Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Hazelnuts
February 21, 2011

I just have to show you the Valentine's gift that my husband gave me.  He knows I'm a big Trekkie.  Did you get flowers or jewelry for Valentine's?  I got a pizza cutter.  And I loved it.  When I was a kid, my brothers and I had a model of the Starship Enterprise hanging above our T.V. set by a piece of fishing line.  Bless my little Italian mother - she never made us take it down, although it must have looked so dumb to guests.  I thought about hanging my new pizza cutter from my pot rack in my kitchen, just to bring back old times.   Maybe not.

These sweet potato gnocchi are so delicious.  This dish is so rich and so flavorful, it really needs to be the main event in a meal. The sweetness of the potato, the saltiness of the pancetta and the crunch of the hazelnuts is just a perfect combination. I use half russet potato and half sweet potato to get what I think is the perfect sweet potato gnocchi.  If you use all sweet potato, I think the taste is a little over the top sweet.

You will need a potato ricer for this dish, but you can get one anywhere. They really provide the right consistency for the potatoes to make the dough.  Be sure to cool the potatoes just to the point to where they are still warm, so they bind well with the egg and the flour.

This dish can be a great vegetarian entree, if you leave out the pancetta. 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi 

for a printable recipe, click here

serves 3-4

You will need a potato ricer for this recipe

It is important for this recipe to have your eggs, flour, and potato ricer ready when your potatoes come out of the oven.  The potatoes should cool slightly, but it's important for them to still be warm when you add the eggs and flour, otherwise they will not bind as well together.




Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place hazelnuts on foil and toast the hazelnuts in a 400 degree F oven for about 8 minutes.  Immediately wrap hazelnuts in a clean towel and let steam for about 5 minutes. Roll the hazelnuts around in the towel - this will remove a lot of the skins.  Take the hazelnuts out and set aside.

Place the potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for about one hour, or until they are soft and easily pierced with a sharp knife. Set aside to cool slightly.  

Meanwhile, line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper.  A pastry scraper helps a lot in making gnocchi.  Cut potatoes in half and remove their skins. Force potatoes through a ricer.  Make a mound on a work surface with the potatoes and make a well in the center.  Beat the eggs slightly in a small bowl and pour into the well. Sprinkle a cup of the flour onto the potatoes and with a fork, start mixing the eggs and incorporating the flour and potatoes together.  Add another half cup of flour and with a pastry scraper, mix the ingredients together until a dough begins to form.  Add another half cup of flour and work into dough. Use a pastry scraper to scrape up the dough and fold it back on itself.  Use additional flour if dough is overly sticky. You want the dough to be slightly sticky, but not too sticky.  

Cut off a chunk of dough and roll it out into a rope about 1/2 inch in diameter.  If the dough is too sticky, it will be hard to roll but if it is too dry, it will not stick enough to the counter for you to be able to roll it out.  This takes practice to get a feel for this, but it's very easy.  Use a little sprinkling of flour on the counter if the dough is sticking too much.  After you roll out the rope, then sprinkle the rope with flour and cut either with the pastry scraper or a sharp knife into inch long pieces.  Place on the wax paper on one of the baking sheets and sprinkle with additional flour so the gnocchi don't stick together.  Repeat with remaining gnocchi and refrigerate until ready to cook.

In a large skillet, fry the pancetta until crisp. Remove and let drain on paper towels.  Wipe fat out of pan. In same pan, warm the olive oil, butter, nutmeg,  and sage together over low heat. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Have a strainer or spider ready. Place half the gnocchi gently into the water.  Do not let the water boil vigorously, just gently. When the gnocchi float to the top, continue to cook them for about 30 seconds.  Remove with the strainer and place in the skillet with the warmed oil and butter. Cook the rest of the gnocchi, add to the skillet along with the pancetta and toss gently.   Add sea salt to taste.  Transfer to a serving dish and toss with the cheese.  Sprinkle hazelnuts on top.  

Article originally appeared on The Italian Dish (http://theitaliandishblog.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.