Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Spiced Sage Butter

Now that it’s sweet potato season, I’ve been experimenting to create the perfect sweet potato gnocchi.  These are predominantly made with sweet potato, with a touch of white potato added for starch and dryness.

The white potato is necessary because the sweet potatoes have a higher water content than russet potatoes, therefore if you used only sweet potatoes, you would need to add an amount of flour that would result in a leaden gnocchi with virtually no sweet potato flavor (trust me–I’ve thrown away enough gnocchi to know).  The white potato is absolutely essential in adding starch and flavor while allowing you to keep the flour to a minimum.

Lest you think the goal is to use as little flour as possible, if you use too little flour, the gnocchi become too moist and melt.  The goal (and the art) of good gnocchi is to use enough flour to bind the potato without adding so much that they taste more of flour than potato.

The sauce for tonight’s gnocchi is sage, butter, nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon.  The spices enhance the flavor of the sweet potato enormously.  Along with a sprinkle of grated parmigiano, this combination of nutty, spicy and buttery is good enough to be dessert.

As a second course to our gnocchi, I made dry rubbed pork tenderloin and kale sauteed with apples in a combination of butter and olive oil.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

makes enough for 6  servings as a first course

2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs)

1 large russet potato (about 1 lb)

4 cups flour for the gnocchi dough + as much as 1 additional cup for dusting the work surface and the dough as you work with it.

2 large eggs, beaten

1 stick of butter

1/8 tsp cinnamon

6 leaves sage, sliced into thin ribbons

1/4 c chicken broth

1/8 tsp nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1 c grated parmigiano for sprinkling at the table

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Wash potatoes and while still wet, coat lightly with a layer of kosher salt.  Pierce them with a fork or knife, then bake directly on the oven rack for about an hour-and-a-half, or until soft all the way through.

Cut potatoes in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon.  As you scoop out each potato, discard skin and spoon  insides directly into a ricer.  As you press the potatoes through the ricer, spread out over a clean marble countertop.

This will allow some steam (and therefore water) to dissipate.  After potatoes are riced and spread over the work surface, drizzle beaten eggs evenly over them.

Sprinkle 3 cups of flour over potato and egg mixture.

Begin pulling the mixture together with a pastry scraper and your hands.  Combine into a mass and knead lightly to combine.

You will most likely need to continue adding flour until the dough has reached a medium-firm, medium-dry consistency.  As you add flour, the dough should become smoother, paler and firmer.

Slice the dough into 1″ slices, then roll into dowels approximately 3/4″ in diameter.  With the pastry cutter, slice dowels into 3/4″ squares.

As you roll and cut, make sure there is a generous dusting of flour on your work surface, and don’t hesitate to sprinkle  on more flour as you work.

Take each little square and turn it on its cut side and press a little dimple into it.

This will create a nice little indentation in the gnocchi which will aid them in retaining sauce when they’re cooked.  Continue until all gnocchi are formed.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:  These gnocchi can be made earlier in the day, or even the day before, then par-boiled (just until they float), rinsed and shocked with cold water, then held in a mixing bowl, drizzled with a generous amount of oil to keep them from sticking together.  They can rest in the refrigerator until ready to cook.  When ready to cook, simply rinse and proceed with recipe.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a generous amount of salt–the water should taste aggressively salty–these gnocchi can be bland if the water and sauce are not adequately seasoned.

Prepare sauce.  In a skillet large enough to hold the gnocchi, place butter, nutmeg, cinnamon and sage leaves.  Turn heat to low and melt butter. Add the chicken broth and turn off heat.

Drop half the gnocchi into boiling salted water.  After all gnocchi have floated to the surface, fish out with a spider and gently drop gnocchi into spiced butter.  Repeat with remaining gnocchi.

Bring butter up to heat and add a quarter cup of pasta water to amalgamate sauce.  Stir and toss over medium heat for a minute or so.  Serve in heated bowls and sprinkle with plenty of grated parmigiano.

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