My friend Molly is one of my favorite people to cook with. We shared a kitchen for three years in college, and our culinary efforts swung from Kraft macaroni and cheese (which we had down to a science) when we were feeling pressed by time and school, to experiments in crab alfredo sauce when we were feeling flush. We ate a lot of pasta.
Molly is one of the most intuitive cooks I know, and she makes it look so easy. We haven’t cooked together a lot since I’ve been in Brooklyn, making us neighbors for the first time since 2003, but we do get to see each other much more (hooray!) and whenever we see each other I want to know what she’s been making and eating lately. I love that she regularly has toad in the hole for breakfast, roasts pans of vegetables on Sundays, and can be counted on to bring a delicious baked something to a party. When she tells me she’s found a great recipe, I listen. And she’s been telling me about how tasty and easy this recipe for sweet potato and ricotta gnocchi is for years, but I’ve hesitated to take the plunge. It sounded like a Molly-easy recipe, which doesn’t always translate to Jess-easy.
Still, when I bought some sweet potatoes on a whim recently (they’re not something I cook with a lot) I started to think about that gnocchi, and how fun it might be to try. Molly and I had brunch on Sunday and I mentioned that I was thinking about the recipe she’d shared with me, and she perked up and said she wanted to make it again. So we took a post brunch walk through the Carrol Street farmers market where we bought a bunch of sage to share, and went home to our separate kitchens to cook. I got such a kick out of us making the same thing 15 minutes away from each other, and out of knowing that if I got stuck I could give her a call.
Our situations were a little bit different, tho. Molly was cooking for and with a new gentleman friend, and I was having a solo kitchen adventure. A kitchen adventure that I really started to question halfway through. Why, I wondered, am I browning butter and frying sage and working gnocchi dough just for my Sunday dinner? Because I could, and it was a rainy day with nothing else on the agenda, and I had been wanting to try the recipe since Molly first told me about it a few years ago. All great reasons, but the ridiculousness of the process still made me laugh. Out loud, by myself, as I contemplated the silliness of what I was doing, my hands covered in sticky dough. And that, I have to say, became reason enough.
Sadly, my gnocchi were not an unqualified success. They were definitely tasty, and it was hugely satisfying to have actual gnocchi come out of this awesome mess, but they were a little heavier than would be ideal. You’re meant to add flour slowly to the sweet potato, egg yolk, and ricotta mixture, and to start rolling dough on a floured surface when it’s just workable. Since I was doing this by myself, tho, mixing with one hand and adding flour with the other, all while trying to keep goo out of my bag of flour, I think I added too much flour too quickly. I was worried about the dough being too sticky, and realized after the fact that I should have braved it out and rolled the dough sooner. This is a recipe, I really believe, that would be easier with another pair of hands. Doable by yourself, but much better to have one person be a dedicated dough smoosher and tester, and another to add the flour.
I ended up freezing half of the dough, and when I thaw it out to make again I may try to work in a little more roasted sweet potato to thin the dough out a bit. I have no idea if this will work, but what the heck, it seems worth a try.
The recipe is from Italian Food Forever and I followed it pretty closely, though I was fairly loose with measurements since I was going for roughly a half batch. I had two sweet potatoes, which didn’t quite add up to two cups, so I cut down on the amount of ricotta a bit. I also used less butter, because another thing about making a dish like this for yourself is having to get right with the idea that you are melting and browning a stick and a half of butter just for you. And on this particular Sunday, I wasn’t woman enough for that. So I browned just (ha!) a whole stick, and only poured on about a third of the sauce.
About the sauce–I always wish Laura is in the kitchen with me when I’m browning butter, since I never think I let it go long enough. I kept on keeping on this time, tho, and was rewarded. The butter was nutty and delicious, and the sage leaves really did crisp up beautifully. I had the gnocchi with rainbow chard I sauteed in olive oil and garlic and topped with a squeeze of lemon at the end, another Molly technique. The whole meal really elevated my Sunday night Netflix (Sherlock season 2 finale, if you’re curious), and it was just lovely. Slightly excessive, maybe, but lovely.