When it comes to making and eating gnocchi, there’s only one golden rule: don’t gnocchi till you’ve tried it. Terrible puns aside, there are actually a few tips and tricks to nail in order to achieve the perfect pillowy potato dumplings, but none of them suggest avoiding creativity and improvisation.
The art of gnocchi, as any culture that enjoys it regularly will contest, lies in being unique. Across Italy, gnocchi takes on regional variations – malfatti is a Lombard and Tuscan version made with flour, ricotta and spinach; in Verona, you might find traditional potato dumplings cooked in a tomato sauce, a centuries-old dish associated with one of their oldest festivals, Carnival.
And then, there are versions of gnocchi that have found life on the Internet: the weird, the wacky, the colourful (literally) and unconventional (dessert is calling). Read on to find eight not-your-average gnocchi dishes we’ve found of late, and try to recreate them at home if you dare.
1. A pop of purple
It’s as pretty as it is nutritious, and popular in Japan and the Philippines, purple yams (ube, or Okinawan sweet potatoes) are the vibrant relative of the tater. Purple yams are sweeter than potatoes, so purple gnocchi works well with savoury or umami flavours like shiitake mushrooms and tahini. Great news for the gluten averse: purple gnocchi can be made entirely gluten-free.
2. No spud in this stud
These may look like your average potato dumplings, but they’re hiding a secret at the core - there’s no potato to be found here. Instead, this version takes cues from Cuba and the Dominican Republic by using ripe plantains – starchy bananas that are great for cooking.
3. No eggs required (they're vegan-friendly)
While we’re not saying gnocchi doesn’t go extremely well with handfuls of cheese, making your gnocchi vegan-friendly is a simple alternative for anyone looking to give the dairy a rest. Made with pumpkin or potatoes (no eggs necessary!) and doused in all manner of sauces (red, white, green and more) DIY vegan gnocchi is almost as easy as buying a ready-made pack from the supermarket.
4. For anyone craving a carb overload
Get ready to be bowl-ed over. Gnocchi served in a bowl made out of wood-fired pizza dough is the carb overload you didn’t know you needed. This marvellous creation has been dreamed up by the team at Gemelli Italian, a Brisbane restaurant focusing on rustic Italian cuisine.
5. Pasta, booze and dessert - all-in-one
Let’s be real here – all we actually need for Christmas is pasta and booze in the same mouthful. Behold Italian chain restaurant Ask’s wild invention: Prosecco Gnocchi - baked chocolate-filled gnocchi dipped in a prosecco and white chocolate sauce.
Prosecco gnocchi went into competition with their two other inventions - Snowball Gnocchi (dipped in a white chocolate and coconut dipping sauce) and Popping Candy gnocchi (dipped in a dark chocolate sauce and then rolled in, you guessed it, popping candy). These were all vying for a place on Ask’s Christmas menu. While Prosecco Gnocchi ultimately lost out to Snowball Gnocchi, it’s still deserving of attention in its own right.
6. Fancy some dessert?
It has a dessert side, we knew it! Dessert gnocchi, a term that certainly fits the magic created when gnocchi dips it's toe into the sweeter side of life.
Enter Ambar, a Washington DC-based Balkan restaurant famous for an award-winning dish by the name of Forest Gnocchi. Consisting of bitter orange cake, orange gelée, tarragon cream, chocolate mousse ‘gnocchi’ and passionfruit espuma with black tea sauce, it might just be the most inventive interpretation of gnocchi we’ve seen of late.
7. A hint of spice
If Christmas was a biscuit then it would have to be speculaas, right? The Dutch buttery, spiced biscuits that crumble in your mouth, are nothing short of delightful and are popular throughout Europe. Food blogger Clotilde Dusoilier takes those irresistible bikkies and this recipe breaks all the gnocchi rules - so get creative and crush it.
8. Cheese and chocolate?
The Chocolate Lab in Denver is upping the ante with Chocolate Popcorn Gnocchi, made with cheddar cheese, cocoa nibs and – of course – popcorn. Popcorn and cheese are blended together with an egg to make a kind-of ‘dough’. The mixture is rolled in cocoa nibs, cut into gnocchi balls and then cooked with olive oil, fresh basil and house-made marinara sauce. It sounds strange, but we’re game to try this one out.
For more ideas check out our gnocchi collection here.
Homemade gnocchi is a revelation. They’re little pillows that soak up sauce readily, like this simple but excellent braised beef.
Fun to make and scrumptious to eat, this homemade baked gnocchi combines pumpkin, tomatoes and spinach for a delicious, nutritious meal, made all the more fun by being served in individual dishes.
"This is the most brilliant tomato sauce – its versatility is limitless. Pour over pasta, braise vegies in it, use as a pizza base or between layers of a vegie lasagna or here, with gnocchi. It needs nothing else, intense with fragrant garlic and the intensity of perfectly vine-ripened tomatoes. As for the gnocchi, there seems to be common perception that it’s difficult to make. So long as you stick to a couple of hard and fast rules – to not overcook and water log the potatoes and to squeeze instead of knead the gnocchi dough, I promise all will be well." Poh Ling Yeow, Poh & Co.