I want to learn to make pasta. I set this goal for myself as a New Year’s Resolution, and unlike the SNL spoof where everyone breaks their goals two weeks later, I have been going strong. This week’s task: making sweet potato gnocchi in a sage balsamic brown butter sauce.
This dish is surprisingly easy to make (much easier and prettier then my gnudi). It does take a bit of planning, and the willingness to get messy, which I’ve quickly learned is a staple of making pasta.
Ingredients are simple and inexpensive. Two sweet potatoes and one russet potato carefully weighed out at the grocery store. Parmesan Cheese, flour, honey, one egg, butter, sage, shallots and balsamic. Chances are, the majority of these ingredients are already occupying your cabinet.
Begin by roasting the potatoes, sliced in half length wise, face down in a 425° oven. Be sure to drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Allow for the potatoes to cook for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the skin, which should come off in one simple move.
Put the potatoes through a ricer, if available, otherwise use the back of a fork to mash the potatoes. Next, add the egg, honey and cheese.
Now, here’s the tricky and ‘sticky’ part. Add flour slowly to the mixture, only 1/2 cup at a time. The dough will be extremely sticky and coat your hands. Keep adding the flour until the dough begins to be easier to mold and no longer sticks to your fingers. (I had the wonderful assistant of my sous chef, my sister, Amanda, to help me slowly add the flour). It will take about 2-2 1/2 cups to get the dough just right. Don’t be aggressive and try to add it all at once, it’s a process to even incorporate a 1/2 cup at a time.
When the dough is finally easy to handle, form into a square and cut into 4 equal pieces. Then divide the 4 pieces into another fourths, so you should have a total of 16 little squares.
Now, roll each of the small squares into a rope, which should be about a 1/2 in thick (I totally guesstimated). Cut into individual pieces and mark with the back of your fork to give the distinct gnocchi shape.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, adding the gnocchi to the pot (be sure they aren’t sticking together ebcause they will cook that way!). Cook for 5 minutes (set your timer) and remove from the boiling water. Keep some of the flavorful pasta water for the sauce.
Now, time to make the sauce. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a wide saute pan until it begins to foam. Add 12-15 sage leaves and cook until they become fragrant and crispy. Remove the sage. Next, add two diced shallots. Watch the sauce closely, stirring frequently to prevent the shallots and butter from burning.
When the butter is brown, remove from heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir. Finally, add the gnocchi to the sauce along with 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Cook until the sauce coats the pasta (there shouldn’t be a lot of liquid sauce, the pasta water should evaporate almost entirely).
Shave fresh Parmesan on top and serve! Bon appetite!
Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Sage Balsamic Brown Butter
Adapted from Aida Mollenkamp
For the Gnocchi:
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (yams), halved lengthwise
- 1/2 pound Russet potatoes, halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
For the sauce (for half gnocchi, double if making the entire batch of pasta):
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 to 15 fresh sage leaves
- 2 shallots, quartered and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Freshly shaved parmesan, for garnish
- Heat an oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle
- Drizzle potatoes with olive oil, season with a few good pinches of salt and a few cranks of pepper, place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast until fork tender, about 30 minutes.
- Set aside until cool enough to handle
- Scoop flesh out of skins then pass flesh through a potato ricer (or mash with back of a fork)
- Stir in cheese, egg, honey, and salt
- Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms (You’ve added flour when you touch the back of the dough and it is damp but not sticking to you hand)
- Taste and add additional salt, as needed
- Turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into a square
- Divide into 16 equal piece
- Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into a rope (about 1/2 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky (don’t add too much additional flour as too much will make for heavy gnocchi)
- Cut each rope into 1/2 -inch pieces
- Use your thumb, roll each piece down over tines of a fork to indent.
- Bring large pot of heavily salted water to a slow boil over medium-high heat
- Working in batches, simmer gnocchi until tender, about 5 minutes
- Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet
- Reserve 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water and drain the rest.
- In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat
- Once it foams, add sage and cook until crisp and fragrant
- Remove sage to a plate and return frying pan to stove
- Add shallot and, watching it carefully and stirring often, allow the milk solids begin to brown and the butter becomes fragrant and nutty
- Scrape along the bottom to prevent the solids from sticking and burning.
- When the butter is brown, immediately remove from heat, and carefully stir in the vinegar
- Stir in pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, return to heat, and cook until just coated in the sauce.
- Top with the crisp sage and freshly shaved parmesan