December 15th, 2010

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maple-Sage Brown Butter


In December, life moves at a crazy pace; it’s a giant snowball, hill-tumbling, avalanching to year-end. With all the demands of the season, it feels like I’m in a race to outrun it. This puzzles me, as my life is scads simpler than it used to be.

When I was full time-full blown catering, outrunning that avalanche was de rigueur for December. Any given day would be crammed with making countless appetizer platters, holiday luncheon spreads, and fruit, cheese, and petite sweet trays while orchestrating concurrent cocktail soirees, dinner parties, and dessert fetes…only to be repeated the next. Days were bleary, and days were Long.

At some point, in the course of this catering mania (We called it The Season We Love to Hate) I’d experience a meltdown. You know, one of those collapses into a tunnel of blind psychotic frenzy that would end with a bout of uncontrolled sobbing. You never knew when it would occur, or what might trigger it.

One morning, in predawn darkness, I spent forty-five minutes ransacking my home, front yard and driveway looking for my car keys—I had to get to the shop to scramble 200 eggs for a company breakfast and I was running horribly late—-only to find them lying on my dresser, under a scarf. Another time, I was talking to a client for the fifth time that day, as she revised her party’s headcount upwards (these late rsvps! we must have enough food!) and dozens of beautifully crafted yeast rolls burnt to a ghastly char in our oven.


Once the meltdown happened, everything would return to normalcy—relatively speaking. Bill always hoped that “the episode” would occur early in the season. “Get it over with and move on.” I always hoped that it wouldn’t occur at all—wishful thinking. In fairness, we had a share of comedic moments to balance out the drama (like the time I ran over the baked glazed ham !) but I am grateful that those days are behind me.

Nonetheless, I have fallen behind this season–cooking, shopping, reviewing, blogging. I have been meaning to share this recipe with you that Maggie and I cooked up a couple of weeks ago! Maggie had much success growing sweet potatoes this year, and we wanted to try some different recipes. And because sweet potatoes are so versatile—you can pretty much interchange them with winter squashes or regular potatoes in many recipes—this gives you a wide range of possibilities. We chose gnocchi. These pretty little knobs are easy-peasy to make, and make an artful accompaniment to the holiday table.


There’s not a terrible lot of ingredients. I put a little minced rosemary to the dough, along with cinnamon, salt, and pepper. I like the additional herbal note that it brings. It complements the maple’s sweetness and is a natural partner with sage. Bake your sweet potatoes ahead of time, and have them scooped out, ready to go.


Working with this dough reminded me of making biscuits—-it takes a similar light (and messy!) hand as you quickly work the potato, egg, and all throughout the flour, massing it into a pliable ball.


Divide the ball into 4, and roll each into long logs. There is a rustic, non-uniform look to gnocchi that appeals to me. It’s also child’s play! Cut them into bite-size pieces–they are ready to cook.

These are quite tasty, especially after being napped in the savory-sweet brown butter. They are rich, too. I think that you’ll enjoy them alongside smoked turkey, or roast pork, even a baked glazed ham, tenderized under the wheel of a whacked-out caterer’s truck.


2 Sweet Potatoes, baked, insides scooped out
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 Egg
4 T. Unsalted Butter, softened
1 t. minced Rosemary leaves
2 t. Cinnamon
Salt and Black Pepper

1 large pot for boiling the gnocchi

In a large bowl, place cooked and cooled sweet potato “meat” along with all the other ingredients and begin mixing them together by hand. It will be a little sticky at first, but continue working the dough, kneading, until it becomes a manageable ball. Beware not to overknead–keep a light hand! Cut the doughball into 4 pieces, and roll them into long log shapes. Cut into pieces.

If you are making these in advance, refrigerate until you are ready to boil them.

Drop the gnocchi into a large pot of lightly salted, boiling water. When the gnocchi float to the surface, (about 5 minutes( they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon or strainer to drain.

Dress with brown butter sauce and serve.



6 T. Unsalted Butter
1/2 c. fresh Sage Leaves
2 T. Maple Syrup
Salt and Black Pepper

In a small skillet on medium beat, melt the butter. Shake and stir it around the skillet as it foams; you’ll notice the milky solids begin to get a toasty brown color. Add the sage leaves and continue stirring. When the butter gets bronzy, remove from heat and stir in the ample syrup.
Toss over gnocchi and garnish with additional sage.


Posted in Pastas, Recipes, Vegetables

29 Responses to “Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maple-Sage Brown Butter”
  1. Barbara Says:

    Honestly, Nancy, you read my mind! I just got back from the grocery and had a sweet potato in my hand…wondering what I could try new.
    This looks divine. Your photos are marvelous and self explanatory. I really like that when trying a new recipe. How will I feel about the sweet maple syrup, I wonder?

  2. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Barbara, the ratio of maple syrup to brown sage butter is small. I wouldn’t want it really sweet. For me, it deepened the flavors.

  3. Ingrid Says:

    Interesting dish! Sounds like a great side dish!

  4. Michele Napoli Says:

    Gnocchi has always been a favorite of mine, and your colorful version sure has that “wow” factor that we are always looking for. This would be perfect to serve to friends that are coming the day after Christmas! For a stress-free day, maybe I’ll make a batch this weekend, freeze on a sheet pan and pop in ziplock bags until then. What do you think?

  5. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Michele, I believe that would work perfectly—I understand that these freeze well, and cook up nicely, w/o thawing. Hope that you all enjoy them!

  6. Faith Says:

    I know, this is such a busy time of year…I keep asking myself when will this month end? I definitely want to slow things down and take some time to enjoy the season. These gnocchi look like a great way to do it, and I think that maple sage brown butter sauce sounds fantastic!

  7. deeba Says:

    Gosh…look at the colours and hues this delicious bowl has taken on. WOW … love the sound of the maple brown butter sauce too Nancy. Takes gnocchi to another level altogether! Mmmm…

  8. pigpigscorner Says:

    I made gnocchi once and loved it! I have to try with sweet potatoes next time!

  9. Maggie Says:

    Nance, this was another fun episode! The gnocchi were excellent, but it was the browned butter sauce that made it sing!

  10. Kristi Rimkus Says:

    My husband loves gnocchi, and I like this recipe that uses healthy and colorful sweet potatoes. You have such terrific directions and pictures, I think I could tackle making these myself!

  11. Fluffy Says:

    Sorry to have been MIA but I had a work meltdown….love your stories and recipes….I’m back

  12., Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Hey Nancy, This looks so delicious and wonderful. I am really hungry and can just taste it in my mind…now I must go and have something that will not be as wonderful, but I will close my eyes and pretend I am eating your Gnocchi.

  13. Joyti Says:

    I was so pleased to read your last comment (about the pear walnut crema tart and the foodbank drive). I’ve never done a food drive/fundraiser (usually, my volunteer work focuses on children’s things like after-school programs)…
    Oh, and your gnocchi looks amazing…and I love the sound of the maple-enhanced sage brown butter.

  14. Cathy Says:

    Yum! I love anything having to do with sweet potatoes. And yes, gnocchi freeze well using the method that Michele Napoli describes.

  15. Sook Says:

    Oh wow, this is such a beautiful dish! I have never tried anything like it before but I do love sweet potatoes. Bookmarked. :)

  16. My Little Expat Kitchen Says:

    Nancy, I can only imagine what you’re going through during these festive times with your work. It must be tough but it looks like you love it very much.
    These gnocchi are amazing. I’ve never made gnocchi before, always wanted to try though. Perhaps I’ll start with your recipe right here.
    Happy holidays Nancy!

  17. Karen Says:

    Nancy, those are beautiful! The combination of sweet potatoes and the maple sage brown butter sauce is sublime. And I love reading about your “melt downs”, although I am sure they only seem funny in hindsight. I’ve been neglecting my blog pretty badly as well. It never fails to amaze me how all of a sudden October turns into Christmas and in the blink of an eye the year is over. I wish we could all find a way to slow down time…

  18. Chocolate Freckles Says:

    Ohhh wow these look divine!!! I love sage it goes perfect with potatoes!! … this recipe looks lovely!

  19. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    I still haven’t tried making gnocchi and I love sweet potato, so…I think I know what needs to happen.

  20. Katie@Cozydelicious Says:

    I love making gnocchi. I have never used sweet potato, but what a great idea! They look so pretty and delish!

  21. Kath Says:

    These look delicious and that butter sounds divine. I couldn’t help but laugh about the gammon/ car incident, but I suspect it was no laughing matter at the time. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, I hope there are no tears this year (or indeed squashed food items).

  22. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    I can sympathize with these breakdowns, although I’ll admit I’ve never been under the pressure that you have to cook on such a large scale and under strict deadlines. I’m glad that you an relax with this sweet potato gnocchi. The colors are so warm and festive for the holidays!

  23. Rach Says:

    Ah yes, the meltdown, one of mine involved running down high street kensington during rush hour with a hot deep fat fryer, 20 balloons and 5 litres of double cream. You make me smile. Your gnocchi looks excellent, as does the sage butter (i like the idea of maple syrup) I love the pictures. Recipe noted for future use. Happy happy holidays to you sweet Nancy, love rachx

  24. FOODESSA Says:

    My Nonna used to make gnocchi and unfortunately as much as everyone devoured them…I was never a fan.
    By the looks of those tantalizing ingredients…just maybe…a sweet potato type could make me a convert?

    Nancy, as usual, it’s always a pleasure to see what you’re stirring up in that kitchen of yours ;o)

    Have yourself a wonderfully festive holiday baking period going forward.
    Ciao for now,

  25. John Reef Says:

    I,ve often made the standard potato gnocchi, but have not considered using sweet potatoes. What you’ve made, Nancy, sounds good and I think it would also work with a traditional Italian tomato sauce; possibly with meatballs and sausages. I might even add some “heat” to the sauce to contrast with the sweetness of the gnocchi.


  26. Tonie Says:

    Nancy I have never made gnocchi but this looks too good, not to at try it. What do you traditionally serve with it?

  27. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Tonie–sorry for the delay in getting back to you—such a busy time with families!. These gnocchi would be good as a side dish with baked ham or roast pork, chicken or turkey. Anything that you can imagine serving a sweet potato with! For a main dish, my friend Maggie sauteed some exotic mushrooms (like chanterelles) and added them to the gnocchi

  28. Cristie Says:

    Oh, I have missed your blogs and the great recipes that come with them. I am going to make this for the New Year. You’re a doll.

  29. TheIronYou Says:

    I tried the recipe: delicious! Thank you for posting it.
    Anyway, I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes, I recently write an article on their health benefits, check it out:

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