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So my sisters have done the “23 and me” genetic testing and we are virtually positive there’s nary a trace of Italian that runs through our veins. But sometimes I just feel that in another life, I would be barefoot in a kitchen in Tuscany, whipping up all kinds of Italian specialties I can’t pronounce and dramatically talking with my hands. Basically Sophia Loren meets Julia Child. Sounds glamorous and delicious, right?
Now that I’ve settled back into my nest after a very exciting two weeks on the road for my sons’s wedding and visiting the Hallmark movie set for one of my books, I’m finally able to spend some time in my kitchen. It’s restorative and grounding to be home. It recharges my batteries.
With the temperatures continuing to drop, comfort food has been on my mind. And not exactly Weight Watchers comfort food, (although I really probably need to get back on the wagon after my travels)! But that can be future Marie’s problem.
Gnocchi, the afternoon-nap-by-the-fire-of-foods
Gnocchi is often described as cloud-like. Or pillowy. There’s a reason it’s one of my favorite comfort foods! For those of you who haven’t jumped into a bowl of gnocchi before, it’s sort of like an Italian potato dumpling that’s boiled then tossed with sauce.
I know homemade pasta is a little intimidating, but this particular variety isn’t any harder than making play dough wiggly worms with your grandkids. That’s literally what you do. Make the dough, roll it into long ropes, then cut into little pieces. Super simple. And oh so satisfying.
For this pasta, I used a variety of sweet potatoes I wasn’t so familiar with that actually had red skins and white flesh, but they were still the same sweet and earthy flavor. For the herbs, use what you have on hand. I used thyme, chives, and rosemary. If you are blessed enough to have leftover basil in your garden, toss the gnocchi in pesto. You can’t go wrong here as long as it’s full of fresh flavor!
The light as air gnocchi are earthy and sweet, with brown butter sauce flecked with herbs and set off with bright white wine. I threw in a handful of kale to make this a “super food.” This, my friends, is the gnocchi dreams are made of. Trust Marie.
For the gnocchi:
- 2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 2 cups after roasted and squeezed through ricer)
- 1/2 cup fat-free milk ricotta
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for working the dough into ropes)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the sauce:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup chopped kale
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 3/4 cup white wine (I used a dry white blend from Trader Joe’s)
- tiny pinch of cayenne pepper for an added kick (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 375.
Rinse sweet potatoes and prick with a fork all over. Arrange on baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes or until soft.
Once they’ve cooled off, cut them in half and spoon out the flesh into a potato ricer. Using a potato ricer gives you that perfectly cloud like texture that makes gnocchi gnocchi!
Once you’ve “riced” all of the sweet potatoes into a bowl, add the ricotta and egg and mix until combined. Don’t overwork it! Gradually add in the flour. The dough will be sticky.
Turn out onto a floured countertop and form into a ball. With a sharp knife or a pastry knife, cut dough ball into quarters.
One quarter at a time, roll dough into long ropes, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the ropes into 3/4 inch pieces or so.
Start a large pot of water to boil.
While you wait, make the sauce. In a large skillet on medium high heat, brown the butter, occasionally stirring. The brown bits are going to infuse so much great flavor!
Add the chopped shallots and sauce until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add the herbs and kale. Cook for a couple more minutes until fragrant.
Deglaze pan with the white wine. Scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Let alcohol cook off and sauce reduce by half or so.
Season with cayenne, sea salt and black pepper.
Once the water boils, add the gnocchi (you may have to work in batches if you don’t have a big enough pot). After two to three minutes, they will start floating. That’s when you remove it! You’re so so close!
Remove gnocchi from the boiling water (I used a small sieve with a handle) and plop right into the sauce.
Toss together gently.
Top with fresh chives and parmesan.
Before you cook the gnocchi, you can pop it into a freezer bag and it will keep for several months for an easy, on the go dinner later. Simply throw the frozen gnocchi into boiling water and remove once it floats. Mangia!
Keywords: fall comfort food, easy Italian