In our pre-weaning days I used to buy ready-made Gnocchi from the supermarket on a fairly regular basis, but Gnocchi was one of the (many) foods that was eliminated from the weekly food shop when Little Chickpea started eating solid food as part of my effort to ditch processed and convenience foods from the family diet. Besides, those squishy little potato pillows looked like they could be a potential chocking hazard for a Baby Led Weaning newbie so we avoided it for that reason also.
By the time Little Chickpea had mastered the pincer grasp and was becoming a proficient self-feeding machine, I had started to miss Gnocchi and so the next time I was in the supermarket I read the packet of the Gnocchi I used to buy to see if it was suitable for babies. This is a great example of where weaning has really benefited the health of the family as I had always, perhaps naively, thought that the ‘fresh Gnocchi’ you find in the refrigerator section wouldn’t be too disimilar to the hand-made Gnocchi I had enjoyed in Italy and Italian restaurants. After all, isn’t Gnocchi just flour and potato (and sometimes egg)?
I was pretty surprised to see that 1 portion of the ‘fresh Gnocchi’ contained 2.5g of salt. I try to make sure that Little Chickpea has no more than 1g of salt a day to be in line with the daily recommended salt intake for babies. Also, the ingredients list contained 16 separate food stuffs. Why all the junk? Needless to say I wasn’t in a hurry to buy and the packet stayed firmly on the supermarket shelf.
To get to the point of my little story – this has made me get really into making my own Gnocchi, and it is a damned sight healthier and more baby-friendly than the ready-made version that we used to eat. A few years ago I made regular potato Gnocchi following a traditional Italian recipe but this time I wanted to experiment with using sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Over the past few weeks I have tried using different flours and tested the difference between adding and omitting egg. I didn’t see a huge benefit in adding egg so have left it out of this recipe. If you do not require the dish to be wholemeal or gluten free, feel free to substitute for plain flour – in my opinion both taste really yummy.
I have to admit that it does take a little while to make Gnocchi from scratch, but the majority of time is waiting for the potato/squash to cook; the hands on part only takes 20 minutes or so. I would recommend making a big batch and storing it in an airtight container in the fridge for when you want to use it as that way you can have a meal on the table within 10 minutes of taking the Gnocchi out of the fridge!
I promise it is worth the effort to make your own Gnocchi as you know exactly what has gone into the dish and can easily adjust the salt content to make it suitable for your little ones to eat. You can use Gnocchi as a great alternative to pasta by teaming it with your favourite pasta sauce. We enjoy eating Gnocchi with wilted spinach and some home-made pesto but the possibilities are endless.
I really hope that you enjoy using this recipe and that the finished masterpiece is a hit with your little ones.
Buon appetito! Kelly and Little Chickpea Xxx
Ingredients: (makes 2 adult + 2 baby portions)
- 1 Medium sized Butternut Squash (approx. 1kg)
- 240g buckwheat or plain flour
- A pinch of grated or ground nutmeg
- Set your oven to 200C
- Chop your butternut squash in half lengthways and place the two halves on a baking tray and place in the oven for 70-80 min until the squash is soft enough to mash wth a fork.
- Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool before using a blender to turn it into a purée, or, if you don’t have a blender, you can mash it up or push it through a sieve to achieve the creamy consistency required to make gnocchi.
- Add the nutmeg and flour to the puréed squash and mix to form a dough.
- Turn the dough out into a floured surface and divide into 4-5 sections so that you can easily roll the dough into long sausage shapes on your surface and cut each sausage into little rectangular pillows approx. 2 cm long.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil.
- Once the water is boiling add your Gnocchi to the water. After 2-3 min your Gnocchi should start to rise to the surface. When this happens remove you Gnocchi from the water.
- If you are planning to cook your Gnocchi another day you should now allow the Gnocchi to cool before placing it in an airtight container and putting it into the fridge.
To prepare the Gnocchi:
- Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan and add the Gnocchi for 4-5 min whilst stirring to heat through before adding your favourite pasta sauce.
- Try adding a handful of spinach leaves or some chopped veggies such as roasted peppers or courgette to make a nutrient packed dish perfect for your little ones to enjoy 🙂