All these years and we’ve never made gnocchi. We’ve made gnocchi dishes, but have always purchased pre-made gnocchi from various sources. And to be honest, it’s never very good. Dense and gummy would be appropriate adjectives to describe the little potato lumps. Which is maybe why we’ve never attempted the homemade version; we just assumed it was something we didn’t really like very much.
I’m glad we made the effort (and yes, it takes quite a bit of effort), because these homemade gnocchi were fabulous. Granted, they look a bit more like packing peanuts than the pretty little dumplings they’re supposed to be, but I just need to work on my technique. The ricotta cheese gives each bite a light and airy texture, like petite potato pillows drizzled with browned butter and sage.
Note to self: pay attention to the serving size on recipes before you prepare them. Do the math. Two of us. A recipe serving 10-12? Hello leftovers. Luckily gnocchi freeze quite well, and we froze a ton of them. Tomorrow night’s dinner will be as easy as boiling and buttering.
2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork
1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. (We personally felt that the microwave didn't adequately cook the potatoes, we ended up cutting them into chunks and boiling them. You could also roast them for an even richer flavor, which is probably what we'll do if we make this recipe again).
Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet. (At this point the gnocchi can be frozen on the baking sheet overnight, then transfer to a freezer safe bag for long term storage).
Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, about 5 minutes or until gnocchi float to the top of the pot. With a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.
Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through and lightly golden brown and crispy, about 6 minutes. Empty skillet onto rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.
Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves.