Gnocchi? No problem!

As I have stated numerous times, I am obsessed with pasta. I am also aware that pasta is kind of a huge pain in the butt to make at home if you don’t have any special equipment (and really, even if you do). While I’ve already mentioned that I use Raffeto’s for most of my pasta needs, I recently came across a pasta that is not commercially available. What is it, you ask? Sweet Potato Gnocchi. Now that it’s almost Thanksgiving (which is also pretty much the only holiday I celebrate) some of you may be wondering what to do with your sweet potatoes to dress them up a bit. Especially if you are a vegetarian, and are sick of the attempts of your meat-eating relatives to have a Thanksgiving entree of cranberries and mashed potatoes.

Well, wonder no more.

If you’re willing to work for it, sweet potato gnocchi is a special treat. It takes a few hours, and at one point I believe I told Max I was going to be forming gnocchi for the rest of my life.

I first saw the recipe on Working Class Foodies where it’s shown paired with a butter sage sauce. The one thing I dislike about that website, however, is finding exact recipes–they only have them for a handful of foods, and so you often end up watching the same video again and again trying to figure out amounts. Also, the girl kept pronouncing it “no-key” instead of “nyo-ki” which drove me a little mad.

I tweaked the recipe a little bit, and was super pleased with the results. One warning, however–it makes enough for 3 or 4 instead of my usual serving size of 2!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

1 lb sweet potatoes (I used one big one and two very small ones)

2 to 3 cups flour

1 egg

2 tsp salt

Not a lot of ingredients! You could probably also use yams or other sweet potato varieties. Do you know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? Sweet potatoes are native to the US but yams are not, and we mostly mean sweet potatoes when we say yams. There are real yams too, which are grown in Africa, Asia, and parts of Latin America, but etymologists believe we call our American sweet potatoes “yams” because of a Wolof word (a language spoken in Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania) “nyam” that means “to taste.” If that is the case, it most likely originates with African slaves brought to America, who identified sweet potatoes with their indigenous yams.

Directions

Step 1) boil the sweet potatoes (scrubbed but unpeeled) until, when speared with a knife, they slide right off. This can take a good hour, depending on the size of your tubers.

Step 2) Let these puppies cool a bit, and then peel off the skin. The skin will come right off, no need to use a peeler.

Step 3) Use a potato ricer on them, or mash them with a fork masher.

Step 4) Beat in the egg quickly until it’s well mixed.

Step 5) Add a cup of flour. Combine it well and then add another half of a cup. At a certain point you’re going to want to be using your hands…but resist the temptation of using BOTH hands. Just use one! Then you have a free hand for adding more flour. Obviously, I couldn’t resist the temptation, so Max had to help me add all the flour! Oops.

Step 6) You will probably want to use almost 3 cups of flour, if you are anything like me. You want this dough to be loose and sticky, but you should end up with something that sticks more to itself than to your hands. After the picture to the right was taken, I ended up incorporating all the flour you can see in the bowl and adding another half a cup or so.

Step 7) Cover your dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes

Step 8) Spread a smooth work surface with some flour and transfer your dough to it. If it’s too wet to work with, add more flour. I found that just putting a handful of flour on the surface of the dough made it very workable. Shape the dough into a rectangle that’s about an inch thick.

Step 9) Cut half inch slices off the brick, and then roll them on your flour surface, starting from the middle, until they are tubes of about a half-inch diameter.

Step 10) Slice along your tube every inch with a quick movement. You should end up with little pillows.

As you can see from the photo, I used a plastic dough-scraper that I randomly found in the kitchen, but if you don’t have a bench knife or dough scraper, a knife would work just as well, just make sure you don’t damage your work surface.  As you can see, my dough rectangle isn’t perfectly even, and my gnocchi are a little wonky too. I re-formed some of the particularly oddly shaped ones. But don’t worry about it too much, the word gnocchi actually means “lumps” in Italian, so no one’s expecting machine-regulated perfection here.

Sometimes people roll the gnocchi off a fork to get the little ridges, but I decided that was too much work and that the difference noticeable enough. The ridges help them hold sauce better, but mine held the sauce just fine, thank you very much!

Step 11) Boil them, about 15 at a time, in 6 quarts of salted water. Make sure the water is at a rolling boil. After you drop them in, give them a couple stirs. When they are cooked through, they will float to the top, which only takes a couple minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Make sure the water is still really boiling before adding the next batch.

Step 12) Top with a sauce! I just browned some butter with a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt, but they would go great with a creamy bechamel or more acidic tomato sauce. A light butter or oil sauce really highlights the sweet potato flavor, however.

Don’t they look pretty cute here? We each ate two bowls, and then there was still a portion left over! I didn’t even cook them all! Uncooked gnocchi went on a plate covered in tightly with plastic wrap and made it into through a day in the fridge just fine (we had them for lunch the next day).

I suppose they would probably keep about 3 days, but if you think you have too much to eat, the best thing to do would be wrap up the dough BEFORE you cut it into little pieces and refrigerate. That way there’s less surface area exposed to air and it’ll keep better.

After a few bites of the gnocchi, I decided to do something pretty unheard of for me–I added parmesan! Now, I know this is strange, but I’ve actually hated cheese since I was a small girl. In fact, I didn’t like much dairy. To this day, you’ll seldom see me eating ice cream or yogurt and almost never cereal. People are always forgetting I don’t like cheese so much, often serving me very cheesy dishes, because, they say “it doesn’t fit my personality.” That may be true, but no one has tried harder than Max to convince me of the delights of cheese. He’s one of those guys who eats even the bluest and smelliest cheeses out there, but aged parmagiano-reggiano is his absolute favorite. I’m trying so hard to like it! And good news–I might even be succeeding!

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