Gnocchi is a delectable potato dumpling that’s hearty while still being flexible. This Italian dish can be used in soups or as a main dish on their own. You can cover them in a cheese sauce, a cream sauce, or a red sauce (or even no sauce!).
For as versatile as this dish is, gnocchi are still essentially mashed potatoes turned into dumplings, often covered in a butter sauce. If you’re trying to watch your weight, it’s not an entrée you can eat often. And, as delicious as each bite is, it can be easy to bust your portion control without thinking twice.
What if we told you there were ways you could make some healthy gnocchi that doesn’t compromise on flavor?
What if we told you there were ways you could make some healthy gnocchi that doesn’t compromise on flavor? Because that’s exactly what we’re saying. Like most Italian dishes, gnocchi changes depending on where you eat it. An order of gnocchi will be different in Tuscany and Campania. This means there isn’t one classic, sacrosanct recipe that must be adhered to, which gives us a little wiggle room to be creative. For example, using gnocchi in a soup can help cut on portion-size, since a healthy broth will fill you up more.
For today’s article, though, we’re going to make gnocchi the star of the plate and find a way to make some healthy gnocchi that you’ll love.
Ditch the Sauce
One of the traditional ways to make gnocchi is with a butter sauce. For obvious reasons, this is not good for people on a diet. But the same can be said for other sauces, too. Whether you’re tossing it in a marinara or an alfredo, you’re adding calories that can easily be cut.
An easy way to cut calories is to skip the sauce.
In the place of a store-bought sauce, do a light drizzle of olive oil. That’ll help the individual dumplings from sticking together and add the multitude of health benefits olive oil provides. To help replace some of the flavor of a sauce, add additional ingredients (more on that later). Once you serve the gnocchi, grate some cheese overtop each dish. Doing this after you serve allows a greater degree of portion control. You can use store-bought grated cheese or grate your own!
Change the Gnocchi’s Makeup
A basic recipe for gnocchi really only requires three ingredients. You need potato, egg, and flour. You can easily add to this, though. Some popular recipes add ricotta cheese to the mix. In a sense, this breaks up the starch of the potatoes and allows us to lighten the overall dish. In our case, we can use light or low fat ricotta to boost this even further.
Some popular recipes add ricotta cheese to the mix, which lightens the overall dish.
Potatoes have gotten a bit of a bad rap recently. They’re pretty high in calories and carbohydrates, so it’s easy to see why people looking to lose weight may avoid them. There’s no avoiding potatoes if you want to enjoy gnocchi, though. We can, however, look to improve it. Enter the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are lower in calories and carbohydrates and high in multiple important vitamins and minerals. White potatoes only beat sweet ones in protein and carbs (which they’re higher in) and sugar (which they’re much lower in). This makes sweet potatoes a smart switch for anyone looking for some healthier gnocchi.
A word of warning, though. Sweet potatoes do taste differently than white potatoes, so a recipe using one may not work for the other. The difference may also not be incredibly noticeable, since there’s only a 40-calorie difference between a sweet potato and a white one. That said, the 80-calorie difference (most recipes call for two potatoes) and the other nutrients may be worth it to you. You could also mix one white potato and one sweet potato for the recipe. We won’t judge.
Pack it with Superfoods
So, this last suggestion may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. A lot of gnocchi recipes have the dumplings served by themselves or with peas. That’s not exactly the most filling of combinations, putting most of the onus the starchy potato dumplings. If we want to watch portion control, we should add other filling ingredients, and what better ingredients than superfoods? Adding the right combination of ingredients can also make for a beautiful, Instagram-ready dish, if that’s your thing.
If we want to watch portion control, we should add other filling ingredients, and what better ingredients than superfoods?
Lightly sautéed or steamed kale or spinach is an easy addition that’ll add some color and flavor, without mentioning how healthy it is. You could also sauté beans or mushrooms to beef up the recipe. Speaking of beefing up, lean meats, like chicken, turkey, or lean cuts of beef can add a lot of flavor without too much fat. If the calorie savings are enough for you to add one cheat, bacon or pancetta add so much to the overall dish. Still want the tomato flavor of a red sauce? Try cutting up cherry or Roma tomatoes and stirring them into the mix. With that in mind, it’s time to make some healthy gnocchi!
Medicareful Living’s Healthy Gnocchi
- 2 russet potato, peeled
- 2 sweet potato, peeled
- 2 cups of light or low fat ricotta cheese
- 2 cups of flour, not including flour for kneading surface
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp of salt
- 2 cups of Roma tomatoes, washed and chopped
- 2 cups of kale, chopped
- 1 cup of cannellini (white) beans
- 1 cup of white mushrooms, chopped
- 1 slice of thick-cut pancetta, chopped (optional)
- 1 tbsp of minced garlic (optional)
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tbsp of parmesan cheese, grated, per person
- Bring roughly 8 cups of salted water to a boil.
- Peel the potatoes and add them to the boiling water.
- Boil the potatoes until tender enough to pierce with a fork, roughly 15-20 minutes.
- Drain the water and mash or rice the potatoes in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle flour onto a clean surface.
- Form the potatoes into a mound on the floured surface and add the ricotta and half the flour.
- Make a well in the dough and add a beaten egg.
- Lightly knead into a dough with floured hands, adding additional flour as need. Don’t over-knead and add flour sparingly.
- Roll the dough into a cylinder “snake.”
- Cut 1-inch to 2-inch long gnocchi with a floured knife to prevent sticking and lightly dust with flour.
- Bring a fresh 8 cups of water to a boil.
- Add gnocchi to the boiling water in batches and allow them to cook. When they float to the top, they’re ready to be removed.
- Heat olive oil in a pan. If you are adding pancetta to the dish, cook the chopped pancetta and set pancetta aside.
- As you remove gnocchi from pot, allow them to steam-dry for a minute or so before sautéing them lightly in the pan. Flip the gnocchi when they’re lightly browned on one side.
- When browned on both sides, remove and set aside, adding more gnocchi.
- While you’re boiling the gnocchi, heat olive oil in a separate pan and sauté the kale, mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans.
- Lightly salt, pepper, and garlic (optional) to taste.
- Add the gnocchi to the vegetables’ pan and lightly toss everything together on low heat.
- Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil and allow everything to heat evenly.
- Serve in a bowl with freshly grated cheese.