Skip to content

One Year! + Purple Potato Gnocchi & Pesto

July 23, 2012

Is there any word cuter than “gnocchi”?

Actually nearly as cute is– coincidentally– the word “dumplings.” Or maybe I just think the word “gnocchi” is cute because mini potato dumplings masquerading as pasta are, too.

I am in love with gnocchi. And I am sharing this recipe with you today because 1) it’s colorful, 2) it’s fancy, 3) and it turned out deliciously.

And because today is the day that Spontaneous Tomato turns one!

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year!

One year ago, yesterday, to be precise. It all started with a post about Pad See-Ew and Green Papaya Salad.

Looking back now, I can see that– without knowing anything about photography– my photos have definitely gotten better through experience. (Wish I could say the same thing for my wordiness…)

This has been a whirlwind year with countless (mostly) enjoyable hours spent in the kitchen. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve cooked even more than I otherwise would have. And I couldn’t have done it alone.

So I’m going to take this opportunity to share some of my first-blogiversary thoughts and thanks. Starting with the thanks:


  • Thanks to my girlfriend for cooking with me, for baking us bread, for being open to trying new foods (except onions!), and for waiting around for half an hour at mealtimes while photos are taken and the food starts to get cold. This blog would not exist if she hadn’t convinced me to start it! ♥
  • Thanks to my parents and siblings for all of the lovely kitchen accessories and dishes that I owe to them. Special thanks to my little sister and her boyfriend– who are both much more talented in the kitchen than I’ll ever be– for their cooking tips and recipes. (And happy 20th anniversary– today!– to my mom and step-dad!)
  • Thanks to my friends for your generosity with food & recipe ideas, and for reading & commenting!
  • Thanks to all of my new food-blogging friends for your encouraging comments, and for the endless inspiration I get from reading your beautiful cooking blogs.
  • Last but not least, thank YOU for reading!

What I’ve learned in one year:

  • Blogging takes a lot of time! (Or is it just me?) I spent most of this year posting just several times a month, and have only recently upped that to twice a week (on Mondays & Thursdays). So now it takes up even more of my time, but I love the momentum (and feedback and followers) I’ve gotten from posting more regularly!
  • Take photos in natural light. I’ll try my best to do this from now on, which means I’ll need to make more of an effort to squeeze in my blog-cooking before the sun goes down. My kitchen has a skylight and swaths of sunlight in the mornings, but it’s taken me a lot of dissapointingly yellowed/shadowy photos to realize how much of a difference natural lighting makes.
  • Don’t write too much. (Just kidding! I still haven’t learned this one yet… though I wish I had.)
  • There are sooooooo many amazing food blogs out there, I can never hope to create one of the nicest ones; I can only hope that people read Spontaneous Tomato and enjoy it! (And if this blog occasionally inspires you to try out one of my recipes or wacky flavor combinations, even better!)
  • I’ve taught myself how to cook many more (complicated) dishes. Knowing that I will be sharing my photos and recipes with all of you has inspired me to stretch the limits of my cooking. So, once again, thank you!

Coming up in Year Two:

  • More curries! I love curry and can’t believe I’ve featured only one in my whole first year. How did that happen?
  • More Japanese and Korean food! There are so many recipes that I’ve been dying to share, but I’ve gotten distracted and swayed by all the wonderful local (Santa Barbara, CA) fruits and vegetables that have me dropping everything to tailor recipes to them while they’re at their freshest.
  • Some giveaways? That seems to be the food-bloggerly thing to do.
  • Cocktails! I’ve posted exactly zero so far (wait, does Sangria count?), but they’re coming…
  • Twice-a-week postings: I’ll keep up the Monday/Thursday updates for as long as I can (everyone needs a non-dissertation hobby while dissertating, right?).
  • Better photos? I am excited to announce that my girlfriend gave me an early birthday present of a NEW CAMERA! (Specifically, a Canon Powershot G12.) My birthday’s in August, but she wanted it to arrive in time for my first blogiversary, so I guess that makes it a birthday present for me and for the blog. Now I just have to learn how to use it…

Lastly, I’d like to ask you a favor as Spontaneous Tomato heads into its second year… If you are reading this right now (check!) and enjoying it, please help me spread the word about this blog by sending the URL to 3 of your friends who like to eat! (I assume you all have at least three of those, if not 300.)

Now, back to the food! I read (hundreds of) other food blogs, so I know that what’s traditional on one’s First Blogiversary is some kind of cake. A simple slice of cake or a single cupcake, front and center, with one glowing candle.

I’m not much of a baker, though, so my first adventure in pasta-from-scratch (even if it is the straightforward and forgiving gnocchi) is about as fancy and celebratory as I get.

I’ve been dreaming (once, literally) of making creamy orange gnocchi from sweet potatoes. But that will have to wait until another day. When my girlfriend brought home a sack of organic purple potatoes in her bike basket, I knew just what to do.

As detailed in the recipe below, I used a fork to smash up the baked potatoes, since I don’t own a potato ricer. That worked well, but I would mash them up a little finer next time; you can see there were still little clumps of unmashed potato in my gnocchi dough. These clumps kind of split apart the dough as I was rolling it out into a rope, so if that happens to you, no worries! Just pinch the dough back together, like playdough. They still stuck together well.

Purple playdough!

More importantly, they still tasted great. Just the right slightly dense, yet also airy, chewy pasta texture. And the light, summery, no-cook pesto topping more than made up for the dose of heat my apartment got earlier from baking the potatoes.

This colorful feast prompted me to write a Facebook status update: “Instead of going to a yoga class last night I made my own gnocchi (for the first time!). Opposite effect on my body; same awesome feeling of accomplishment.”

Print both recipes (Gnocchi and Pesto).


Basic Basil Pesto
Modified from “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison.

(Makes about 1 cup)

~ 1-2 garlic cloves
~ 3 Tbsp. pine nuts (optionally toasted)
~ pinch of salt
~ 3 cups basil leaves, loosely packed with stems removed
~ 1/3 cup olive oil
~ fresh lemon juice, to taste
~ 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I use a mix of Parmesan and asiago)

How to make it:

1. Use a food processor to blend the garlic, pine nuts, and salt until finely chopped.

2. Add the basil and olive oil and blend until smooth. Optionally blend in the lemon juice (which will keep it brighter green) and/or the cheese.

3. Serve over pasta or spread on sandwiches.

Print this recipe! (Pesto only)


Purple Potato Gnocchi
Modified from “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison.

(Makes about 100 gnocchi dumplings; serves 4-6)

~ 5 medium purple potatoes (about 2 pounds)
~ 1 cup flour (or more, if needed)
~ 1 tsp. salt

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the potatoes. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Wrap each potato in tin foil and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until tender when a knife is inserted.

2. Peel the potatoes while still hot. You can do this by first nicking the skin with a vegetable peeler or a knife; it should then peel away easily, but be careful not to burn your fingers! (I held the potato still with my other hand using tin foil, since it was too hot to hold onto for very long.)

3. “Rice” the potatoes with a fork or a potato masher. (In her cookbook, Deborah Madison specifies that a food mill or potato ricer be used so that the potatoes remain “light and fluffy.” You can achieve this fluffiness by mashing each potato against the side of the bowl, instead of against any other potatoes.)

4. Let cool for 15 minutes, then sprinkle in the flour and salt. Gently work the dough with your hands until smooth. (If it seems sticky, add a bit more flour, but don’t knead or overwork it.)

5. Grab a handful of the dough and roll it into a thin rope (about 1/2 inch thick). Cut the rope diagonally into little pieces (about 3/4 inch long). Optionally dent one side with a fork. Set them on a baking sheet, either coated with parchment paper or very lightly dusted with flour. Cover with a towel and refrigerate for up to a few hours if you aren’t ready to cook them.

6. Bring a wide skillet of water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, drizzle a bit of olive oil into a serving dish or the bowls where you will place the cooked gnocchi. Add a batch of 10-15 gnocchi to the simmering water, and cook until they rise to the top (about 1 minute), then count an additional 10 seconds. Lift the gnocchi out with a strainer or slotted spoon, and place in the serving dish.

Serve warm with fresh tomatoes and pesto, or with tomato sauce, creamy gorgonzola sauce, or simply butter or olive oil with fresh ground black pepper.

Print this recipe! (Gnocchi only)
Print both recipes! (Gnocchi and Pesto)

Related recipe posts:
> Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce
> Toasted Orzo with Kale, Lemon, Feta, and Radishes
> Avocado Lemon Pesto (Vegan)

46 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2012 8:48 am

    Happy One Year!! Keep it up with the great, colorful posts– beautiful photography! Thank you for sharing!

    • July 23, 2012 3:58 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’ll try my best to keep it up! :)

  2. July 23, 2012 8:50 am

    Congrats on your first annivarsary! The Gnocchi looks amazing and I think it is a pretty dang cute word myself. Keep up the good work!

    • July 23, 2012 3:59 pm

      Thank you! I’m glad to be in good company in recognizing gnocchi (the word and the pasta) for its cuteness.

  3. Shari permalink
    July 23, 2012 9:03 am

    Beautiful! And a special congratulations on your first year of blogging!

    • July 23, 2012 4:00 pm

      Thanks, Shari! Your blog photos are always beautiful too, so it’s extra nice to hear this from you.

  4. The 20-Something Budget permalink
    July 23, 2012 9:05 am

    Love this!

  5. July 23, 2012 9:46 am

    Happy Birthday to the blog, honey! I’m so proud of you.

  6. July 23, 2012 9:48 am

    Happy birthday to your blog! And I think making fancy purple gnocchi from scratch to celebrate is just perfect :)

    • July 23, 2012 4:06 pm

      Thank you! I’m glad to hear that you agree this recipe was fancy enough for my blog’s birthday. :) It’s probably only a little healthier than cake, but if given a choice I’d actually rather have gnocchi!

  7. July 23, 2012 12:20 pm

    this is really a cool post! And yes happy birthday to your blog from me too ;)

  8. July 23, 2012 1:14 pm

    Happy 1st Blog Anniversary! And what a fantastic recipe to celebrate the big milestone! I’ve had purple potatoes, but not purple potato gnocchi. This is a fan recipe!

    • July 23, 2012 4:10 pm

      Thank you! Yes, I was really happy with how this recipe turned out. I don’t actually think there’s much of a flavor difference between purple potatoes and white/yellow ones… but it makes such a nice presentational difference to have naturally bright purple pasta!

  9. July 23, 2012 1:15 pm

    Happy 1st my friend :D
    Keep the wonderful posts coming!!!

    Choc Chip Uru

  10. July 23, 2012 2:14 pm

    Happy 1st Blog Birthday to a sweet blogger friend! Congratulations! Love this post and the gnocchi is just gorgeous. : ) Can’t wait to see what you bring us in year two! : )

    • July 23, 2012 4:12 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to year two, and more cycles of mutual food-blogger inspiration! :)

  11. July 23, 2012 3:05 pm

    Congrats on a year! Love the beautiful colors too!

    • July 23, 2012 4:14 pm

      Thank you! I was happy the pasta stayed so purple (instead of turning gray or something…), and I didn’t want to smother it in a creamy or liquidy sauce that would hide the purple, so that’s how the even more colorful pesto + tomatoes idea came about! :)

  12. July 23, 2012 5:38 pm

    Happy birthday to your blog :) I love gnocchi with pesto but so scared to even make at attempt at home.

    • July 24, 2012 6:00 pm

      Thank you! Oh you should just try it! I’ve only made gnocchi this once, and it turned out well, but I can imagine that the worst that could happen would just be that it doesn’t taste that great (if it’s too dense with flour or if it’s over-kneaded or something).

      Believe me, after becoming interested in homemade pasta (I just read the book “Heat” by Bill Buford) and looking around for recipes, gnocchi seems like the easiest type of pasta to make at home! I’m still a little too intimidated to try making any other kinds of pasta– ravioli will probably be the first one I try– but I’ll come back to gnocchi for sure.

  13. July 23, 2012 10:16 pm

    Happy Birthday, Spontaneous Tomato! Can’t wait for those curry recipes. :)

    • July 24, 2012 6:00 pm

      Thank you! I know, I’m looking forward to (posting/eating) them too! It’s not as if I haven’t made a hundred curries over the past year– I just never got a chance to take (good) photos of them!

  14. July 24, 2012 9:00 am

    Happy Bloggiversary!

    Your gnocchi remind me of the purple potato and parsnip gnocchi I made out of Christmas dinner leftovers a couple years back. Unsolicited tip: try cake flour in your gnocchi–even lighter, fluffier, and tender-er than all-purpose :)

    • July 24, 2012 6:03 pm

      Thank you! And wow your gnocchi sounds great– I bed the parsnips added a lot of nice flavor. (Mine would have been a bit bland without the flavor-packed pesto sauce.)

      Thanks for the cake flour tip, too! I’ve never bought cake flour actually, but after using this post to celebrate my blog’s first birthday, it’s almost fitting that my first at-home use of cake flour would be for pasta instead of cake…

  15. July 24, 2012 6:48 pm

    Beautiful gnocchi! And congrats on your first-year anniversary–actually, I think mine is around right now too. I forget and am too lazy to look. Funnily enough, I’ve also posted both pad see ew and green papaya salad in my first year as well… Here’s to another year of happy blogging!

    • July 24, 2012 10:28 pm

      Thank you! :) And I’m not surprised that you also posted some of my favorite dishes in your first year… Just from quickly glancing around your blog earlier it seems like we have very similar taste in food!

  16. July 25, 2012 5:20 pm

    Happy Birthday Spontaneous Tomato! and no, I don’t think are many cute words than gnocchi and dumpling! :)

    • July 26, 2012 8:36 am

      Thanks! And yep, gnocchi and dumplings are pretty much the pinnacle of food-related cuteness.

  17. Jessica permalink
    July 26, 2012 9:30 am

    You could probably boil the potatoes instead of baking them, right? It would save time and save your kitchen temp from rising from the oven.

    • July 26, 2012 9:55 am

      True! (And I’m sure that would have been faster, too!) But I didn’t want to risk making them overly mushy, since I think it’s easier to overcook boiled potatoes than baked ones.

  18. August 7, 2012 4:11 pm

    Gorgeous! P.S. Happy belated one year! : )

  19. February 26, 2013 9:31 pm

    PURPLE.!? But I’m doing it.


  1. Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad « spontaneous tomato
  2. Avocado Lemon Pesto « spontaneous tomato
  3. Whole Roasted Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Root Vegetables « spontaneous tomato
  4. Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Rosemary Butter « spontaneous tomato
  5. Cara Cara Cocktail « spontaneous tomato
  6. Pasta Genovese (with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans) | spontaneous tomato
  7. Black Sesame Mochi Cake (+ Two Years!) | spontaneous tomato

I love, love, love reading your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: