• Gluten-free gnocchi by the Sydney-based catering company, On Ya Gnocchi. (Facebook: @On Ya Gnochi)Source: Facebook: @On Ya Gnochi
Just because you're gluten-free, doesn't mean that tasty pasta should be off the menu. Paolo Cardile from Sydney's On Ya Gnocchi shares the secrets behind his gluten-free gnocchi.
Paolo Cardile, Presented by
Yasmin Noone

1 Aug 2019 - 11:20 AM  UPDATED 1 Aug 2019 - 11:50 AM

Every Christmas growing up, I always made traditional ricotta gnocchi with my grandmother and mum at home. We used wheat flour and potatoes and added a bit of salt and pepper.

But a long time ago, while I was working in a restaurant as [an apprentice chef], I came across a bag of potato flour. I asked one of the other chefs, ‘why don’t we use potato flour with potatoes to make our gnocchi’? Why do we use wheat flour instead?’

I ended up experimenting in the kitchen, mixing a bit of potato flour with potato and didn’t use any wheat flour to make the gnocchi. I just wanted to see how the recipe would turn out. It worked – and the rest is history really. I’ve been making gluten-free gnocchi with potato flour at restaurants and home ever since. 

To hear that my gnocchi has made a difference in their lives is very rewarding. It makes all the sweat worthwhile.

A few years ago, I was planning to return to work after a career break. I wanted to open a sauce store. I told my mum and she said ‘why don’t you make and sell some of that great gnocchi with potato flour that you used to make a while ago?’ I thought if mum is saying it, it must be right.

So three years ago, I started my own catering business On Ya Gnocchi where I sell gluten-free gnocchi at markets and events in Sydney, and take orders online.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of customers with a gluten-intolerance who have been unable to eat gnocchi, sometimes for 10 years, because of the wheat flour in the recipe. They tell me that my gluten-free gnocchi has changed what they can eat.

To hear that my gnocchi has made a difference in their lives is very rewarding. It makes all the sweat worthwhile.

As a chef, it’s important to understand intolerances, allergies and dietary requirements. I do not have coeliac disease, but it is something I have come to learn more about over my career.

In my opinion, it’s not enough to offer a gluten-free substitute but to actually understand the impacts and risks of gluten cross-contamination in the kitchen, especially for people living with coeliac disease.

When I started the business, I offered gluten-free and wheat-based gnocchi. But I soon realised that I had to have two separate workbenches, two stirrers and two boiling points. In the end, I decided to go fully gluten-free to be safe to avoid all risk of cross-contamination in my gnocchi.

At the end of the day, I’m just a bloke in a little gazebo. I don’t have a pasta product line sitting on the shelf at Woolies with a gluten-free label so people with health issues may find it hard to trust my gnocchi straight away. I understand that if you had a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, it would be difficult to believe that my product really is gluten-free.

All I can say is all gnocchi, even gluten-free gnocchi, can be hit and miss. People also just assume that all gluten-free food won’t taste very good. But my gluten-free gnocchi melt in your mouth. When you taste it, by the time you have thought about it, it has disappeared.

To make my gnocchi, I only use potato and potato flour. I don’t put egg in it either, so it’s also vegan. I also don’t add oil to the mix. Customers always ask me how I make the ingredients hold together without using oil or egg. The honest answer that I give everyone is one word: love.

I use good quality royal blue potatoes to make them light: the high quality of the potato makes up for the lack of egg. I am also very specific about the potato flour I use. I tried many potato flour varieties when I first started the business but now I buy mine at the Asian supermarket.

I try to enhance the gnocchi flavour by using a simple Napolitan sauce. I dress it with a gluten-free mozzarella and pecorino cheese that is lactose and gluten-free.

Even though my gnocchi is non-traditional, my parents like them. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve become educated about the different aspects of health and what gluten-free means. They’ve realised that it’s not 1922 any more where we just eat pasta, and bread, bread and bread. There’s more to having a good diet than that.

But she says my gnocchi are really soft and taste great: and that’s just brilliant.

I often get older Italian customers coming to buy my gnocchi and are amazed that they are gluten-free. It opens up their mind to how good gluten-free food really can taste.

My grandmother is still around so whenever I have some leftover gnocchi from a market or event, I drop it off at her house. She’s currently 88-years-old and doesn’t understand what gluten or gluten-free is. But she says my gnocchi are really soft and taste great: and that’s just brilliant.

On Ya Gnocchi will be one of the many food stands serving gluten-free food at the Gluten Free Expo Sydney, happening on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 August at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse. To find out more about the expo or to discover upcoming expo dates for other Australian cities, visit Gluten Free Expo online.

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