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Whole Wheat Ricotta Gnocchi with Peppers and Roasted Garlic

Whole Wheat Ricotta Gnocchi with Peppers and Roasted Garlic

mm gnocchi! Gnocchi are usually thought of as pasta, but they actually technically are small dumplings. While enjoyed all over the Mediterranean region, gnocchi are best known as an Italian specialty. Gnocchi can be served with a wide variety of sauces, from simple tomato sauce to pesto to the classic browned butter with sage. These little dumplings are usually eaten as a first/pasta course or as a side dish with an entrée, but with a little dressing up they make a great main course on their own. 

From a nutrition standpoint, gnocchi probably aren’t the most healthful or nutrient dense food you can have. The potato and flour base create dumplings that are rich in energy dense carbohydrates, but don’t provide much protein or fiber. Gnocchi make such a special and delicious dish, so I wanted to create a version that could be enjoyed as part of a healthful diet or meal plan; i.e. gnocchi with more complex carbs, protein, and fiber. 

Potatoes and white flour have a relatively high glycemic index. This means that these foods are able to quickly increase blood sugar/glucose levels. Glycemic load takes this idea one step further and is a measure of how much blood glucose can increase after eating a food. The glycemic load is determined by taking into account the glycemic index of a food and the amount of the food that will be consumed at a time. Choosing foods with lower glycemic index or load is generally recommended as part of a healthful diet, whether specifically referenced or not. Low glycemic index foods tend to be less processed whole foods, and higher in fiber and complex carbs if a carbohydrate rich food.

n these gnocchi, the white flour has been replaced with whole wheat flour, and the potato replaced with ricotta cheese. Whole wheat flour contains the wheat bran and so has more fiber and protein, and a lower glycemic index than white flour. Swapping ricotta for the traditional potato decreases the carbohydrate content, and increases the protein and fat content of these gnocchi.

he best gnocchi have a light, airy texture, like tiny pillows. Achieving this consistency can be difficult though, and often gnocchi end up dense and chewy. Ricotta gnocchi do tend to be lighter than potato gnocchi, and I think these gnocchi here are pretty light and fluffy even with a little added density and texture from whole wheat flour. Gnocchi made with too much flour can get tough, but too little flour can result in dumplings that can’t hold their shape and fall apart in the water. This recipe has just enough flour to hold them together and give structure, but not enough to make them dense. So, these delicate gnocchi need a gentle hand when shaping and cooking them.

To keep the gnocchi the star of the show, I decided that instead of a sauce, the gnocchi could be tossed with silky roasted garlic and bright, fresh peppers. If you haven’t made roasted garlic at home before, prepare to be amazed! Roasting garlic mellows and transforms the garlic, leaving you with a magical, caramelized, spreadable version of garlic’s former self. You can use roasted garlic in so many ways like sautéing it with veggies, spreading on crusty bread, incorporating into sauces, etc. Here it is used to gently coat the gnocchi with some savory roasted flavor.

You can use this recipe as an appetizer or side dish for about 4 people, or as a main dish for about 2 people. Feel free to use your own favorite sauce in place of the garlic and pepper “sauce” here if you want. These gnocchi would pair great with pretty much any sautéed or roasted veggies, and a hearty protein like braised chicken or beef. Enjoy however you like though!

Whole Wheat Ricotta Gnocchi with Peppers and Roasted Garlic
Makes 2-4 servings
 
1 head garlic
1 egg
1 cup part skim ricotta
½ cup grated parmesan
2 tsp. olive oil
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cut peppers
salt and pepper
extra olive oil
extra flour
extra parmesan, parsley and/or basil for finishing
 
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Cut about ½ inch off the top of the garlic to reveal the tops of the garlic cloves. Place the garlic on a piece of foil, drizzle with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Wrap the foil well around the garlic and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. The garlic is done when it has caramelized and turned gold brown. While the garlic is roasting, work on the gnocchi.
 
In a medium/large bowl, mix the egg and the ricotta together well. Add in the parmesan, olive oil, a big pinch of salt, and some fresh black pepper. Mix well. Add in the flour in two batches, mixing until just combined.
 
Fill a medium pot ¾ full with water, add a big pinch of salt, and heat on high to bring to a boil.
 
Lightly flour a clean surface. Working with ¼ of dough at a time, roll the dough into a skinny log ½ - ¾ inch wide. Cut into ½ inch pieces with a sharp knife. Putting a little flour on the knife will help it to cut cleaner. Lightly flour a sheet pan (lined with parchment paper if desired for easier clean up). Place the little gnocchi on the sheet pan and lightly press with a fork to make little lines in each. The dough is fragile and easily smooshed, so be gentle when working with and shaping the gnocchi.
 
Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat. When hot, add about 2 tsp. olive oil to the pan, then add the cut peppers and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes just to soften the peppers. Gently squeeze the roasted garlic from the head and press into a paste with a knife. Mix the garlic into the peppers and turn to heat to low.
 
Gently drop each of the gnocchi one at a time into the boiling water. I recommend working with 1/4 to 1/3 of the batch at a time as to not overcrowd the water or unevenly cook the gnocchi. Only stir the gnocchi if sticking to the pan or each other. The gnocchi should float to the top soon after going into the water. After they have floated, let cook for ~1 minute until just cooked through. Total cooking time is about 2 minutes.
 
When done, remove gnocchi from the pot and add right into the peppers and garlic. Repeat cooking method with remaining gnocchi. Always make sure water is boiling before adding the next batch. Add a bit of the cooking water, maybe ~3 tbs., to the sauté pan to help the garlic coat the gnocchi. Gently mix all the gnocchi with the peppers and garlic until evenly combined. Serve with a little olive oil, parmesan cheese, a few grinds fresh black pepper, and basil/parsley on top.
 
Any extras can keep a few days in the fridge. 

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