Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Gnocchi has been a favorite dish of mine since I first had the gnocchi in vodka sauce at Maggiano’s, the Italian restaurant chain. The texture, the subtle flavor, it all entangled me in a love affair that has spanned nearly a decade. The only problem with gnocchi, is most gnocchi is made with cheese mixed in. As a result, I had to learn to make it myself.

I started home making gnocchi about 2 years ago. My first batches were far too soft and I had to use the spaetzel press to shape them. However, I’ve gotten the trick to it since thanks to the recipe in Aliza Green’s book, “Making Artisan Pasta”. The key is, you never know exactly how much flour you will need and being flexible about it is important. Don’t be afraid to add more than the recipe calls for!

Ingredients (for 1 Lb of gnocchi):

1 Lb Sweet Potato

1 egg yolk

1 tsp salt

Ground pepper to taste – Aliza’s recipe calls for white pepper, I like to use my tellicherry black pepper from Penzey’s.

115 g All-Purpose flour or pasta flour

1/4 tsp nutmeg, optional – You can also add 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp cloves if you intend to use a brown butter sage or brown sugar sauce. I love the idea of cinnamon in main dishes, so I highly recommend you try this at least once. Cinnamon can be great with savory foods.

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First, boil your sweet potato until it is soft, but not mushy. This should take about 40 minutes. Use a fork to check that they are soft enough. Don’t peel the potatoes before boiling them because they will absorb water and make the next steps more difficult. When the potatoes are fully cooked, let them cool and then peel them.

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Next, mash your sweet potato. I like to do it the old fashioned way because my gnocchi come out more rustic (there are generally a few stray chunks and it’s less smooth). However, you could easily put this through a food processor or blender to smooth it out. Be careful if you are using a food processor; over-blending will change the texture of the potato. Pulse it until it’s smooth to avoid accidentally ruining the dough.

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Add the other ingredients starting with the wet ingredients. Mix it all together. If you need more flour, feel free to add it. You should be able to touch the dough with your finger without it sticking to you and it should feel stiff. However, if you put your whole hand in, it will still stick, so just use your finger tip for this test.

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Below is what the dough should look like when it is done. It’s still a bit shaggy, but it doesn’t stick when I poke it. It will take some practice before you finally get the consistency right. It’s a big hard for me to describe, but use your best judgement and don’t give up!

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Next, thoroughly flour your hands and a surface for rolling out the dough. Divide the dough into four parts, taking the first part into your floured hands and plopping it into the middle of the floured surface. Roll the dough as if you are making pretzels to make a long, thin tube. Keep your surface thoroughly floured or your dough will stick during this process and become a frustrating mess. Sometimes the dough can be so soft it doesn’t quite roll. If this happens, pinch it between your fingers to stretch it and then roll it to get the shape.

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Cut your dough strips into bite size pieces. These pieces are about the size of a quarter for reference.

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Arrange the cut dough on a flat plate or pan and let it sit while you roll out the rest of your dough.

Gnocchi freezes really well. If you are freezing any, this is a good time to start that process. Put the plate or pan that you’ve placed the gnocchi on into the freezer; don’t cover it. Once the gnocchi has frozen solid, you can place it in a bag. For me, I usually place it in the freezer while I finish rolling out the rest of my dough. I cook, eat, and then go back to the freezer to transfer the frozen gnocchi to bags.

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Follow the rolling and cutting steps until all the gnocchi have been cut. Then, boil a pot of water seasoned with olive oil and salt. Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water for about 7 minutes. Keep an eye on them, DON’T WALK AWAY! Although on average, my gnocchi take 7 minutes to cook, depending on the size of your gnocchi the cook time will vary. Therefore, watch for them to float, then give them 2 more minutes to cook before taking one out and testing it. Once the gnocchi are finished, fish them out with a slotted spoon. These are too delicate for a strainer.

You can use any kind of sauce with your gnocchi.  The picture below is just a simple olive oil, garlic, and basil sauce that I sauteed the gnocchi in after cooking. I also recommend brown butter and sage or butter and brown sugar for these sweet dumplings. You can also substitute the sweet potato with regular potato to make typical gnocchi, which pairs well with any sauce (At some point, I’ll post some sauce recipes. Regular gnocchi is wonderful with balsamic vinegar sauce). Enjoy!

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