Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Browned Butter – Fluffy pillows of sweet potato dumplings are tossed in a sage and browned butter sauce to make for a comforting pasta dish you didn’t know you needed!
Years ago, I detailed a pasta dish that changed my life forever. It was gnocchi with pesto cream sauce and it was so incredibly flavorful and tender. This dish inspired me to develop my own interpretation that has become one of my most popular recipes here at CPA. Now, I have a fall version that is equally rich and life-changing: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Browned Butter.
This gnocchi was also inspired by a dish I had at a local restaurant years ago. This was long before sweet potato became a mainstream hit so I was a little hesitant to try it in gnocchi-form. And on top of that, the sauce was made from just butter and sage? No cream? no tomato? I was skeptical.
But man, was I wrong. The sweet potato gnocchi was just as fluffy and tender as the original version, but, if you can believe it, it was even more flavorful. Because of this inherit flavor, it shines on its own with little help from a heavy sauce – that’s why it pairs so perfectly with a light toss in sage and browned butter.
Just like I did with my other favorite gnocchi dish, I had to recreate this sweet potato version for you guys. Without further ado, here it is!
What is gnocchi?
When I was telling people about this incredible dish, I was shocked to find out that gnocchi was not as widely known as I thought. If you fall into that category of people who have never heard of this classic Italian dish, have no fear – I’m here to break it down for you.
Gnocchi is an Italian dumpling that is shaped into small little pillows, which is then boiled and served with a sauce, similar to a pasta dish. It is traditionally made with a starchy potato, usually a Russett. This version is made with sweet potatoes.
Gnocchi can be served in as many varieties as any other pasta. I’ve had it with cream sauce, red sauce, meat sauce, and a light toss in butter and herbs, like this recipe.
Only recently have I been able to find gnocchi in the grocery store, next to the rest of the pasta. But let me warn you – the store-bought version is NOTHING like the homemade version. Homemade gnocchi is so much lighter and fluffier and melts in your mouth with every bite. The store-bought varieties are a little tougher, still tender, but nothing like the little clouds from heaven that you get with the homemade stuff.
How to make sweet potato gnocchi
Making the dough
The process of making this sweet potato gnocchi starts with baking the sweet potatoes. I do it in the microwave because I don’t have time to preheat an oven and then bake sweet potatoes for almost and hour. It only takes about 5 minutes to cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave.
Once the potatoes are cooked, I push them to a ricer to break them up. You could alternatively mash them with a fork but sweet potato tends to be stringy so I like using a ricer to help smooth it out.
Then, I add in the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, salt, and my special ingredient – nutmeg. Nutmeg is my all-time favorite spice to add to sweet potato, pumpkin, and squash dishes. It adds such depth and warmth to those ingredients and really helps them shine.
Mix together the ingredients with a fork. This helps keep the dough light and fluffy.
Next, add in the flour and form the dough. I give it a few kneads to help it all come together.
Forming the gnocchi
Once the dough is formed, you’ll split it up into six even wedges. Each wedge is then rolled into a long log and then cut into little 1-inch dumplings. You can make the dumplings as rustic or fancy as you want. I tend to err on the rustic side when making my gnocchi. I don’t worry too much about making them all look the same or give them a fancy pattern or anything.
How to make the sauce
Once the gnocchi is formed and boiled, it’s time to make the sage and browned butter sauce. This is the easiest sauce you’ll ever make. It starts with cooking butter until the solids turn brown and give off a nutty smell. Be careful during this step- the butter can quickly go from browned to burned so keep an eye on it!
Once the butter has browned, add in the sage to crisp it up get all the flavor into the butter. And that’s all there is to it! You simply toss the boiled gnocchi in the sauce and serve.
Tips and Tricks
- Use a potato ricer to break up the potato. Do not use a food processor or it will make the gnocchi gummy and pasty. It will be impossible to work with. The ricer makes the potato super fluffy so it will mix easily with the flour and egg. I didn’t have a ricer so I had to buy one. This is the one I got and it worked perfectly.
- Do not over-work the dough. You just need to combine it enough to bring it all together. Otherwise, your gnocchi will be dense and tough.
- If you want to save some time, you can make them ahead of time and and place in the freezer before boiling. To make sure the gnocchi doesn’t stick together while freezing, freeze on the baking sheet while the gnocchi are separated. Once they are solid, you can place the frozen gnocchi in a storage bag or container and keep for later. Just toss them into a pot of boiling water when ready to make.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Browned Butter
- 2 extra large sweet potatoes (1 pound each)
- 12 ounces ricotta cheese drained for 2 hours
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 1 cup butter unsalted
- 6 tablespoons chopped sages plus whole leaves for garnish
- Using a fork, prick sweet potatoes all over. Microwave for 5 minutes or until softened. Cut if half and cover with foil for about 10 minutes. Scoop flesh out of the skins (or simply peel skin off) and put flesh into a large bowl. Mash together with a fork or use, preferably, use a potato ricer to really help the potato break down.
- Add ricotta, Parmesan, brown sugar, nutmeg, and salt to sweet potato. Mix all together with a fork to keep it all fluffy. Add flour ½ cup at a time and mix with a wooden spoon. Stop adding flour when the dough forms.
- Dust a clean counter with flour. Pour dough onto counter and knead into a smooth ball with your hands. Cut into 6 even wedges. Starting with one wedge, roll into a log and then into a long strip about 20 inches long. Cut the strip into 20 pieces, no longer than 1 inch. Roll each piece into a smooth cylinder. Add flour to a baking sheet. Place formed dumplings onto baking sheet while you make the rest of them. Repeat with the rest of the dough wedges.
- Fill a large pot with water and set it over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to water. Once boiling, add gnocchi 1/3 of the gnocchi. Cook until the gnocchi float to the top, about 5 minutes. Grease baking sheet with nonstick spray. Remove cooked gnocchi from water and drain on greased baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi.
- Add 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick) to a large skillet. Place over medium heat until the butter had a nutty smell and the solids have browned. This takes about 8-10 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of chopped sage. The butter will foam. Gently stir the butter and sage until the foaming has stopped. Add 1/2 of the gnocchi and cook until the gnocchi has heated through, about 5 minutes. Pour gnocchi into serving dish or individual plates. Repeat with the rest of the butter, sage, and cooked gnocchi. Serve immediately.