A melt-in-the-mouth, tasty and low carb version of the traditional recipe.
I love Italian food sooooo much. Bread. Pasta. Polenta. Semolina. Pizza. Gnocchi. Makes me drool just thinking about them all. But ketogenic life is prohibitive when it comes to many traditional Italian dishes because they are often based on what Italians themselves call ‘cucina povera’, i.e. ‘poor cuisine’, so termed because their main ingredient is grains, and in historical times of hardship grains were the only cheap food available to everyone.
So how does one cope with staying in ketosis AND indulge in Italian food? Surely that’s a paradox! But there are ways… you just have to be a little bit inventive and a little bit maverick! So here is my keto gnocchi story….
A mozzarella gnocchi nightmare
I woke up yesterday morning thinking about how to make gnocchi without white flour or potatoes, and it quickly became my morning obsession. I searched the internet for inspiration and sure enough lots of low carb gnocchi recipes popped up, all using mozzarella as the main ingredient, all very similar. The photos looked nice, the recipes seemed simple enough, so off I went to buy the recommended dry type of mozzarella. By ‘dry’ I mean the industrial mozzarella type that is vacuum packed and dry – the fake-looking kind I had spotted many times in Tesco… This proved an issue to start with. You see, I am currently at my house in Italy, and produce here tends to be seasonal, local and authentic. So I drove to 3 different shop before I eventually found ‘dry’ mozzarella. Not a good start.
Later on, my Italian ragú was simmering away and I started making the gnocchi, following recipe instructions to the letter. Sure enough, problem number two didn’t hide for long: my melted mozzarella was just a ball of chewing gum swimming in cloudy water. Problem number three came next. As I continued to microwave the mozzarella chewing gum into submission, the most horrid smell of molten plastic was filling my kitchen. Concerned, but determined to see the recipe through and have my gnocchi dinner, I ploughed on, trying not to gag. Still the chewing gum would not budge, so I decided that maybe, just maybe, adding the other ingredients would help, and I soldiered on, attempting to knead the impossible. A lot of frustration later, I took the squidgy, egg-wet rubbery ball from the bowl and nearly threw it over the field. But no. I had nothing else for dinner, and surely it would be edible? Unable to roll, shape or cut the alien mass, I pulled it apart into stringy blobs that I then plunged in boiling water.
Needless to say that the blobs almost dissolved in the hot water they were meant to cook in, and all I could do was scoop strings out with a sieve.
Trying not to be defeatist, I ate the chewing gum strings, which now resembled the same plastic mass I was trying to knead earlier. Topped with my ragú and lots of Parmesan, they didn’t taste too bad. Within an hour, however, my stomach was tight and felt uncomfortable. I hardly slept. I was in pain most of the night. That was that. End of mozzarella gnocchi for me.
Now, I am not suggesting for a minute that the recipes I’d followed were flawed. I blame the ‘mozzarella’ I used. I never, ever, ever, want to buy that fake crap, ever, again.
A ricotta gnocchi delight
After a terrible night’s sleep half-dreaming about my house being flooded with chewing gum and me drowning inside, I got up with a fighting spirit and thought of an alternative. Ricotta. Why not? I use it in cakes, biscuits, pastry and cold desserts. So why not in gnocchi?
And with that, I cycled off to my favourite shop to buy some fresh ricotta (no industrial crap error this time).
The fresh counter ricotta was quite dry already but, to be on the safe side, I wrapped it in muslin cloth, popped it in a colander on top of a bowl and left it in the fridge for a few hours. I was thinking of using 2 eggs, but the chickens had only laid one for me (they don’t always oblige – no intensive farming here!) so it had to do.
Because I only had one egg, coconut flour was out of the question, so I opted for chickpea flour as my bulking ingredient. Chickpeas are abundant in the Mediterranean and the flour is used in many traditional Italian dishes like the Genoese farinata, a typical Genoese chickpea flatbread that I totally adore. It is also known, outside of Italy, as gram flour, garbanzo and besan, although I am not sure if these are exactly the same. I think I will stick to my Italian organic farina di ceci. Bear in mind that chickpea flour is NOT carb-free. It contains about 50g carbs per 100g, which is a lot lower than ordinary white flour, but still. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because it is healthy it is also keto-friendly. I use it in small quantities only, so my dishes remain low-carb, but do go easy on it if you decide to make it your best friend.
I suppose this recipe development was entirely circumstantial and I should, in all fairness, give credit to the chickens that forced my decisions.
I have to say that tonight’s gnocchi preparation was a breeze compared to yesterday’s ordeal. You must ensure that the ricotta you use is very dry, otherwise the gnocchi won’t hold together. Straining ricotta is easy: wrap it in muslin, then rest it inside a sieve over a bowl for several hours or overnight. The only tedious part was shaping the gnocchi one by one between teaspoons, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes an easy and quick technique.
Was it worth persisting on day 2? You bet! These beautifully soft and delicate low carb gnocchi were just divine!
I served them piping hot, topped with my Italian ragú (re-heated left-over from last night) and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
I hope you will try them. You will not be disappointed.
- use very dry fresh ricotta from the deli counter or strain packaged ricotta for 24 hours.
the ricotta must not be wet: test it by dropping a teaspoon of it onto kitchen towel - if water spreads around the ricotta, it needs more straining.
once ready, put it in a medium size bowl and beat it with a fork until smooth and lump-free.
break the whole egg over the ricotta, add the fine salt and stir gently - it is important that you do not use a whisk or blender for this step.
incorporate the chickpea flour and stir again until you have a nice, smooth mixture.
- bring a medium pot of water to the boil while you shape the gnocchi.
sprinkle a thin layer of coconut flour onto a soup plate.
pick up some mixture with a teaspoon, then roll it using another teaspoon until you have a rough oval shape.
slide this onto the soup plate and roll it around so it is coated with coconut flour, then transfer it to another plate.
continue until you have used up all the mixture - make sure the gnocchi don't touch each other.
- add coarse salt to the boiling water, bring it back to the boil, then pick up the gnocchi by hand and slide them into the boiling water, one by one, until you have used 8-10 gnocchi.
as soon as they start to float, remove the gnocchi with a skimming ladle or similar tool and put them in a colander to drain.
repeat for the remainder of the gnocchi.
transfer the gnocchi from the sieve to a serving plate and serve topped with Italian ragú and plenty of fresh Parmesan cheese.
Your feedback is important to me! Please leave a comment below. If you make this recipe, share a photo with the hashtag #queenketo. Thank you!