While it can often feel like a chore or a necessity in order to obtain sustenance, cooking can be a pleasant evening activity, if you make into one. I love gnocchi (little pillowy morsels of heaven), but they are somewhat labour-intensive to make. However, turning it into a fun activity rather than a necessity can make the load seem, at the very least, a little more enjoyable. The great thing is that your labours yield a heck of a lot of gnocchi that can be frozen and brought out for a quick and easy weekday meal. I tried two different sauces with the gnocchi, a savoury brown butter and sage for dinner and a slightly sweeter maple butter sauce for breakfast.
adapted from Cravings
1 lb sweet potato
⅓ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more if necessary
Bring medium pot of water to a boil. Peel the potato(es) and cut into pieces and place into boiling water. Cook until soft (tines of a fork can easily pierce the flesh). Drain. Mash the flesh with a potato masher or a ricer in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in the ricotta, pepper and salt, then scatter the flour into the mixture. Mix with a fork until a doughy mixture forms that’s loose and shaggy but doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. If necessary, add more flour, 1 tbsp at a time.
In a large pasta pot, bring water to a boil over high heat and salt. Flour your work surface and dump the dough onto it. Gently shape the dough, folding the dough in half and pressing gently with the heel of your hand, and turning it 90 degrees each time–until it is no longer sticky. Add sprinkles of flour when necessary, but the less flour you use, the more tender the gnocchi will be.
Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and gently roll them into balls. On a floured surface, roll one ball of dough into a 12″ long, 1″ thick log. Use a paring knife to cut the dough crosswise into 1″ pieces. Repeat with remaining dough balls. Drop the gnocchi into boiling water, stirring after about 1 minute to ensure they aren’t sticking to the pot, and cook until they float to the surface for a few seconds and are tender-firm, about 4-5 minutes.
If you don’t use all your gnocchi, spread them on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to a ziploc bag. When using frozen gnocchi, don’t defrost, just toss them directly into the boiling water.
Brown-butter sage sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ cup torn fresh sage leaves
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
salt and pepper
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add sage and cook until sage is crispy and butter is browned, about 3 minutes. Add the drained gnocchi to the skillet. Toss to coat in butter, add the Parmesan, and season to taste.
6 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ tsp orange zest
1½ tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp orange juice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat until foaming. Stir in orange zest, and cook, stirring frequently, until butter has browned. Add in remaining ingredients and stir well to combine, then cook for a minute or two until sauce thickens slightly. Turn the heat to medium-low and stir in the gnocchi, coating them evenly in the sauce. Cook them for a minute or two on each side, until they look a little golden.
I will say that getting the dough to the right consistency was a bit of a challenge. I feel like I added in a lot of flour to get it to not be sticky. This might be because of the moistness of the ricotta or the sweet potato (or both!). I have since read that baking the potatoes is superior to boiling them for gnocchi because the potato retains less water when baked (and drier potatoes apparently make for gnocchi that is less gummy/dense). I have also read that adding an egg yolk helps with dough cohesiveness. I will definitely experiment with that the next time I give this a go. Serious Eats has a nice breakdown of the different debates regarding gnocchi-making techniques.
In the end, however, the gnocchi turned out to be quite tasty. Despite what seemed like copious additions of flour, the gnocchi were still tender and flavourful. I loved both sauces, savoury and sweet. I enjoyed having breakfast gnocchi, pairing it with a poached egg and a bit of fruit, and can easily see myself grabbing a handful of frozen gnocchi and whipping up a quick side for a weeknight meal.