Everything began with a nasty tiredness. I desperately wanted to understand which was the reason, I blamed the lack of sleep, then the heat, then the long shifts to finish my cookbook. I also secretly thought I was getting too lazy, or too old. Eventually I did a food intolerance test. I’ve learnt to listen to my body, so when I got my results they were not at all unexpected.
Due to my reckless way of life, my body is intoxicated. For some time I will have to avoid from my diet any dairy product, gluten – with the exception of rye – and chocolate. It has been almost three weeks now, though I already feel better: I am less tired, my skin is glowing and I’m slightly thinner.
Well, I’ve just got back from my holidays in Puglia, when I basically slept for the whole day, except for when I was reading at the beach. I could not follow the diet strictly, as I was trying to get as much as I could from my two week immersion in the country of such an amazing food as orecchiette, burrata and bread with olives… but I’ve behaved quite well.
Is it a new era here at Juls’ Kitchen? Well, I don’t know, but it looks like a new challenge, fueled by the desire to experiment new recipes and ingredients, to go beyond my eating habit, to eat well feeling even better. I’ll start from the basics, the simple things, not to get lost and discouraged. A gluten-free pizza is still far away from this blog, but these gnocchetti Emiko made for Marco, affected by the same gluten intolerance I have, seemed the perfect starting point.
I fought for years with gnocchi, which have never been my favourite pasta nor a recipe I was renowned for. Then I started to bake potatoes instead of boiling them in a pot, and my gnocchi improved significantly, beginning to trace their their way into my heart. Eventually I replaced flour with potato starch, as suggested by Emiko, and made these gnocchi which made me instantly proud of myself.
I’d kill for a bowl of these tiny gnocchi seasoned generously with brown butter, crispy sage and a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, but for the moment I’ve enjoyed them with a garlicky fresh tomato sauce and the pistachio pesto I’m going to describe now. I have definitely changed my mind.
Using potato starch instead of flour, besides making them suitable for a gluten free diet, avoids the risk of heavy, sticky dough if you work it too long. You will serve pillowy melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi. It is important to use the right kind of potatoes – opt for starchy potatoes – and bake them in the oven.
I followed Emiko’s advice also for the shape: I made hazelnut size balls, which became fluffy soft gnocchi. In Florence they call are called gnocchetti or topini, little mice.
I was searching for a pistachio based pesto which could be tasty even without cheese: in my mind a pesto made of pistachios comes naturally with a good serving of delicate cream cheese, which should be mixed with a scoop of pesto and some good extra virgin olive oil to dress a hearty dish of pasta. Instead of cheese I used a small tender raw courgette from the garden, which was then blended in a food processor with pistachios. That gentle hint of raw courgette freshens up the pesto and pairs beautifully with the fresh mint.
As soon as the gnocchi are cooked and float up in the pot, dissolve the pistachio pesto with a few tablespoons of cooking water and season the gnocchi. I skipped completely the cheese, but if you aim for a sharper taste, sprinkle some grated Parmigiano or pecorino.
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For the gnocchi
- 1 kg 2,2 lbs of starchy potatoes
- Rock salt
- 1 egg
- 100 g 10 tbs of potato starch + more to dust working surface and hands
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 pinch of grated nutmeg
For the pesto
- 80 g 2/3 of a cup of pistachios + 20 g (2 and 1/2 tbs) of chopped pistachios to decorate
- 15 mint leaves
- 1 small green zucchini
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) and sprinkle with rock salt a baking tray
- Wash the potatoes, pat them dry, pierce with a fork and arrange them on the salt. Bake for about an hour or until soft if pierced with a knife. Let them cool slightly, peel them and mash with a potato masher or a food mill.
- Add a lightly beaten egg, salt and a pinch of grated nutmeg (or more if you like the taste), then knead to mix all the ingredients.
- Pour half of the potato flour on a wooden board, add the mashed potatoes and cover the dough with the rest of the potato starch. Work the mashed potatoes with a spatula until the starch has been incorporated and the dough is smooth.
- Shape the gnocchi by rolling small balls of dough between your hands, previously sprinkled with potato starch. Gave them the shape and size of a hazelnut and arrange the tiny gnocchi on a large tray sprinkled with potato starch.
- Now make pesto. Dice the courgette and add it in a blender with pistachios, mint leaves, extra virgin olive oil and salt. Blend until smooth.
- Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water until they'll float up to the surface, a couple of minutes will be enough. Drain the gnocchi and season them with the freshly made pistachio pesto. Add some coarsely chopped pistachios for decoration.
This is the last post before the holidays. Indeed, in this very moment are probably in the machine towards the Salento, with a stop halfway in Basilicata by relatives and friends Andria.
It will be a journey of hope with a toy car download that part – I hope – and will return in a fortnight full of good things, of smiles and sun, swimming in the sea, to learn new recipes and stories to tell. I’m going to recharge my batteries in view of a September that promises to be challenging, interesting, and exciting, with the release of the book, the Feast of the network, Juls’ Kitchen Lab, the return to school to teach as in January … well, time to tan a little ‘and I come back to you!