Making pasta has always been something that I’ve loved doing. My food tech teacher once said that she thought making pasta was one of those things that just wasn’t worth it, but I disagree.
When it comes to making tagliatelle or fettuccine I can understand that if you don’t have a pasta roller it’d be annoying to make; rolling pasta dough out by hand is not the most fun thing! Gnocchi on the other hand fall into the spectrum of pasta-type-things-that-I-like-to-put-sauce-on and are really easy to make. You don’t need a fancy tool for this (you can get a gnocchi board for rolling them on, but I just use a fork) but a food processor does speed things up (Plus you’ll need one for the pesto later)! Since I’m collaborating with Cuisinart this month, gnocchi and pesto seemed like an ideal thing to test out.
The dough is quite simple to make – roast the sweet potatoes, blend until smooth, blend in the other ingredients. Done.
You can mash the potatoes by hand but when you’re dealing with 2 lbs of potatoes that need to be silky smooth, a machine just does is better and faster.
As you go through the process of making the dough it changes from a deep orange puree to a sticky, dreamy creamsicle-coloured dough. I’m calling it an ombré process B-)
In order to make your life easier when shaping this sticky dough you’ll a) need to chill the dough for a couple of hours and b) use a HECK LOAD of flour. Don’t worry if you feel like there’s too much flour on the counter top, it’s probably juuust right! It can take a bit of practice to get into the swing of shaping the gnocchi (spot the fail blobs at the back of the photo below :/ Thanks, Camera for blurring them out!) but to be honest as long as they’re roughly the same size, the shape doesn’t matter very much.
The great thing about gnocchi is that once you’ve done your part with the shaping you can freeze them as they can cook straight from frozen in 5 minutes. Those little dumplings are ace as an emergency meal for when you’re having, what my family calls a ‘calorie crisis’ a.k.a extreme hanger. As they’re incredibly filling you’ll barely need to make much else to go with them too – A simple sauce, some veg on the side and you’re sorted!
Ever since my friends have gone to uni I’ve heard their lamentations of missing pesto. It’s quite an expensive thing to buy but making it is SO much cheaper and tastier. The priciest component seems to be having to buy ALL OF THE BASIL but I’ve found that actually, you don’t need very much basil at all. Other greens (kale, spinach, wild garlic, chard, broccoli, avocado!) make the bulk while a handful of herbs and some lemon juice bring the flavour. I tend to leave out the parmesan (it doesn’t seem to make loads of difference) and use cashews, walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts. For about £4 you can make 2 or 3 jars worth of pesto! If you’re feeling like 1/2 cup of olive oil is going to be too spency, cut it with some plain vegetable oil or even water. Using water does mean that the pesto will have slightly less flavour and a looser texture but it still works really well as a cheaper, ‘lighter’ option. I’d just say try to stick to at least 1/4 cup of olive oil and make up the rest with veg oil/water as you see fit.
Again this is something which is brilliant to freeze, particularly because it goes mouldy quite easily in the fridge. I scoop it into ice cube trays, freeze and then store the pesto cubes in a sandwich bag in the freezer.
Since sage and sweet potato are a classic pairing I used a handful of sage here with a wild garlic base. If you can’t get a hold of wild garlic yet, using spinach with a handful of chives and a clove of garlic make a good substitute. I used the little bowl on my Cuisinart food processor for blending it all up to make a smooth, creamy paste in about a minute. You can use an immersion blender in a small jug to make the pesto but it will take more like 5 minutes to get it smooth.
Gnocchi done! Pesto done! All you have to do is plunge those baby dumplings into boiling water for a few minutes, drain and then sauté with pesto.
See, we can all make pasta and share the gnocchi love!
– For the olive oil in the pesto – you can use half olive oil and half vegetable oil OR half olive oil and half water, to make the pesto a bit cheaper.
– Don’t have wild garlic? Use an equal amount of spinach in the pesto and add in a clove of garlic and a handful of chives.
– If you don’t have a food processor – scoop the sweet potato flesh into a pot and mash with a potato masher until as smooth as possible. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients. For the pesto, use a pestle and mortar to grind up the leaves, herbs and nuts, drizzling in oil bit-by-bit until smooth.
– To freeze the gnocchi – once shaped, place the whole tray into the freezer for about 2 hours. Transfer the frozen pasta to a sandwich bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To cook the gnocchi from frozen – pour into boiling water and cook for 5 minutes when they should have risen to the surface.
– To freeze the pesto – spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Pop the cubes out of the tray into a sandwich bag and freeze until needed (this is really good for individual servings of pesto!)
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Wild Garlic and Sage Pesto
For the gnocchi:
- 2 lbs (1 kg) sweet potatoes
- 1/2 cup (125 g) ricotta
- 30 g parmesan
- 1 tsp salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 egg
- 2 1/4 cups (280 g) plain flour, plus more for shaping
for the pesto:
- 1/2 cup (8 g) fresh sage leaves
- 5 large basil leaves
- 3 cups (~100 g) packed wild garlic leaves (see notes)
- large pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil (see notes)
- 50 g cashews , almonds or walnuts
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- To serve:
- A knob of butter or a splash of oil
- Shredded basil and shaved Parmesan
To make the gnocchi dough:
Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C), prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and roast on a tray in the oven for 45 minutes until tender. Once roasted, cut the hot potatoes in half and leave them to cool. Scoop out the cooled flesh and place into a food processor, blend until smooth. Add the ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg and egg then blend again. Add the flour and blend in until just combined. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours before shaping.
To shape the gnocchi:
Generously sprinkle a clean work surface and a baking tray with flour. Take a quarter of the chilled dough and place onto the work surface, spirnkling with more flour to coat. Use your hands to roll the dough into a long rope about 1-inch thick, adding more flour as needed to stop it sticking. Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Take one piece and, using your thumb, push into + down the tines of a floured fork so that the dough becomes ridged and curls in on itself, then place onto the floured baking tray. Repeat with all of the gnocchi dough. Chill or freeze until needed (see notes).
To make the pesto:
Place all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. If not using immediately, transfer to a jar in the fridge (for short-term use) or freeze (see notes)
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season generously with salt. Pour the gnocchi in and cook for 2-3 minutes if chilled or 4-5 minutes if frozen. You can tell when the gnocchi are done as they will float once cooked. Drain the gnocchi (reserve a bit of the pasta water) and rinse them, set aside as you prep the frying pan: Melt a knob of butter in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once sizzling, add the gnocchi and sauté for a few minutes until browned. Spoon in the pesto and stir to coat, adding a splash of the pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce. Transfer to 4 plates and serve with shredded basil and shaved parmesan.
Thanks to Cuisinart for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.