Recently, I put the word out on Twitter for ideas to use my many pounds of sweet potatoes. Our CSA just ended and the last few weeks were filled to the brim with the orange root vegetables. Luckily, I could eat them daily so it truly wasn’t a problem but I still wanted some new and different ways to incorporate the sweet, vitamin-packed food into our weekly dinners.
After a few suggestions for it, I ultimately decided on sweet potato gnocchi. My friend Steph made the initial suggestion, as she had blogged the gnocchi last year. I ended up using a combination of her recipe along with the sweet potato gnocchi recipes from A Couple Cooks and Food Loves Writing . In addition, I used the process described by 101 Cookbooks as my general gnocchi guide (a wonderfully helpful gnocchi post).
My suggestion, of course, is to make this now so that you don’t have to on Thanksgiving. In fact, I don’t even really want you to eat this on Thanksgiving – I think it would make for a wonderful Thanksgiving Eve meal, or a great addition to your Black Friday. Sweet potato gnocchi are hearty, yet strangely light, even in brown butter. They taste like Thanksgiving without screaming turkey and cranberry, and are a welcome addition to my fall menu. Gnocchi can be time-consuming, it’s true, but now that I’ve made a batch and have leftovers in the freezer for a quick meal, I have exactly zero regrets.
Serving Size: Serves 2 with enough to freeze for later
2 lb sweet potatoes, skins on
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tbsp for topping
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus up to 1/2 cup more, plus more for dusting
1/2 stick butter (4 tbsp)
1 tbsp fresh minced sage
1 handful chopped walnuts
Cut each sweet potato in half (or quarters if large) so that each sweet potato section is approximately the same size. Place in pot of cold water and bring to a boil, boiling with skins on until soft (roughly 30-40 minutes). Allow potatoes to cool enough to handle, then gently peel skins from each potato half. Toss cooked potatoes into a bowl and mash with a potato masher (or use a ricer, if you have one) until smooth and no visible lumps remain. You can pass the potatoes through a sieve if you'd like ultra smooth sweet potatoes but I didn't see the need for it.
Add Parmesan, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, salt, and egg to sweet potatoes and mix well. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time and lightly fold and gently knead to combine until sweet potato dough is smooth and not completely tacky to the touch (gradually adding the extra half cup flour as needed to make the dough not sticky). Don't over-knead!
Divide the dough into four sections and using your hands and a floured surface, roll each section into a long, skinny roll, about the width of your thumb, give or take. No need to measure, just eyeball this. Cut off small sections of the dough to make each gnocchi piece (what matters is that the pieces are uniform in size; about the size of half your thumb or an inch or so).
Put pieces onto a parchment lined baking sheet. If desired, use a floured fork to press the traditional grooves into each gnocchi piece. For two people, save about 30 pieces, then freeze the rest right there on the baking sheet. After an hour, put the frozen gnocchi into a freezer-safe container (you can later boil them directly from the freezer!).
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil, then boil your gnocchi (in batches if needed) until they float, then add another minute. In total, 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, set drained gnocchi aside.
Dump water from pot, rinse, then add butter and sage and melt over medium-low heat. Cook until fat separates and butter releases a nutty aroma and turns brown. Off the heat, then add gnocchi. Roll gnocchi in brown butter then using the same slotted spoon, transfer to plate. Top gnocchi with chopped walnuts and extra Parmesan cheese.
My sweet potato gnocchi were far from perfect-looking, as evidenced by the above photo. They had those little sweet potato strings, they were a tad uneven, some had more flour than others. But none of that mattered when I rolled them around in brown butter and popped them in my mouth.
The post over at 101 Cookbooks really did help with the process. I’m no Italian grandmother (I didn’t even roll the gnocchi on a fork to get the traditional grooves), but reading the post and the follow up comments from readers helped tremendously. Gnocchi can be intimidating at first but they truly are a wonderful pasta to make at home.
And though these gnocchi are of the sweet potato variety, not much changes in the process. Take your time on a Sunday afternoon (or the day before Thanksgiving), invite a relative to help, and knock out eight servings at once. When you’re tired of turkey and can’t stand to think about cranberry, these little pillows will serve as a lovely respite.