Saturday, October 16, 2010

Strike 1 - Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Well, I think that I knew when starting this blog that there would be occasional misses, but I don't think I was expecting them to come so early.  I decided on a whim to give these gnocchi a shot, because I had a new potato ricer that I needed to run through its paces.  The ricer performed admirably.  The recipe - not so much.  I think that sweet potato gnocchi are standard food blog fare (there are like 8+ pages of blog entries when you do a Google search for it), so I was actually kind of excited to make something new that seemed like such a sure fire bet.  Although dinner wasn't the best, and we ended up grazing on various cheeses accumulated over the past couple weeks after dinner, I did get something very good out of this recipe:  the ability to make a solid ricotta gnocchi!  My last experimentation with ricotta gnocchi was a complete disaster, to the point where my gnocchi "dough" was so runny that I had to use it instead as filling for an impromptu ravioli.  This recipe worked great considering there was no egg or anything aside from the potato to act as a binder.  The ricotta were light and airy, the texture was really great, it just came down to the flavor, which my wife aptly described as tasting like Thanksgiving dessert because of the nutmeg and brown sugar.  I even used less nutmeg than the recipe suggested to try to avoid that!  In the back of my head, I knew that those flavors would imply the whole Thanksgiving thing, but I expected the brown butter and sage to balance it out and be the stronger flavors.  In the end, I would suggest this recipe as a base but I would have to find a new flavor combination to make this work.  I do have about 50 of these little Thanksgiving nuggets in my freezer right now though, so feel free to stop by and find out for yourself.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage (from Epicurious)

  • 2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork
  • 1 12-ounce container 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 plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish

Roast sweet potatoes in 400 oven for 30-40 minutes, until well cooked through. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese (make sure you did drain it, it is really important in order to keep the dough from being too watery); fold ricotta in. I folded instead of mashing because I didn't want to lose the airy texture from the riced potatoes and ricotta.  Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; fold to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.

Ricotta / sweet potato / parmesan ready to mix
Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces.

The dough was really light but held together really well

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. I had a hard time getting the tines trick to work - if I did it to the floured side of the gnocchi, the tines just slid off.  I ended up turning the gnocchi 90 degrees in my palm so that the tines were on the cut ends (not floured).  That made the tines stick and allowed me to get some traction.  After marking grooves, move gnocchi to floured baking sheet.

Rolled out, cut, ready to get marked with a fork
Not the prettiest, I must say, but I got better towards the end of the batch

Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 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. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

For Sauce:

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.
Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.  Add gnocchi, sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes.


Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves.

Looks good at least


  1. So what was bad about it? Too sweet?

  2. pretty sweet, too nutmeg-y. i thought that the sage butter combo would balance it out, but it didn't really. in face the sage was kind of drowned out by the gnocchi, which is a bad thing i think.

  3. Nutmeg is a pretty dominant flavor, I personally don't care for it too much. It basically (as you said) screams OH HAI IM THANKSGIVING, IM IN YOR FOODZ!!

  4. yeah sometimes i will add it to roux-thickened cream sauces, like a pot pie or whatever, i think that it can be subtle in that because there is so much else going on, but generally it's so easy to go overboard - especially with fresh nutmeg. in the case of this where it was one of the few flavors (especially in a dough which was mostly flour and ricotta, so mild on their own), it was too easy for it to be dominant.