Since I am a girl who takes being called a “potato eater” as a compliment, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I love gnocchi. I mean, really. Does it get any better than pillowy potato dumplings swathed in sauce?
Rarely, my friends. The answer is, rarely.
But in all my life, I can only remember a few times when I have had truly homemade gnocchi. I’ve had it a time or two at Gina’s Place, a fabulous Italian restaurant in Bonneauville, PA, run by a Sicilian woman who, along with her family, turn out some seriously amazing food.
The night after I signed my lease in Oakland, I went back to the Mission, where I was staying with a friend, and since she had a work function that night, took myself out to a little Italian restaurant that served me some of the best housemade gnocchi I’ve ever had. (And the waiter? Not so bad himself…both because he was a hottie AND because he could barely speak anything that wasn’t Italian.)
And once, at a memorable evening at Maggie and Heal’s house, we showed up and found that Maggie had made dozens and dozens of perfectly shaped gnocchi, all lined up on parchment paper and ready to plunge into boiling water. Um, yum.
It’s not that I have had trouble with store-bought gnocchi—I love it, too—but with some Happy Boy Farms sweet potatoes in the crisper, it occurred to me that I might put a weekend evening to good use by trying to make some of the homemade variety. Topped with a simple sauce made of Straus Family Creamery butter, Happy Boy Farms sage and salt, and paired with a glass of Sonoma County Merlot, it was a decadent way to serve up a lovely weekend dinner.
“I’ve decided that anything I make — be it baked, sauteed, fried, roasted — that doesn’t come out looking like something out of a Williams-Sonoma cookbook will be dubbed “rustic.”
Hence, rustic Napoleons. (I should probably go back through the archives and rename 95-percent of the recipes here.)”
Because it was my first attempt at gnocchi, these didn’t look nearly as pretty as the ones I’ve eaten by more talented chefs. And this was even after getting some over-the-phone instruction from a Sicilian friend who’s a pretty talented chef himself. Thusly and therefore, mine are rustic, because otherwise I’m going to have to tell the truth, which is that they looked a little bit like small thumbprint cookies without the jam in the center.
But they did not taste like thumbprint cookies. Not in the least. They were delicious and satisfying comfort food, which is just what I was looking for when I started the process. And using sweet potatoes rather than regular potatoes imparted a Fall-spirited earthiness that I loved.
One final note: This recipe made enough gnocchi for four people as a side dish or two people (three if no one’s really starving) as a main dish. The gnocchi freeze quite well, as long as you put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them individually for about 20 minutes before you put them in a bag for safekeeping in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook the frozen gnocchi, just boil water, salt the water once it’s boiling, and add the frozen gnocchi at that point. Once they’ve floated to the top of the water, let them cook about another minute or two and they’ll be ready to serve.
Approximately 1/2 pound of sweet potatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 TBSP. olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the sweet potatoes until they are soft. Remove them and let them cool.
- Mash the sweet potatoes (you can also rice them, but I don’t own a ricer, so I just used a potato masher with reasonable results). Add the salt, nutmeg, olive oil and egg and mix well. Add the flour a little bit at a time, working it into the dough before adding more. You want the dough to be soft and pliable, so if you don’t need to add the full cup of flour, that’s OK.
- Boil a pot of salted water. While the water is boiling, pinch off evenly-sized pieces of dough (approximately 1/2 TBSP per gnocchi) and roll them in your palms to make an almond-shaped piece. Then use your thumb to gently indent them. When the water is boiling, drop them in and let them cook until they float to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon and serve immediately with a sauce of your choosing. I recommend melting butter and sizzling about a handful of torn fresh sage leaves in the butter, then adding some salt to taste and drizzling the mixture over the gnocchi just before serving.
Although it’s a little early to be thinking about the weekend already, this is my contribution for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted this week by Amy and Jonny of We Are Never Full. This weekend, I hope you’ll swing by their joint to read the full round-up.