Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sausage & Sage

It is only through labour and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things. – Theodore Roosevelt 

An amazing use of sweet potato.

Gnocchi always are a little laborious. Some thing are. I guess the real test is “is it worth it?”

I know President Roosevelt was referring to things far more serious than making food, but in the case of gnocchi the slight labour is well worth the “pain.”

After the potatoes are baked they need to be very well mashed.
Then mix in the egg, spices and some flour to a very
ragged dough.
Many people look at gnocchi that they have purchased (restaurant or grocery) and think they must be labour intensive. Those little ridges on their backs must take forever to do. (You roll them individually down the tines of a fork...)

Well, they are – if you do that step. Increasingly people are discovering that you don’t need those ridges to enjoy gnocchi. In fact, most people who make them at home skip that step altogether. Pillow gnocchi are probably quite common in country kitchens in Italy, although I can’t say for sure.

What I can say is this recipe makes a lot of gnocchi. You can easily make enough for two meals with this one batch. Once you get the hang of it they go along relatively quickly.

Homemade gnocchi screams comfort food. The rich cream sauce is nicely infused with fresh sage, and the mushrooms, sausage and gnocchi round it out to an extremely satisfying meal.

Sausage are not a necessity. Omit and you've got a vegetarian meal. They can also be simply tossed in a marinara or cream sauce as well, and they take to baking like a duck to water. Try them as a substitute for macaroni in cheese sauce too. Amazing.

The trick is to not make them too big, or the dough too stiff. That way they avoid becoming heavy and tough. Only add enough flour to make a dough that feels “pillowy.” There’s really no words to describe how gnocchi dough feels. 

But you’ll understand when you make them. I’ve made gnocchi several times now and I have yet to screw them up.

Since the recipe is quite “descriptive” I’ll stop my blather and get down to the nut – or in this case – yam of it.

Roll each piece into a log and cut into "pillows.".
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sausage & Sage
For the gnocchi
Prep: 2 hours  |  Cook: 2-3 min, in batches  |  Serves at least 8
This recipe makes enough for two meals for 4 people, at least
2 lbs sweet potatoes
3 cups white flour (give or take)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg

For the sauce
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook: 15 min  |  Serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup sage, torn up
2 cloves garlic, minced
This is only part of the gnocchi this recipe makes.
You can freeze them without touching and then
bag and freeze.
250 g Crimini (or white) mushrooms
454 g (1 lb) Italian sausage
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cracked  black pepper
parmesan, for at the table
fresh warm dinner rolls, of desired

To make the gnocchi, bake the sweet potatoes at 350°F for about 1 to 1.5 hours. They will be very easy to pierce with a fork. Baking (as opposed to boiling) accomplishes two things: it doesn’t introduce any water into the potato flesh and it develops the sugars.

Let the potatoes cool slightly and then peel. In a bowl, mash the sweet potato well until there are no lumps at all. (Or as very best as you can.)

Once the mash has cooled slightly break an egg into the bowl. Add the salt and nutmeg. Mix in vigorously with a fork. Make sure the egg is well distributed.

This is where it gets “tricky” (but just a little).

You want to introduce only enough flour into the sweet potato to make a soft dough. Too little and they will disintegrate when cooked and too much will make them heavy. The amount of flour has everything to do with the wetness of your sweet potato mash.

The sauce is very simple and basic, but pairs perfectly
with the sweet potato.
Start with 1 cup of flour. Sprinkle it on top and mix in with a fork. Add more as needed until you have a very ragged dough. Sprinkle a board, or your counter, with flour and place the dough on it.

Begin to knead, adding more flour slowly, until you have a moist, light dough.

I find that sweet potato gnocchi are heavier than white potato gnocchi. Starchy potato mash starts off light and fluffy. Sweet potato mash not so much…

Divide the dough into six pieces and roll each out into about a 1” diameter by 16" long log. Cut “pillows” of gnocchi from each log. Place on a well floured board as you go. Repeat with the remaining dough. You will see you have made a lot of pillow gnocchi.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop several of the gnocchi in at a time. At first they will sink, but as they cook they will bob to the surface. Let them cook, once lifted from the bottom, for about 1 more minute.

Remove the gnocchi to a bowl. Repeat until you have cooked all the gnocchi you will need.

While the gnocchi are cooking, boil the sausages in water until done, about 5-6 minutes. Then slice into easy to eat sized pieces.

The sauce
To make the sausage and sage sauce, heat the oil in a  large sauté or frying pan. Add the sage and garlic and let it cook for about 1 minute. Quarter the mushrooms and add to the pan. Let the mixture cook until the mushrooms wilt and/or begin to brown.

Add the sausage slices and mix well. Then add the cream, salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer until the cream has reduced to your desired consistency.

At the last minute add in the gnocchi, toss to coat well. Let heat through and serve with grated parmesan on top.


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