By UW Recycling | Jul 16, 2020
person cutting vegetables

Post by Gabrielle Coeuille, UW Recycling Waste Diversion & Reduction Intern

When we go to the grocery store, it’s hard to avoid plastic. From produce, to meat, to dairy - packaging is everywhere. Plastic has become so entwined with our food system that it is hard to remember a time when all your seasonal berries didn’t come in a carton that lasts practically forever. So I asked myself this question:

Is it possible to have a truly plastic free meal without going to a bulk store or the farmers market? Additionally, is it possible to make this meal as low impact as possible? Here’s a recipe I’ve come up with.

Vegan Pesto Carrot Gnocchi

Ingredients:photo of the ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ lb carrots (with tops on and organic)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper


Make Gnocchi

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel the potatoes and add them to the salted water, boiling until tender (12-15 min depending on potato size). While the potatoes boil, peel the carrots and chop off the greens (save these for later). Grate or finely chop the carrots. Heat a small pan over medium heat with a generous pour of olive oil. Add the carrots, along with salt and pepper. Saute until the carrots are very tender.
  2. Puree the cooked carrots in a food processor, blender, or with an immersion blender. Mash the cooked potatoes until smooth. Mix the mashed potatoes and carrot puree, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Knead a ½ cup of flour in to the potato-carrot mixture. Sprinkle ¼ cup of flour on the counter, and continue to knead the dough until it can hold its shape, adding flour as needed.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Roll out the dough into a long rope about as thick as a nickel. Cut the dough into ½-inch pieces. Place the dough gently in the water (don’t overcrowd the water). Cook the gnocchi for 3-5 minutes, until it has risen to the top of the water. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Toss with olive oil or add oil to a pan over medium/high heat and pan fry if desired.

Make Sauce

  1. Zest and juice the lemon. Take the carrot greens and blend with ½ cup of olive oil, 2 large cloves of garlic, lemon juice, and 1 tsp. of lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you don’t have any greens on your carrots, you can replace them with parsley, cilantro, basil, kale, or basically any leafy greens!
  2. Toss the gnocchi with your sauce, and serve!photo of the finished dish

This dish is relatively easy and very tasty, with a low carbon impact. Although all its ingredients aren’t packaged in plastic, there are a few exceptions. Things like produce stickers and rubber bands make it almost impossible to have a truly plastic-free meal.

But, in the words of the Zero-Waste Chef Anna Marie Bonneau: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Waste Reduction Tips

Your carrot and potato peels don’t have to go right into the compost! Save them to make tasty veggie peel chips, or save these scraps in the freezer to make veggie stock! If you are making food for two people, half the recipe, or make sure to plan a meal to eat your leftovers. If desired, freeze some uncooked gnocchi dough for later use.