SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI & SAGE BROWN BUTTER

Buona vacanza and season’s greetings from our family in Italy, to you and yours in Richmond, VA!  We are breaking out the Sweet Potato Gnocchi for this year’s Thanksgiving Party.  It is our way of introducing the American Italian side of my family to my husband’s Calabrian Italian traditions.  The holiday draws us together and provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate family, the cool crisp air, brightly colored falling leaves, and our garden’s fall harvest.  We were able to pull most of the ingredients from the ground just hours before cooking, but if your garden is done for the season, we recommend going to the farmers' market.  It is the perfect time of year to be loading up on sweet potatoes and you can even harvest sage fresh from the plant for that minute-off-the-vine taste. 

RECIPE SERVES 6

Ingredients for Gnocchi

  • 2 (1 pound) red-skinned orange inside sweet potatoes
  • 1 (12 oz.) container fresh ricotta, strained in a sieve for over 1 hour
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

Ingredients for Sage Brown Butter

  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted grass-fed butter
  • ¼ cup loosely packed sage leaves
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • ¼ cup freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for finishing the plate

Directions for Gnocchi

  1. Grab your fresh from the farm sweet potatoes and scrub the remaining earth from their skin. 
  2. Then take your fork and stab in a circle all over the potato. 
  3. No need to preheat the oven or peel the potatoes.  Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of your oven to prevent drips from sticking and then place the sweet potatoes directly on the middle oven rack above the aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes with the oven set to 425 degrees.
  4. Mash the potatoes or I suggest running the roasted sweet potatoes through a ricer.  The ricer adds air as it mashes the potatoes.
  5. Place the sweet potato mash onto a clean work surface then fold in the strained fresh ricotta.
  6. Fold in Parmigiano cheese and salt, and then start adding the flour, ¼ cup at a time until very loose dough forms. Shape the dough into a large ball.
  7. Take a baseball sized scoop of dough and on a floured work surface, roll out a 1 inch diameter coil.
  8. Cut the coil into 1 inch long sections and then take each section and delicately roll the 1 inch by 1 inch piece over the back of a fork or a gnocchi board to create lines for the sauce to hold onto.  If the gnocchi starts to stick add more flour to your work surface and feel free to continue to flour work surface, the fork, or gnocchi board to prevent sticking.
  9. Place the finished gnocchi pieces on a lightly floured cooking sheet. Forming gnocchi is just like cooking pancakes, the first one is always the toughest.
  10. Repeat steps 7 through 9 until all dough is formed into finished gnocchi pieces.*At this point let your gnocchi rest and make the Sage Brown Butter sauce (recipe below).
  11. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add ¼ of your gnocchi to the boiling water, once they float back up to the surface, about 1 minute, remove them with a slotted spoon and repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked.
  12. Toss the warm gnocchi with the Sage Brown Butter Sauce and garnish with the shaved Parmigiano cheese.

Directions for Sage Brown Butter

  1. Melt the grass fed butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Cook until it begins to turn a golden brown color, about three minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the sage leaves. 
  3. Turn off heat under the butter and finish cooking the Sweet Potato Gnocchi.

Tackling gnocchi for the first time takes confidence and persistence!  If your dough seems too loose, keep on going! If you’re having trouble using the fork to add lines, keep on going! By the end of the dough ball you will get the hang of things and after you cook the gnocchi pieces, the look no longer matters.  It is the taste that you and your guests will remember!