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Tuesday, March 06, 2007


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Where is my italian fairy grandmother when I need her......I will say up front that I've never made any sort of pasta/gnocchi type thing before in my life. I've never seen anyone make this type of when I read stories about how people grew up with their nonna teaching them how to make pasta, gnocchi and all sorts of italian delicacies, I become peevishly and inordinately jealous. I need a nonna to teach me these things.

As I'm not remotely italian, I had no such good fortune. So I've decided to trek out on my own, embrace my non-existent italian roots and just attempt to break into this world of carby, wondrous decadence.

I thought sweet potato gnocchi would be at least a tad easier than actual pasta - no rolling really thing (or pasta maker) or anything like that required. They're much more little dumplings than actual pasta.

But I am, quite evidently, in need of a little italian guidance. Mine were WAY too big (had to cut 'em in half after cooking), I have no idea how to get that cute little fork imprint on them (mine were all blobby) and I'm not entirely convinced I had the dough texture right (SO sticky.....I'm still picking little bits of it off everything!).

But it tasted good. I stole the gnocchi recipe from Food and Wine (March 2007) and came up with the sauce mostly on my own. Not too shabby. Hubs ate it, but not his whole plate, as he'd gorged himself on homemade hummus and was already full, the poop.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Balsamic Fig Butter Sauce

2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 t fleur de sel
2-3 cups flour (initial recipe says 2, I vote 3+)
freshly ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake on a rimmed baking sheet for about 1 hour (line your sheet as they bubble and are generally super messy). Let cool slightly.


2. Peel the sweet potatoes and transfer them to a food processor. Purée until smooth. Transfer the purée to a large bowl and stir in the eggs and 1 1/2 t of fleur de sel. Add 2 cups of flour, a generous amount of pepper and the nutmeg and stir until a soft dough forms (if in your mind, "soft dough" is synonymous with sticky goo, then yes, a soft dough does form.....I added at least another cup of flour before this even remotely resembled a dough that wouldn't disintegrate into a sticky mess.

3. Transfer the dough to a heavily floured work surface and gently knead in more flour (as much as 1/2 cup.....or more.....) until the dough comes together but is still very soft (what a freaking mess....totally stuck to all my fingers.....had to call hubs to rescue me).

4. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a 1 inch thick rope. Cut the ropes into 1 inch lengths and dust each piece with flour. Roll each gnocchi against the tines of a floured fork (bah...overrated....I think my dough just sucked because I had no luck with this). Transfer the gnocci to a lightly floured baking sheet.


5. (Start sauce now) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add half of the sweet potato gnocci and cook until they float to the surface, about one minute, then cook for 2 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a large plate. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.

Balsamic Fig Butter Sauce
1 T evoo
1 T butter
1/2 vidalia onion, minced
1/2 c dried fig, finely chopped
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 oz smoked ham, chopped
1 c. broth
2 T butter
green onion, parmesan

1. Heat butter and olive oil together in a large skillet. Add the onion and fig and fry until the onion is translucent. Add the ham and balsamic vinegar. Cook 1 more minute.

3. Add broth and bring to a boil. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, and then stir in the last 2 T butter.

4. Add in the gnocchi and toss to combine, and heat until the gnocchi are hot.

5. Serve, topped with green onion/chive and parmesan cheese.

sweet potato gnocchi with ham, figs and balsamic butter

This was very different, and despite my complete ineptitude, was actually really tasty - out of the ordinary, not your average pasta dish. I'd make it again, but would certainly appreciate some italian insight on how to make gnocchi that actually look like gnocchi. :)

Thanks for reading! LOVE hearing your comments and questions.


Anonymous said...

okay, i'm not Italian and i've never made gnocchi... but i can tell you that there is an alternative to the back of the fork technique to make gnocchi look like gnocchi... there are actually gnocchi boards to get them looking right... probably not a great investment, if you're not making them that often... but i'm a gadget junkie...

PeachBellini said...

Yumm! I think this is quite an interesting take on an old classic. Making pasta is very easy, although gnocchi are potato dumplings rather than pasta proper... but they're also easy. Here's the traditional gnocchi recipe, and after making those super nice sweet potato gnocchi, this will be a doddle, promise:)

1 kg potatoes
200g plain flour
one egg, lightly beaten,
pinch of salt

Mash potatoes. Let them cool only slightly, dont let them get cold. Add sifted flour, egg and salt and form into a dough. It will be a soft, pliable dough rather than the type of dough associated with pastry. Be careful to measure everything correctly. Too much potato and your gnocchi will crumble in cooking. Too much flour and you can hurl them at your opponent and watch the bruises rise. Take pieces of the dough, form into long rolls on a floured surface. Cut into 0.5cm pieces and press the top lightly with the back of a spoon. Put these aside in a cool place on a well floured surface or, even better, on a tea towel, taking care to keep layers separate.

Gnocchi are served with a variety of sauces, depending on where you are in Italy. Rome has a penchant for a tomato ricotta sauce with gnocchi. I find gnocchi to be a rather heavy dish, so I generally go light on the sauce. Here's something a bit different, though I SO have to try your sauce now!

Fill up a large pot with water, add a pinch of salt and wait for it to boil. While waiting, heat up the teensiest bit of olive oil in a non-stick pan and fry smoked pancetta, which you have cut into small pieces. Smoked pancetta is delicious, it has a wonderfully deep flavour that is ideal for this dish. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. To be honest, I normally just let it cook in its own fat, in a very hot non stick pan.

By now your water should be boiling so drop the gnocchi in (watch out, boiling water + boobage = ouch). The gnocchi will take just a few minutes to cook. They're ready the minute they rise to the surface so just remove with a slotted spoon and start filling up your plates. While playing with gnocchi, put a good wodge of butter in another non-stick pan, let it foam and then add a good bit of chopped garlic. Stir and remove from heat - the garlic will cook really quickly. Add chopped basil and stir again. Pour sauce over gnocchi and add pancetta on each plate. You can also add some freshly milled pepper and freshly grated parmesan on top.

You wind up with two huge portions of gnocchi... but I do live with the Man Who Eats Like It's Going Out of Fashion :) You can store them in the fridge for another day, just make sure the layers are carefully separated so that they don't all stick together.

Robin said...

I am italian and my grandmother taught me how to make gnocchi - it's one of my favorite meals. Regarding the stickiness of the dough - keep adding flour until it's a bit drier (or just use one egg which is all we use). Roll it into ropes, cut the ropes into smaller pieces and use the back of the fork for the markings (just roll the dumpling over the back of the tines). Personally I get lazy and just break off and roll small pieces and have it ball shaped.

Spinach gnocchi is quite good too. Love your blog by the way!

Anonymous said...

Wow - that sounds seriously adventurous AND tasty! When you find your Italian fairy godmother, please find out if she has time to take on a second case :)

PeachBellini said...

Oooh spinach gnocchi are great. A couple of weeks ago, I had a great lunch of potato gnocchi with a ricotta and spinach sauce. A bit heavy for lunchtime, but tooooootalllllyyyyyyy divine:)

9876511 said...

hm. food processors work okay, but using one, for whatever reason, means you have to use more flour, which results in denser gnocchi. which really doesn't seem like such a bad thing to me. but, for my part, i use a potato rice. i've never tried using sweet potatos, but i usually use about 1.75 lbs of (boiled) baking potatos and about 1.5 cups of flour + 1/3c grated parmesan, and that works well for me.

Anonymous said...

I really like your blog. I made gnocchi from instant potato, flour and eggs and it was light and fluffy as a cloud. I made bread crumb butter sage sauce with it and parmesan cheese. You don't have to be an Italian to make Italian dishes, you should check out some of the Chinese Restaurants in some areas, not one is Chinese.


Unknown said...

I made the Crab Ravioli you posted a while ago recently and decided to make the pasta for the raviolis myself. It was.....interesting. Like your gnocchi, the ravioli didn't look picture perfect the way I was expecting (hoping?!?) but they tasted just fine. Since then I've hauled out my mom's old pasta maker and have been pasta-making up a storm. Worth the investment.

Thanks for another adventurous recipe idea :)

Anonymous said...

Hello, found your blog searching for gnocchi recipes. I have been trying to get it right for a while, but it always ends up stick and I use WAY more flour than the recipe calls for. Just a thought, found an article saying to GRATE the potatoes with the large holes of a grater. Potatoes have a lot of water. If you puree (I have mashed with a fork, but still comes out too wet) the dough will be too wet and require too much flour. Hope this helps, going to try it tonight.

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