Baked white-bean gnocchi with meatballs, mozzarella and tomato

Baked white-bean gnocchi with meatballs, mozzarella and tomato

Cut the Carbs!

To me, potato gnocchi are the greatest comfort food of all, and one of the things I was saddest to let go of when I tried to curb my carb addiction. Then I began musing – is it possible to make gnocchi from pulses?

The answer is yes. And while purists may roll their eyes, it has the added benefit of being the quickest and easiest gnocchi I’ve ever made. It’s two tins of white beans, drained and rinsed, then blitzed with a stick blender. That’s something you can’t do with potatoes, unless you want to use the resulting purée to hold up wallpaper. If I’m craving really fluffy gnocchi I’ll work the purée through a strainer or a mouli. This helps get out all errant lumps and incorporate as much air as possible. I’ll acknowledge, this isn’t completely carb-free, but it’s not the double excesses of potato and flour that you’ll find in the original. The extra protein in the beans will make them a little sturdier than potato gnocchi, but when baked they possess a very pleasing contrast of external crunch to inside squish.


Quantity Ingredient
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Quantity Ingredient
2 x 400g tins butter or cannellini beans, rinsed
1 egg yolk
100g plain or ‘00’ white wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
olive oil, for drizzling


Quantity Ingredient
300g cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
200g beef or pork mince
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons tomato paste
A pinch sugar
300g buffalo mozzarella, roughly torn
fresh basil or oregano leaves, to garnish


Quantity Ingredient
baking tray lined with baking paper
ovenproof dish, the size of an A4 sheet of paper


  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. For the gnocchi, purée the beans using a stick blender or food processor until completely smooth. For the best results, pass the purée through a sieve, strainer or mouli. Put the purée, egg yolk and a good pinch of salt in a large bowl. Sift the flour in, bit by bit, and use one hand to lightly and gently bring it together into a dough. Don’t work it too hard otherwise it will become tough.
  2. Dust a clean bench with a little more flour. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Hold your hands out, flat, on top of one portion of dough. Press it as though you were pushing a piece of paper away from you and then pulling it back towards you to roll the dough into a long rope as thick as a wine cork. Set it aside and repeat with the remaining 3 balls of dough.
  3. Line the dough ropes up next to each other and simultaneously cut all 4 into gnocchi around 1.5 cm long. (Lining the ropes up next to each other will help create equal-sized gnocchi.) Place the gnocchi on the lined baking tray, drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. This helps the gnocchi to set so they don’t get too slimy when they are baked in the sauce later on.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 150˚C. For the sauce, put the cherry tomatoes in the ovenproof dish, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and wrinkled.
  5. While the tomatoes are roasting, make the meatballs. Combine the meat with the dried oregano, a pinch of salt, a good grinding of black pepper and 1 tablespoon of very cold water. Squash it all together with your hands, and then portion the mixture into meatballs the same size as the cherry tomatoes. When the tomatoes have been in the oven for 20 minutes, add the meatballs to the dish and pop the dish back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
  6. When the tomatoes are roasted, bloated and softened from the oven, squash them with a fork to encourage the innards to ooze out and make a sauce. Add the tomato paste and sugar and stir gently. Nestle the gnocchi in amongst the meatballs and the tomatoes. You want to make sure that there is enough liquid from the busted tomatoes to come at least halfway up the sides of the gnocchi. If not, add another 1–2 tablespoons tomato paste muddled with a little water, or make up the shortfall with tomato passata.
  7. Top with the well drained and torn mozzarella and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and browned and the gnocchi are cooked through.
  8. Serve the baked gnocchi with basil or oregano on top.
low carb
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