A fork
7

Add around 100g of the flour to the sweet potato mash gradually, until you have a soft, slightly sticky but manageable dough. Reserve the rest of the flour for handling.

8

With your hands, roll the dough into 4 sausages about 1.5cm thick, then cut these into pieces about 2.5cm long. The dough will be delicate to handle, so just dust with flour as you go along.

9

Decorate with the prongs of a fork if you like – either following the curve, or just squashing them down gently in the middle.

10

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Drop the gnocchi in carefully with the slotted spoon, and let them boil fairly rapidly so they don't stick together. Initially they will sink to the bottom. When they've all risen to the top, they're done. It should take about 2 minutes.

Ingredients

 375 g sweet potato
 150 g red lentil flour
 ½ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

Directions

For the sweet potato mash
1

Have these handy:

  • A baking tray
  • Non-stick baking paper
  • A medium-sized bowl
  • A fork
2

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (360°F).

3

Pierce the sweet potatoes in several places with the fork, and place them whole on the baking tray. It's best to line the tray with baking paper, as the potatoes tend to ooze sticky syrup.

4

Depending on the size, bake for around 40 minutes, or until soft all the way through.

5

Once they're cool enough, cut them in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh into the bowl. Mash it to a fine paste with the fork.

For the gnocchi
6

Have these handy:

  • A large chopping board
  • A large saucepan
  • A slotted spoon
  • A small sharp knife
  • A fork
7

Add around 100g of the flour to the sweet potato mash gradually, until you have a soft, slightly sticky but manageable dough. Reserve the rest of the flour for handling.

8

With your hands, roll the dough into 4 sausages about 1.5cm thick, then cut these into pieces about 2.5cm long. The dough will be delicate to handle, so just dust with flour as you go along.

9

Decorate with the prongs of a fork if you like – either following the curve, or just squashing them down gently in the middle.

10

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Drop the gnocchi in carefully with the slotted spoon, and let them boil fairly rapidly so they don't stick together. Initially they will sink to the bottom. When they've all risen to the top, they're done. It should take about 2 minutes.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Gnocchi

How to serve

While the water boils for the gnocchi, I like to lightly pan-fry some greens or other vegetables separately on a medium-high heat, coating them in warm coconut oil, then adding a splash of water if necessary. This way they cook quickly, keep their colour, and don’t lose too many nutrients. (Pictured with home-grown cavolo nero, green beans and spinach). Once they’re al dente, I just set the pan aside and deal with the gnocchi.

When the gnocchi are safely in the water, put the pan of vegetables back on a very low heat and stir in some pesto (like our own spinach pesto recipe). You just want to warm it slightly – pesto quickly spoils if it’s over-heated.

Once the gnocchi are done, add them carefully to the vegetable-pesto mix with the slotted spoon, then combine gently. Decorate with pine nuts and fresh basil to serve.

Spinach Pesto





Have you tried this recipe? How did it go? Got any tips or questions of your own about plant-based gnocchi? Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

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