The Best Gnocchi – And Some Light Alternatives

Gnocchi is the ultimate comfort food, but just sometimes these moreish mini dumplings can be too heavy. That’s when you should try sinking your teeth into lighter variations like malfatti and gnudi, says food writer Chloe Scott-Moncrieff.

1. Gnocchi Like Never Before 


  • 1 egg
  • 110g of plain, brown or spelt flour (00 flour is best)
  • 350g of pumpkin or squash flesh
  • 100g of ricotta
  • 50-100g of parmesan
  • 1/2 a garlic clove
  • ​1-2 sprigs of thyme, stalks removed


Chop the pumpkin flesh, removing skin and seeds. Pop in a baking tray and roast at 190ºC for 30 minutes until the flesh is soft and cooked. (This can be done the day before.) In a blender, mash up the roasted pumpkin and half a garlic clove. Drain the ricotta and mix in with the pulp. Then mix in the flour, egg, parmesan and a generous grind of black pepper. Season with a pinch of salt and stir through. On a floured surface, roll the mix into a long 2cm-wide log. Wrap with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Slice the log into 2cm gnocchi pieces. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Tip in as many gnocchi as will fit. Cook for 2 minutes until they rise. Using a slotted spoon, remove the floating gnocchi and serve on a large plate. You can sprinkle over some thyme and parmesan – or even make a cream and parmesan sauce in a pan and pour over the top. 

2. Ricotta & Spinach Malfatti


  • 250g of ricotta
  • 180g of plain, brown or spelt flour (00 flour is best)
  • 250g of spinach
  • 100g of parmesan, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon, grated
  • 1/2 a garlic
  • ​1 carton of passata or 1 tin of tomatoes


Drain the ricotta. Put the spinach in a pan, placing a lid over. Wilt for a few minutes on medium heat. Remove and squeeze the water from the spinach. Roughly chop. Mix with the flour and all the other ingredients, including the ricotta. Season with a pinch of salt. Roll into large balls, slightly bigger than golf balls. Simmer a pan of boiling water for a few minutes and wait for them to rise to the top. Remove them with a slotted spoon. Serve on a bed of tomato sauce (simmer the passata or tinned tomatoes with a clove of garlic before blending). Or, even simpler, just grate over parmesan. Eat.

3. Beetroot Gnocchi


  • 2 beetroots, peeled and grated
  • 2 Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 egg
  • 100g of flour
  • 100g of parmesan
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 100g of soft goats’ cheese, sliced
  • ​1 packet of rocket
  • ​A few sprigs of dill, finely chopped


Cook the peeled potatoes and beetroots. Grate the beet and mash the pots. Season with salt, nutmeg, plenty of chopped dill and black pepper. Stir well the flour, egg and parmesan. Roll into a log about 2cm wide and place on clingfilm. Roll the log up, clingfilm it and lay on a fridge shelf for at least 30 minutes.

Remove from the fridge, slice into 2cm nubs. Simmer the water. Tip in as much gnocchi as will fit. Cook for 2 minutes or so until they rise. Serve with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle over the goats’ cheese and rocket.

4. A Loose Spin On Armenian Manti

Okay, this is a cheat’s version of manti but it uses gnocchi. The real deal is handmade beef or lamb stuffed dumplings in a garlicky sour yoghurt. 


  • 300g of lamb mince
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of dried mint
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp of greek yoghurt
  • 100ml of milk
  • 250g of gnocchi
  • ​Chilli flakes or paprika


In a frying pan in a little oil, sauté the garlic, then the onions and mince. Add the dried mint, cinnamon, salt and black pepper. Pour in the yoghurt and milk so you’ve a creamy sour sauce. Meanwhile, simmer the gnocchi in hot water in a pan and drain according to the back of the packet. Serve the dumplings with the garlic yoghurt and lamb sauce. Sprinkle over paprika or chilli flakes to finish.

5. Malloreddus (Sardinian-Style Gnocchi)


  • 250g of gnocchi (traditionally malloreddus would have a smaller shell shape but gnocchi will have to do if shopping in the UK)
  • 4-5 quality pork sausages, skin removed 
  • 1 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp of red wine
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • Mint, dried or fresh
  • ​Pecorino, optional garnish

In a pan, cook the finely chopped carrots, celery and onion. Add the pork and fennel seeds. Stir a little. When cooked, pour in the wine and cook off. Then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper and let it reduce. Sprinkle in the mint. Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi for a few minutes until they’ve risen to the surface of the pan. Drain. Stir the pork and fennel and tomatoes with the gnocchi. Taste and season again if needed. Serve.

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