Gluten-Free Gnocchi Are Tragic

Caesar's Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Spinach and Potato Gnocchi

Caesar's Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Spinach and Potato Gnocchi

I Paid: $5.99 for a 12-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 2 stars

Marketing: 3 stars

You gotta hand it to capitalism: Whatever its shortcomings, it's damned good at driving businesspeople to identify and exploit new niches. The food world, of course, is no exception.

In that spirit, a company called Caesar's Pasta is selling a gluten- and wheat-free vegan frozen gnocchi product that promises to offer up a delightful pasta option to communities of diners usually shut out of the noodle mainstream.

Caesar's gnocchi are based on rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, and potato flakes. In theory, this shouldn't be a disaster: Potatoes are often a major player in gnocchi, and flour is flour, right? Actually, um, no. In practice, when you compromise on ingredients, you compromise on taste and/or texture. In this case, you compromise on both.

By themselves, the gnocchi are unfortunate, even tragic, tasting of slightly grainy, gluey raw rice dough, with a spinach aftertaste in the case of the Spinach variety. These are nothing like the delicate, pillowy gnocchi that typify the best of the breed. How does spinach bubblegum sound to you? Well, that's kind of what you're getting here, although the elasticity isn't quite robust enough to allow for the production of actual bubbles. (If only!) That said, when you put a heavily flavored red sauce on the gnocchi (such as Newman's Own Sockarooni), they become edible—the strength of the sauce's flavor and texture overcomes the shortcomings of the pasta, making for a palatable, if not delicious, meal.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.