I’ve been trying to find ways to cook with more sweet potatoes lately. For one, they have been on sale and supposedly are good for you (Rebecca does not necessarily believe this). They are loaded with vitamin A, beta-carotene, and fiber, but perhaps the benefits are mitigated by the butter and two cheeses. Who knows? I also feel somewhat compelled to get good at preparing sweet potatoes just by virtue of living in the South.
I have made gnocchi from scratch before (as well as from boxed potato flakes in a pinch), and it is so much easier than everyone makes it out to be. If you’ve never tried it, don’t be afraid. You don’t even have to bake the potatoes if you have a mircowave. It is much easier than making pasta from scratch.
Even if these little sweet potato pillows were nasty, there is a chance you might not notice since they are swimming in a pool of warm herb butter. Many inedible things come to mind that I could probably consume under those circumstances.
But of course they aren’t. Nasty, that is. They are just the right amount of sweet, and salty and very, very rich. How rich? I am a person who can eat a lot of pasta. Pile it on. But gnocchi are a horse of a different color. As a guide, take the amount of pasta you would normally serve yourself for dinner and slash it by at least 2/3 and you’ve got a very generous portion of gnocchi.
Lastly, I would recommend letting go of the desire to make your gnocchi look anything like store-bought gnocchi, or even the pictures in cookbooks. Experiment! Use those fingers, or fork tines, or whatever you’ve got to get creative and make things interesting.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage
Adapted from Bon Appetit
2 1-pound sweet potatoes or yams, rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with a fork
12 ounces fresh ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt (for dough) plus 2 tablespoons salt (for pasta water)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter
6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus small whole leaves for garnish
Microwave sweet potatoes on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape the flesh into a medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese and mash to blend. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms (resembling pizza dough).
Turn dough out onto floured surface and divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into about a 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into small, inch-long pieces (they will expand when cooked). Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bring large pot of water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. In batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 4-5 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to a rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely and let stand at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Melt the butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have a fragrant, toasty aroma, swirling pan frequently. Add the chopped sage (Watch out! It will bubble up!) and turn off heat. Season with pepper if desired.
Transfer half of the sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat, then add half of the gnocchi. Sauté briefly until the gnocchi are heated through. Empty the skillet onto a rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi to complete.
Divide gnocchi and sauce among serving bowls or plates. Garnish with small sage leaves. Serves 8-10.