Beet Gnocchi

I am one of the most privileged individuals in the world, for I've had to the opportunity to learn the art of pasta from one of the greats. I dare not speak her name, but rest assured: I know what I'm doing. I was even lucky enough to learn how to make their ricotta gnocchi. I wouldn't dream of sharing their techniques online for everyone to see, but I can give you my own version and my own recipe with a clean slate of ethics. 

I do love gnocchi, and I think it's the perfect way to use a load of potatoes, aside from fries or latkes. Sure, mashed potato is great here and there, but what about variety? Let's have it, in the form of flavored gnocchi. 

I once learned how to make pumpkin gnocchi a long time ago. In order to make gnocchi you just need a little patience, some starchy veg, and know-how. Since my CSA from KC Farm School at Gibbs Road has generously given us beets this week, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to show how to make an unexpected delight from these candy-red treats. Even better, it's okay for your babies to eat! Kids like this meal because it's technicolor bright, and the beet flavor is mild when eaten with sauce. 

Beet Gnocchi

Serves 4

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 medium red beet
  • ~2 c flour
  • 2 eggs
  • A mild cream sauce of your choice
Steam the potatoes and beet for 45 minutes, with the skin on. When the timer goes off, let them all rest for 5 minutes. Cut your vegetables down the middle with a small, sharp knife and use a box grater to grate your roots onto a large, nonstick surface such as a countertop or marble slab. It helps if it's marble as it's naturally cooling but a clean countertop is just fine.

s t e a m y

Spread your grated veg in a single layer to help it to cool quickly. Sprinkle the flour all over and mix about with a fork or a bench scraper. Add the two eggs directly on top and begin to knead, folding everything over on itself. The starch should be quite warm but not hot, lest the egg cook and you burn your hands. Utilize your bench scraper well to really get everything all together. Don't knead too roughly or with too heavy a hand. You'll want to push it around to bring it together, but you don't want to quash out a ton of air. Your goal is to make a dough that will roll and stretch but will ultimately feel like aerated playdough. Don't you dare make it dense! Just don't!

Cut the dough portion in half and roll in flour. Use your hands to make a long dough snake and stretch it out gently to make logs. Cut the gnocchi from the logs and sprinkle more flour over it to keep the dumplings from sticking together. Toss the gnocchi around to coat it and let it sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes. If you want to use a gnocchi board or the back of a fork to press shapes and ridges into the gnocchi, please feel free to do so! No matter what, you absolutely must let the dough rest. 

his is vital! It's not just for the texture of the gnocchi, but so the gorgeous red-purple color of the beets can soak in and brighten up. I know I'll get attacked by the purists for not pressing it into a board, but I think the dumplings are just fine like this.

Look at this pretty purple!

When you're ready to eat, simply boil the gnocchi just until they float happily in salted water. Skim them off the top of the water and let them hang out on an oiled sheet pan until you're ready to use them. I like to fry them up in a pan with plenty of butter and herbs. Keep it simple when it comes to gnocchi, especially of this color.

It might look a little alarming to some, but don't worry, it's going to be yummy. This gnocchi is lovely with a simple herb butter sauce, especially with dill. Beets are great and this is a good way to get the picky folks in your life to eat them. My baby isn't picky but my husband can be a little particular. This is one of the ways I can prepare beets that he actually likes! I am currently intrigued by this recipe because gnocchi is perfect for babies that are getting the hang of their fine motor skills, and it's a great texture for them to practice on. I've always loved making gnocchi, of course, but this is a bit of a labor of love to get a flavored one. 

If you must serve it with a sauce, may I suggest a light pan sauce made with a white stock? You don't want to dampen the pretty red shine! I left the sauce off a few gnocchi for my baby so they could grip it with their bare hands. We do the baby-led weaning in our house so it's always a great deal of fun to watch them eat. My husband loves this recipe, too, which is wonderful considering he doesn't like beets. I highly recommend this recipe, even if you don't have picky eaters in your house.

I love this recipe because it's a twist on the expected with something unexpected. I love the color and I love how this utilizes an otherwise overlooked root vegetable. This is quite a bit of fun to make, and quite therapeutic. Have it with cheese, or a light sauce, or just plain with some olive oil and salt. I love gnocchi in a mushroom cream sauce. No matter how you eat these, you'll be getting delicious and nutritious beets ... so be sure to remember that, later.