In honour of National Vegetarian Week (15th – 21st May), chef, writer and nutritionist Dorothy Woods, aka Healthy Dot, has whipped up a gnocchi and pesto recipe that’s ideal for a midweek veggie dinner for two and one you’ll defo keep coming back to once veggie week is long gone. As Dorothy says, “gnocchi is technically a pasta, but it has an incredible soft and pillowy texture that melts in your mouth. In my opinion, it’s the perfect vegetarian dish; filling, hearty enough to satisfy any craving and pairs beautifully with a variety of sauces and other vegetables. And, because it is made with potatoes, gnocchi is also easy to make gluten-free, making it a great option for those (like me!) with dietary restrictions.”
“While traditionally made in Italy from mashed potatoes, flour, and eggs, my variation is a bit more fun. I substitute sweet potato for the potato and a creamy ricotta for the egg. Finally, a little sharp parmesan adds a salty umami flavour to balance the sweetness from the sweet potato and the fat from the ricotta. I’ve paired it here with one of my go-to sauces: kale and walnut pesto. I tend to make a big batch of this and keep it in the fridge. It’s also been a favourite with my clients over the years so I’m always knocking this up to deliver around London. The kale makes this pesto nutrient rich while also softening the sharpness of the basil. I started to use walnuts in my pesto because pine nuts have gotten so expensive, but I quickly realised that the texture and flavour work so nicely with the other ingredients. Walnuts are very nutritious and have a very low carbon footprint compared to other nuts, so they are a great option for people looking to eat consciously. This recipe makes more pesto than you need for the gnocchi but it’s always a good thing to have in the fridge!”
For the gnocchi:
1 medium sweet potato
125g ricotta cheese
25g grated parmesan cheese
65-85g flour (gluten free if needed) plus more for dusting
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
For the pesto:
55g walnut pieces
80g kale leaves
20g basil leaves
1 clove garlic
50g grated parmesan cheese
100g extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Poke the sweet potato with a fork a few times, place it on an oven tray and roast for
40 minutes or until soft.
2. Make the pesto by combining all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.
3. When the sweet potato has cooled slightly, scoop the flesh out of the skin and combine it with the ricotta, parmesan, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Mix until no clumps remain. Add the flour, folding in a few spoonfuls at a time and making sure not to beat. Repeat until you have a dough that you can touch with a dry finger and it doesn’t stick to your skin.
4. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Take a portion of the dough, similar size to a tennis ball, and gently roll the dough into a long snake. Cut it into 1-inch pieces. Repeat until all the dough is used.
5. Boil a deep pot of salted water. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet next to the pot with water. Working in batches, add the gnocchi to the boiling water a few at a time. Avoid overcrowding the pan, allowing them to float to the surface before removing with a slotted spoon, it’ll take approximately 1 minute.
6. Transfer the cooked gnocchi directly into your skillet to pan-fry for a few seconds to crisp the outside. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi. Gently add the pesto to coat and serve immediately.