As the song and psalm go, there is a time to every purpose under heaven. Today I'm thinking there is a time to every dish and dinner as well, but the time you choose for it is always going to be your own.
Now, before you think I'm off on some New Age esoteric journey, or having a ’60s hippie throwback moment, I'm really talking about knowing your body and yourself and knowing what will make you happy, healthy, and fulfilled regardless of convention.
Case in point: home fries. I've never been a big fan of home fries, but recently neither myself nor my husband was feeling well so I decided we needed comfort food for breakfast, preferably of the starchy potato variety. Typically if my hubs were cooking, he'd make eggs and home fries. Because I was the more mobile of the two of us, I decided to whip up a batch of sweet potato gnocchi instead.
STOP THE BUS! Gnocchi is not breakfast food! Gnocchi is an appetizer! You can't possibly make and serve gnocchi for breakfast, the earth will spin off its axis and we'll all be hurtled into space. Doom! Gloom! paniiiic!
Ummm, says who? Just because a food is traditionally served at a certain time of day doesn't mean it can't be served and enjoyed at another time of day. Breakfast for dinner is a favorite of many of my friends, so why not a dinner-type dish for breakfast? I will tell you, it made our day to start with these warm, buttery, pillow dumplings; and happy tummies make for better healing, in my book.
I'm excited to show you how to make these gnocchi; they're one of my all-time favorite foods. And then it will be all up to you to have them whenever you wish – you'll have my full support.
For this recipe, you'll need two medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean and baked. After you've baked your sweet potatoes (I microwaved mine for 9 minutes) and they're cool enough to handle, cut them open and scoop out the flesh. I found a muffin scoop was an excellent tool for this. A large spoon would work well, too.
Place the cooked potato into a potato ricer and squish it on through. Why the ricer as opposed to a masher? The rice separates and fluffs the potato, giving you a lighter base to work with. If you don't have a ricer, you can use a masher or a fork, but be sure to try and keep the potato airy.
Allow the potato to cool to lukewarm, then work in 1 large egg. I like to use my fingers to mix, so that I have a good feel for the dough.
After the egg, work in 1/2 cup (50g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The dough will be quite sticky at this point, but don't worry as you'll be adding flour in just a few minutes.
Sprinkle about 1/2 cup (60g) of flour onto the dough. Toss the dough with the flour until it begins to form a ball. Add more flour as needed, but stop mixing and tossing as soon as the dough comes together in one mass. As you can see, you don't need to work every bit of flour and dough in together, just most. You'll use about 3/4 cup (85g) of flour at the most.
Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and set aside for a few minutes while you set a pot with 2 quarts of salted water on the stovetop to boil, and melt 2 tablespoons (28g) of butter in a large skillet on a separate burner. Gnocchi cook very quickly, so you'll need everything ready before you start to roll.
When the water is nearly boiling, divide the dough into three tennis ball-sized pieces. Divide those pieces into smaller pieces about the size of your index finger and about 1" long.
Using very little pressure, roll each little piece lightly in flour.
Using a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork, press the ridges into each little dumpling. The ridges are not essential and you could certainly skip this step; but ridges hold sauce better, so if you can add them, it's a big bonus.
The back of the gnocchi will have lovely little stripes, and the underside will have a soft little hollow that will also hold onto sauce.
Roll all of your gnocchi and set them on the counter or on parchment so they're ready to cook.
At this point you can freeze the gnocchi on a flat baking sheet until solid, and then store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one month. Cooking and sautéing would be just the same as below.
Place about 1/3 of your gnocchi into the boiling water and stir gently. The gnocchi will sink at first but rise to the surface when they're nearly done. Once all of the gnocchi are floating, cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.
Here's a view of the ideal setup on your stove. Pot of boiling gnocchi, pan of hot butter.
Using a slotted spoon or strainer, scoop up the cooked gnocchi and transfer right to the hot butter. Don't be worried if you get some pasta water in the butter, it will help the butter bind to the gnocchi as they cook.
Place the next batch of gnocchi in the water as your first batch sautés.
Right about now is when I can barely contain myself and need help in refraining from snagging the gnocchi straight to my mouth. Give them time enough on one side to develop a golden, crisp crust before shaking the pan to loosen and flip them to cook briefly on the other side.
Serve the gnocchi hot with your favorite sauce, chunks of feta, mozzarella, or Gorgonzola cheese, or one of my favorites: a quick grate of fresh lemon zest.
I've heard rumors that someone once had leftover sweet potato gnocchi that they stored in the fridge for a couple of days. I don't have any personal experience with that, she says with a full tummy.
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