Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter, Sage, and Fresh Ricotta

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A couple weeks ago, I made this gnocchi for my cooking club friends and it was a huge hit, which is saying something because we are pretty frank and honest as a group. I’d never made it before so I found a recipe on Epicurious.com, tweaked it ever so slightly (For example, I didn’t see a need to add brown sugar to the already sweet potatoes) and was pleased to find they were leaps and bounds better than the tough, doughy store-bought gnocchi I had recently purchased. The effort paid off. 

I was going to suggest you could use store bought ricotta in this recipe and, of course, you can do whatever you want, I’m certainly not the boss of you, but I changed my mind. I think if you are going to embark on this journey you should go ahead and make the Fresh Ricotta Cheese. Because really, if you are going to take the time to cut all those adorable pillows of gnocchi, they should be the freshest, most tender, little pillows they can be. And the fresh ricotta is ridiculously easy to make, you just have to make it at least a couple hours ahead. You also have to have cheesecloth which some people seem to find mysterious but it’s usually right there in the pyrex and gadget section of the supermarket.

As you might have imagined, this is not a quick weeknight recipe. I don’t believe it requires any great skill but it does require time, patience and attention. Please read through the recipe (always advised) before you begin so you have an idea of the time involved. It’s hard for me to estimate because everyone has their own pace. When I make this recipe again I plan to employ the capable hands of my children to cut and shape the pillows of gnocchi, that should save lots of time! Or I might bribe a friend with wine…

I think this would be a perfect dish to make as an appetizer for a holiday party. It was great when I warmed up leftovers the next day so you could safely make it a day ahead and warm it just before serving.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter, Sage, and Fresh Ricotta

Adapted from Epicurious.com ~ Makes about 10 servings

approximately 2 pounds sweet potatoes (that’s about 2 large or 3-4 small), baked, cooled, and peeled

12 ounces fresh ricotta plus more to crumble on top (about 4 ounces) make sure it’s well drained

1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 1/2 tablespoons salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible or ground)

approximately 2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup unsalted butter

6 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub sweet potatoes then pierce them all over with a fork. Bake on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil in preheated oven for about 1 hour, test for doneness by sticking a fork in the center, they should be tender all the way through. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool before peeling.

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Once cooled and peeled, run the sweet potatoes through a food mill or a potato ricer if you have one. If you don’t, no big deal, just mash them in a large bowl.

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Add ricotta, parmesan, salt, nutmeg, and flour.

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Mix gently with a fork until fully combined.

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Add about one cup of the flour and gently mix it in then gradually add more flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until soft dough forms. In order to achieve the lightest textured gnocchi, you don’t want to add too much flour or overwork the dough.

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Fill a 6 -8-quart pot with water, leaving about 4 inches below the top, and place on the stove to heat on medium-high while you shape the gnocchi. If it begins to boil before you’re ready, turn it to low.

Lightly flour a large cutting board and turn the dough onto it. Cut the dough into 6 strips. The dough will be sticky. Using a light touch, put a little flour on your hands and work each strip into a long rope, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Cut the rope into 16 – 18 pieces. Keep a little flour handy to sprinkle on the dough as needed.

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Place gnocchi on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and mark them with the tines of a fork.

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Once they are all formed, bring the pot of water to a rolling boil, then, carefully, using a large cooking spoon, lower the gnocchi into the water in batches of 14 – 16 pieces. Allow the gnocchi to boil for 5 – 6 minutes (they will float to the top) then transfer to another large sheet pan or baking pan. I lined mine with parchment but it’s not absolutely necessary.

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Let the gnocchi cool completely while you prepare the butter in the following steps.

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Preheat oven to 300 degrees F to keep gnocchi warm after sauteeing.

Wash and dry sage leaves then remove the stems and chop or thinly slice the leaves. I don’t have a picture of them chopped, my bad. Set aside.

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In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the butter solids are brown, stirring or swirling the pan occasionally. You might think it’s too dark, I promise it’s fine.

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Stir in the chopped sage, the butter will bubble up, remove from heat. Season to your taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

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Now comes the fun part. Preheat large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and have a clean baking pan ready.

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Working in batches, add half the brown butter mixture to the skillet then add the gnocchi, placing each one carefully and making sure not to crowd the pan. Allow the gnocchi to cook for about 3 minutes on each side until browned and heated through. Transfer to baking pan and keep warm in the oven while you repeat the process with the remaining brown butter and gnocchi.

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Once all the gnocchi has been browned, pour on the remaining brown butter sauce. Top with more fresh ricotta and parmesan (and, if you have whole nutmeg on hand, a little more of that freshly grated would be nice) and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

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I hope you enjoy this holiday season to it’s fullest with an open heart and happy soul!

bobhope