Time and patience yields delicious homemade gnocchi
Sweet potato gnocchi are quickly sautéed in butter, giving them a beautiful color and a lovely, nutty flavor. Then they’re tossed with kale cooked with garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes.
For most of us growing up in America, Italian food has usually meant Italian-American food, hearty and delicious, but not especially complex or subtle. Increasingly, though, authentic Italian cooking is changing how we think about Italian cuisine. As with French food, there are distinct regional differences, and some of the most memorable dishes are made with a handful of well chosen ingredients, perfectly prepared. Just as important is the sense of hospitality and comfort that is part and parcel to this cuisine.Skip to next paragraph
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A dinner at Eataly Chicago made me think about what I like best in Italian food – beautiful food meant to be shared in each other’s company. When we started thinking about a way to convey how much we enjoyed our experience at Eataly, gnocchi came to mind pretty quickly.
In Italy, gnocchi are made from an array of flours or with potato, but here in the United States, most people think of gnocchi as potato based. We’ve made potato-based gnocchi here on Blue Kitchen, but this weekend, we were thinking about a different take – something a little more interesting. Sweet potato seemed the right approach – a warm, rustic flavor that speaks to cozy winter evenings at home with good friends.
Making any gnocchi is a meditative process. It’s not difficult or miserable – it just needs to be done in its own way. You can’t rush it, you can’t skip steps, you need to just relax your mind and enjoy the ride. At the end you have a dish that is at once humble, beautiful, inviting and convivial. The very essence of Italian cuisine.
Here are four tips for making sweet potato gnocchi (or any potato gnocchi):
1. This recipe takes time. If you want a pasta you can bang out for a quick, tasty mid-week dinner, try this ziti with sausage and fennel or, if you want a dish that is really elegant but you’ve been at the office all day, try duck breasts with raspberries.
2. Bake the sweet potatoes. Don’t boil them or steam them or microwave them. Baking intensifies their flavor and reduces the moisture.
3. Do not skip the part where you drain the ricotta. That takes at least two hours. On the other hand, while you’re waiting, you could watch two episodes of "Orange is the New Black," or you could memorize the Gettysburg Address, or you could practice your latest tap steps.
4. After you make the dough, and before you roll it out, let it rest for five minutes. This gives the gluten a chance to develop, helping the gnocchi hold together better when you are rolling them out and forming them.
Making these is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
(Recipe next page)