Halloween is right around the corner, and what better way to get in the spooky spirit than with some creepy purple skull gnocchi!
Gnocchi is a simple Italian dumpling usually made from potatoes, but these spooky versions are shaped like skulls and tinted purple for a ghoulish effect. Though they may look frightful, they are delightfully soft and tender on the inside.
This vegan gnocchi recipe is easy to make and a fun family project. Read on for step-by-step instructions for making your own spooky skull gnocchi this Halloween!
- 3 lbs russet potatoes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp boiling water, if needed
- Purple food coloring
- Baking sheet
- Potato ricer or food mill (optional)
- Clean work surface for rolling and shaping
- Flour for dusting
- Large pot for boiling
- Slotted spoon for retrieving gnocchi
Step 1: Bake the Potatoes
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Wash and dry the potatoes well. Place them directly on the oven rack and bake for 45-60 minutes until they are very soft when squeezed. The skins should be crispy.
Allow the potatoes to cool slightly before handling. Using a fork, poke holes all over the potatoes to allow steam to escape. This will make them easier to peel.
Step 2: Peel and Rice the Potatoes
Once cool enough to handle, peel the skins off the potatoes. It’s fine if some bits of skin remain.
Cut the peeled potatoes into smaller chunks, then rice them through a potato ricer or food mill into a large bowl. The riced potatoes should look fluffy, with no large lumps.
Alternatively, you can mash them by hand with a masher or fork until smooth and free of lumps. The potatoes must be thoroughly broken down so the gnocchi will be light and pillowy, so take your time with this step.
Step 3: Add Remaining Ingredients and Knead
Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, olive oil, and a few drops of purple food coloring to the riced potatoes.
Mix everything together with your hands, kneading gently, until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms.
If the dough is too dry, sprinkle 1-2 tbsp of boiling water over it and knead again. It should be soft and just slightly tacky to the touch.
Step 4: Roll and Shape the Dough
Lightly flour your work surface. Cut off a piece of the dough and gently roll it into a rope about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut the rope into 1-inch sections. Take each section and gently roll between your hands to form a ball.
Use your fingers to indent the center of each ball, shaping it into a skull. Add small indentations for eyes and a nose.
Place the shaped gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough until all gnocchi are formed.
Step 5: Boil the Gnocchi
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully drop the gnocchi into the water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot.
Cook in batches if needed. Allow to simmer gently until the gnocchi float to the top, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving dish. Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked.
Step 6: Sauce and Serve
These tender little skull gnocchi are great served simply with your favorite pasta sauce. The purple color will make any sauce look spooktacular!
For extra flavor, try browning some vegan Italian sausage, sautéed mushrooms, or caramelized onions to mix in.
Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately. Scatter some edible glitter over the finished dish for an added festive touch.
Now take your creepy purple skull gnocchi to your Halloween party or frightening family feast! This unique twist on classic gnocchi is sure to impress guests and delight even the pickiest eaters.
The preparation is easy enough that kids will have fun helping out. With its ghoulish appearance but comforting taste, this gnocchi is just the thing for a frightfully fun Halloween meal.
Tips for Perfect Gnocchi
Looking to achieve pillow-soft, restaurant-quality gnocchi at home? Here are some helpful tips and tricks for gnocchi success:
Use Starchy Potatoes
Choose a floury, starchy potato like Russets. The high starch content will give your gnocchi a light, pillowy texture. Avoid waxy potatoes like red or yellow which can result in dense, gummy gnocchi.
Be sure to rice or mash your potatoes well with no lumps. Completely breaking down the potato fibers creates a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
When shaping and rolling the dough, use a light touch. Overworking the dough will result in tough gnocchi.
Use Extra Flour
Have plenty of flour for dusting your work surface, hands, and the shaped gnocchi. The extra flour prevents sticking for easy shaping.
Cook gnocchi in small batches so they have room to float freely. Overcrowding will cause them to stick together.
Shock in Ice Water
After cooking, transfer gnocchi immediately to ice water to stop the cooking process. This keeps them from getting mushy.
Toss with Sauce
Coat gnocchi in your favorite sauce right away. The sauce seeps into the porous dumplings, flavoring them and preventing sticking.
Place cooked gnocchi in a single layer, not touching, on a sheet pan. Cover loosely and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.
Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be a gnocchi pro in no time! Let your creativity run wild with different shapes and flavors. The possibilities for amazing homemade gnocchi are endless.
While traditional gnocchi is made from potatoes, the humble dumpling can be adapted endlessly to suit your taste. Here are some fun flavor variations to try:
For a seasonal fall twist, use roasted orange sweet potatoes in place of russets. Sweet potato gnocchi has a gorgeous amber color and hint of sweetness.
Add a big punch of flavor by mixing pesto sauce right into the dough before shaping. This vibrant green gnocchi is bursting with herby flavor.
Roast a head of garlic, then blend the softened cloves into a purée. Fold into the dough for gnocchi with mellow garlic notes.
Lemon Pepper Gnocchi
Brighten up your gnocchi with some zesty citrus. Add the zest of 1 lemon plus 1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning to the dough.
Spice things up by kneading a diced jalapeño and pinch of red pepper flakes into the dough before shaping.
For a rich flavor, mix shredded extra-sharp cheddar into the dough. Sprinkle more cheese on top when serving.
Stir any combination of minced fresh herbs like basil, oregano, chives or parsley into the dough for flavorful gnocchi.
Add a pop of color and nutrition by blending cooked spinach into a purée and mixing with the potato dough.
Shredded raw beets add natural sweetness, vivid color and nutrients. A restaurant favorite!
So don’t limit yourself to plain potato gnocchi. With a few easy additions, you can create gnocchi in any color and flavor you can imagine.
Get creative with seasonal ingredients or use what you have on hand. Homemade gnocchi offers endless possibilities for customized, crave-worthy dumplings. Now get rolling!