I think gnocchi might be my son’s favorite food, so I have started exploring various versions on the market and in recipes. This is a slightly sweeter and more complex take than the traditional one, and I think of it as the ultimate comfort food. These little pillows of pasta are also as fun to make as they are to eat. If you have older kids, this would be a great project, since they can roll out the dough snakes and cut them into little bite size pieces. The flavor is most certainly sophisticated enough for the adults, though!
The texture can be a bit tricky, but I would warn you not to try to add too much flour. The sweet potatoes do yield a slightly dense product, but extra flour only makes it gummy. The relatively small amount of flour also makes way for more nutritional and flavorful sweet potatoes. On that same note, do not substitute butternut squash as I tried once and it was much too wet to produce a dough without loads of flour.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
- 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
- 1/3 cup cotija cheese (a dry, crumbly Mexican cheese) or well strained Ricotta
- ¼ cup brown sugar, loosely packed
- 2 pinches of salt
- Fresh ground nutmeg
- 1 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp sage, crushed or powdered
Cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave until soft (3-5 minutes). Cut open potatoes and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, mash the flesh in the skin and pat firmly with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. Then remove flesh and place in a medium bowl. Add cheese, sugar, salt, and nutmeg and mix well. Next add the flour and knead gently until the mixture comes together. If the mixture is too wet, add a bit more flour.
Taking chunks of dough, roll into snakes with floured hands and cut into little pillows.
Next, boil plenty of water in a saucepan and add the chunks to boiling water, no more than can lay at the bottom of your pan in one layer. Do not disturb, allowing the gnocchi to rise to the surface when they’re ready, 3-4 minutes. Continue working in batches until you have cooked all the gnocchi.
While the gnocchi are boiling, heat a non-stick frying pan and add butter. Add sage and allow the butter to bubble until it begins to turn golden. Add the maple syrup and stir.
You have a few choices at the end: One is to use the brown butter as a drizzle sauce over the gnocchi. This is probably the easier (and slightly healthier) version, but there is another option. My preferred method is to drop the gnocchi into the frying pan and allow to brown undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. This method requires additional butter, sage, and maple syrup for each batch of gnocchi that comes out of the water, and sticking is a bit of a problem. But the end product, sticky bits and all, is a delicious caramelization that is unbeatable.
One last serving idea calls for a cheesy cream sauce that you can make using flour, butter, milk, (basic white sauce) and the cheese of your choice.
This is a rich dish, so I would recommend a small portion for each of your diners, plus a big side of vegetables or salad.
By the way, you can do these same preparations with store-bought gnocchi, even the simple white potato-based ones. What I do most often when I’m in a rush is to melt butter and a drizzle of maple syrup in a nonstick pan and lightly brown the gnocchi in the mixture. It’s always a hit in our house.