Ah, Gnocchi: the Italy’s answer to dumplings. Literally meaning “lumps,” Gnocchi has existed as a traditional pasta dish since the days of the Roman Empire; however, the potato-base of today’s gnocchi has only existed since the 16th century. But enough with the history lesson, let’s just dive in.
As a kid, I enjoyed gnocchi, as it was a nice respite from all the inexorable servings of spaghetti. This recipe seemed to be a perfect alternative to standard pasta fare. My previous attempt with homemade pasta left a bad taste in my mouth, but that might have to do with the fact that I don’t have a pasta-maker. But gnocchi doesn’t require any special tools—just a fork and a child-like sense of wonder (if you haven’t seen “Youth in Revolt,” then you’re missing out).
Making gnocchi is a lot like playing with play dough, except that this dough tastes good. My inner child giggled with delight as I rolled out long, serpentine bits of the dough. Cooking suddenly felt like kindergarten arts and crafts.
I used the food processor to properly blend the potato and the ricotta. And the ricotta I bought barely even drained over the course of the two hours. But maybe that was just my brand, I dunno.
The Browned Butter Sage sauce paired with this gnocchi was tasty, but there was definitely far too much of it. You could easily cut the amount of butter from 2 sticks to 1 ½ and be fine. It does require a fair share of salt and pepper.
As for the gnocchi itself? Well, I think it turned out alright. The problem is that no one in my family really eats gnocchi, so I had nothing to compare it to. My mom doesn’t like gnocchi and wasn’t sure if the consistency was right, and my Dad was of no help either. They both said it was the most flavorful gnocchi they had eaten, but that doesn’t mean much from people gnocchi-player-haters.
If you’re looking for a new way to spice up pasta night, or want a different sort of side dish (this is so rich that I think that it would work better as a side or an appetizer), or want to reconnect to your inner seven-year-old, then make some of this gnocchi.
Recipe (adapted from Bon Appétit, December 2005)
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage
Makes 10 servings (as a side or an appetizer—six or seven pieces a person)
Depending on how thick your ricotta cheese is, drain the ricotta in a sieve for two hours before starting the recipe.
2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork
12 ounces fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons (for gnocchi) plus 1 ½ tablespoons salt (for boiling water)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 ½ cups (about) all purpose flour
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish
1.) Microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side.
2.) Cut in half and let cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into large bowl and mash. Add ricotta cheese; blend well (I blended the two in a food processor to fully blend it).
3.) Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
4.) Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet.
5.) Bring large pot of water to boil; add 1 ½ tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
6.) Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes.
7.) Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Put stove stop on simmer. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.
8.) Add gnocchi to pan and sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes. Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves.