Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Dinner Series Part II: Not My Nonna's Gnocchi

Try saying that ten times fast!

A few weeks ago, I decided to make good on a promise I'd made Deb.  She very graciously agreed to look after our kitties in the summer while we were back in Ontario gettin' hitched... despite her pet hair allergies (uh-oh).  I honestly don't remember how we got on the topic of sweet potato gnocchi, but we did, and Deb said she wanted to try it.  So as a (belated) thank-you for watching the quadrupedal fur children, I started Googling my way to a decent-looking recipe.

I succeeded in my search.
Now, I've made gnocchi before.  Many times.  But I was VERY wary as to how this version (courtesy of, unsurprisingly, would turn out.  My mother and I share a similar stumbling block when it comes to these "little knees" (yes, that's what gnocchi means if translated literally).  Soft, sticky dough is the bane of our existence.  It's a balancing act: add too little flour and the dough becomes nigh impossible to handle and roll into the eponymous shape.  Add too much, and you end up nomming on leaden, tough dumplings once cooked.  Not good eats, either way.  I figured, with the difference in texture and moisture content between regular potatoes and the sweet variety, I could be in for a troubling time.

Pretty, fall-appropriate little orange darlings.
I was correct in my prediction, to a point.  After seeing all the caramelized, sugary juices that resulted from roasting my (massive!) sweet potato, I wondered if I might be able to get away with just a little more flour than the recipe called for.  Chilling the dough a bit also helped.  In the end, they were nice and tender, with a very distinct sweet potato colour and flavour.  I decided to dress them with a white wine butter sauce that I modified from the interwebs.  I also tossed the hot noodles and sauce with baby spinach leaves, that just wilted into the whole dish (read: I was too lazy to make a salad, so I tried to get veg in another way).  Add some shredded romano cheese, and the result was, as RR would say, "Yum-o".  Even better the next day as lunch leftovers, let me tell ya... though my coworkers were wondering what on earth I was eating.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Florentino with White Wine Sauce
Adapted from here and here.  I love Google!

Serves four generously... we were definitely hungry!

  • 2 average-sized sweet potatoes (half a pound or 8 oz.  I weighed the massive one I had in the pantry, and it was close enough)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (don't skip this, it really adds something!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (Nonna typically uses cake flour for hers, but I think AP is best here)
  • 1 bag (~170 g or 6 oz) pre-washed baby spinach
  • Shredded romano, parmesan, or asiago cheese
  • 5 Tbsp (just over 1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 of a small onion, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley (I used my freeze-dried stuff with no ill effects)
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth (not gonna lie, I only had OXO bouillon packets on hand...)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until soft to the touch. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool.
  2. Once the potatoes are cool enough to work with, remove the peels.  Mash them, or press them through a ricer into a large bowl. Blend in the garlic, salt, nutmeg, and egg. 
  3. Mix in the flour a little at a time until you have a soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed.  It should be only a TINY bit sticky.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  5. While you wait for the water, make the gnocchi. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1 cm or ~1/2 inch thickness.  Cut strips of dough about 1 cm or ~1/2 inch wide.  Lightly flour the cut sides of the strips.  Now cut the strips into cubes, again about 1 cm or ~1/2 inch wide.  You don't have to be precise.
  6. Roll the cubes of dough along the tines of a dinner fork, pressing with your index and middle finger to create an indent.  If this makes no sense to you at all, try watching this:

    Alternatively, you can just put the unrolled cubes into the water... but I'll be disappointed.
  7. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water, and allow them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove the floating pieces with a slotted spoon, and keep warm in a large serving bowl.  Toss the hot noodles with the fresh spinach, covering the bowl with a lid or plate to trap the heat and wilt the leaves.
  8. For the sauce, heat 1 Tbsp of butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the minced onion, parsley, basil, and thyme. Stir frequently and cook for about 1 minute. Add the salt and white pepper and stir.
  9. Add the white wine and bring to a boil; turn the heat down to a simmer and reduce the liquid by half.
  10. Add the chicken stock and again bring to a boil, turning down the heat once the boiling point is reached and reducing the liquid by half.  This should take about 7-10 minutes.
  11. Add the remaining 4 Tbsp butter a few pieces at a time, while constantly whisking the sauce to thoroughly incorporate the butter.  Check for seasoning.
  12. Immediately toss the sauce with the gnocchi in the serving bowl.  Top with a generous sprinkling of cheese.
  13. Enjoy hot with some white wine and good friends!

Not the greatest pictures, but I was too hungry to perfect a shot!!
Overall, I'm quite pleased with how these turned out, and I'll definitely be making them again.  Maybe, if I pluck up enough courage, I'll make them for Nonna and see what she thinks!

Off to put the finishing touches on THIS Sunday's dinner,


  1. Oh gnocchi! How it reminds me of the good ol' days! I'm sure it was WAY better than the packaged stuff my mom made the other day!

  2. Haha, oh, I hope so Laur... otherwise all that work wouldn't be worth it at all!! I really feel like I owe you some good gnocchi after the Alumni House version... :P