I kind of reminded myself of an infomercial when I put “Pound shedding pasta” on the poll last week. But that’s what people ended up voting for! Turns out it’s kind of hard to do because pastas are inherently carb-loaded.
I don’t really see that as a bad thing, but some weight loss people are crazy about eliminating carbs ever since this guy named Atkins… My goal with this post though was to make something is very delicious and slightly healthier than you might otherwise eat.
I came up with this delicious sweet potato gnocchi recipe that turned out much better than I thought it would.
It must be stated for the record that I originally thought about making an even healthier recipe by trying to make cauliflower gnocchi. When I told Betsy about my idea, she honestly replied, “That sounds disgusting.”
I decided she was right. Plus, I’m not sure that it would have technically worked. So I went with sweet potatoes. They are packed with flavor and are slightly healthier than normal potatoes (sweet potato vs. normal potato).
Since really gnocchi is just the veggie plus a bit of flour and an egg, it’s actually pretty healthy for you. Where people get in trouble with gnocchi is the sauce. More on that later!
1) Peel sweet potatoes and cut them into large 2 inch cubes.
2) Boil potatoes in a large pot of salted water (use approximately 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water) Drop chunks of potatoes straight into the water and let them cook until they are very tender, about 20 minutes.
3) After cooking, move the potatoes to a bowl lined with paper towels (this will soak up a lot of water). Let them rest for a few minutes.
4) Add dried potatoes to a much larger bowl and mush them up with a fork.
5) Let potatoes cool completely by placing them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6) For sauce, add a large can of tomatoes (28 ounces – you can use the juice and tomatoes if you want it even lighter) and a few Tablespoons of basil to a blender. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and some garlic and blend it up. This is your sauce.
7) Add one egg to the potatoes and mix well.
8) Slowly add flour, 1/4 of a cup at a time, until the dough starts to come together (approximately 1.5 cups of flour total).
9) To form the gnocchi, take about 1/6 of the dough and add it to a well-floured surface. Turn it around to coat it completely in flour and then start slowly rolling it into a long snake.
10) Once you get the rope of gnocchi to the right width (about the width of your thumb), chop it into 1/2 inch sections.
11) Take each little gnocchi nugget and roll it gently over the tines of a fork to make gnocchi ridges. Place gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet.
12) Add gnocchi to a pot of simmering, water. When they float, they are done!
13) Serve with light tomato sauce or, if you can spare the calories, browned butter is the only way to go. Just toss the gnocchi into the browned butter when they float.
Making the gnocchi
As you can see there isn’t much to this recipe. It’s really all technique which you should not stress out about unless you work in a restaurant and are intending to sell your little pillows of flavor for actual cash money.
For me though, the goal was to produce something light and very tasty.
Start by peeling your sweet potatoes and cut them into large 2 inch cubes. Also, get a large pot of salted water boiling (I use about 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water).
Drop these chunks of potatoes straight into the water and let them cook until they are very tender, about 20 minutes.
The key to making these gnocchi light is to ultimately add as little flour as possible to the dough. That means that you need to draw out as much water as possible from the cooked potatoes. After cooking, I suggest moving the potatoes to a bowl lined with paper towels which will soak up a lot of water. Let them rest for a few minutes.
Then add your dried potatoes to a much larger bowl and mush them up with a fork. No need to bust out the mixer or anything. These mash much easier than normal potatoes. I tried to spread my potatoes out because they need to cool completely before we continue with the recipe.
The sauce issue
I was trying to think of a very low calorie sauce to serve with these guys. Normally, I would sauce them with a little browned butter, but I thought maybe a very light marinara would work.
Basically, I just added a large can of tomatoes (28 ounces – you can use the juice and tomatoes if you want it even lighter) and a few Tablespoons of basil to a blender. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and some garlic if you want and blend it up!
Notice that I left out cheese and any oil at all. I was still worried that the basil and tomato would overpower the sweet potato (which it did), but it was a very light sauce.
Ok. Back to the gnocchi dough. Once your sweet potatoes have cooled to at least room temperature (sticking them in the fridge for 30 minutes would be a good call), add your one egg and mix it well. Then slowly add your flour, 1/4 of a cup at a time, until the dough starts to come together.
Ultimately, you want something that is very soft, but manageable. Something like loose Play-Doh. I ended up adding about 1.5 Cups flour to my dough. Knowing how much flour to add is where experience comes in. If you just follow the recipe you might end up with gnocchi that don’t hold together or are hard as rock.
Just work slowly. Eventually, your dough should look something like this.
Forming the gnocchi
To form the gnocchi, take about 1/6 of the dough and add it to a well floured surface. Turn it around to coat it completely in flour and then start slowly rolling it into a long snake.
Be gentle here people. Try to get it as even a thickness as possible. You’re going for about the thickness of your thumb. Going slowly, I was able to roll mine out to about an 18 inch string of sweet potato awesomeness. Again, you don’t want to add too much flour to the outside of the dough, but if it’s sticking don’t be afraid to sprinkle more down.
Once you get the rope of gnocchi to the right width, chop it into 1/2 inch sections!
Now. If you are doing a lazy man’s homemade gnocchi (is there such a thing?) you can just cook these as is, but if you want them to have a more traditional feel, you need to add the gnocchi ridges.
Take each little gnocchi nugget and roll it gently over the tines of a fork. The dough should be very soft and it won’t take much pressure to leave the impressions of the fork on the gnocchi.
Once you make the ridges, set the gnocchi on a very lightly floured baking sheet while you do the others.
If I had to guess, I would say this recipe makes easily 100 gnocchi. Probably more. I never got into a perfect groove with my grooves. As you can see I’m very far from expert at this. I tried to objectively grade my gnocchi making below. I was all over the map.
Cooking the gnocchi
Cooking these guys couldn’t be easier once you have them made. Just add as many as you need to a pot of simmering, water. A rolling boil will destroy your work! When they float, they are done!
The photo at the beginning of this post is the version I made with the marinara (I simmered it for 5 minutes in a sauce pan just to heat it up and reduce it very slightly). It was good but the marinara definitely over powered the sweet potatoes. I might suggest just a drizzle of olive oil or maybe just eating them naked (the gnocchi, not you).
Storing the gnocchi
Gnocchi that you don’t eat immediately can be frozen for later. Just freeze them on the baking sheet and when they are completely frozen you can store them in a plastic bag for weeks without a problem. No need to thaw before cooking. Just add them straight to the boiling water.
However, if you can spare the calories, browned butter is the only way to go. Just toss the gnocchi into the browned butter when they float! If you need help with your browned butter sauce, check out this post.
The results: Awesome.
The gnocchi are delicious, but it’s hard to find a simple, healthy sauce that doesn’t completely mask the flavor of the sweet potatoes.
If I were doing it all over again, I might try it with the almond sauce that I used for this recipe.
What do you think? Any other ideas for a non-buttery sauce for these guys?