Sweet Potato/Yam

The Laughably Simple Gnocchi I Should Have Made Sooner

August  6, 2018

Homemade gnocchi always seemed beyond my reach. It's not the act of making pasta that intimidated me—in fact, I grew up on homemade pasta. My mom used to make it regularly, pulling out her battered red pasta machine and hand-cranking the sheets of dough through its rollers. She'd make wide lasagna noodles from scratch and ribbons of flat spaghetti, which were bright yellow because of the yolks from our hens.

So homemade pasta I can, and do, tackle. But I've always steered clear of gnocchi. In my mind, it seems too complicated to shape and too finicky to cook properly: delicate and fluffy in theory but too often sticky and leaden in practice.

Hm, how tricky are you? Photo by Posie Harwood

Thus, imagine my surprise when my sister called me recently to tell me otherwise. She's been making sweet potato gnocchi and promised it was both simple and a good candidate to make ahead.

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Not only is it both those things, but it also has a leg up on regular gnocchi. The sweet potato adds a beautiful color and robust nutrition, and with this recipe, you need little more than a few vegetables and cheese to round out a solid meal.

If you start, as I do, by microwaving your sweet potato instead of baking it, the time to make gnocchi is minimal. (You can bake the potato if you prefer, but just plan ahead so you have at least an hour of oven time.) Simply prick the potato with a fork, wrap it in a paper towel, and microwave it for 7 minutes.

A Sauce to Make-Ahead

Scoop out the flesh and combine it with flour, salt, ricotta cheese, and some Parmesan. Use a light hand with mixing so you don't overwork the dough. Shape it into long ropes, slice them into small pieces, and that's it! Homemade gnocchi! It's so easy I almost laughed at myself for being nervous to try for so long.

You can freeze the shaped gnocchi to cook later: this is a very wise move that your future self will appreciate. Or, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook them for a few minutes until they float to the surface of the pot. Skim them off (a spider strainer works well here) and carefully transfer them to a plate, as they are apt to fall apart if you aren't gentle with them.

Mix in with whatever vegetables are in season! Photo by Posie Harwood

I like to make a simple sage brown butter sauce to pair with these, but any sauce will do, from alfredo to marinara. Lately, I opt to blanch a few greens (broccoli rabe usually) and toss that with the sauce and the gnocchi. If you cook the gnocchi quickly with the sauce and greens in a pan over high heat, they'll get slightly browned and crisp on the edges, like a pan-fried dumpling.

I tinkered with this "project" late last spring, so now that it's summer, I'm thinking up ways to apply gnocchi to every sort of fresh produce: corn, eggplant, zucchini, and so on.

What are some food fears you conquered? Let us know in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Bonnie
  • cosmiccook
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  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Bonnie January 24, 2020
This was a total disaster for me. My sweet potato was under a pound. I had to add tons of extra flour to make it a consistency that it was possible to roll and cut without the shape totally flattening out. I SO wanted to love this recipe.
cosmiccook August 15, 2018
Do you strain the ricotta before using it?
Posie (. August 15, 2018
I never do! If yours looks very liquidy, it might be worth doing, but I wouldn’t worry about it. If you need to, you can always add a bit more flour.
ASchel August 12, 2018
The easiest gnocchi I have ever made was with equal parts fresh, preferably homemade, ricotta and flour. That's it. Stupid easy.
isw August 7, 2018
It has been my belief -- backed up by a couple of experiments -- that cooking sweet potatoes in the microwave doesn't develop their natural sweetness the way a good hour in a regular oven does. I have read that there is some sort of enzyme thing going on ...
Posie (. August 15, 2018
That would not surprise me! Makes total sense. In this case, I don’t think you’d notice as much since the other components of the dish will shine and the sweet potato isn’t the dominant flavor. Frankly using the microwave is just such a win time-wise here for me — otherwise gnocchi is a bit of a project but now I can do it pretty easily on any weeknight.
Eric K. August 6, 2018
I can't believe this is only 4 ingredients!
Nikkitha B. August 6, 2018
OK definitely a food I didn't even bother attempting at home until now. Thanks Posie!