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Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

June 13, 2011

When I was 11 or 12, my mother deemed me old enough to make quick visits to the grocery store on my own. We lived in San Francisco at the time, on a dead end street where all the families knew each other. The neighborhood market was within view from our front door so my mother would send me out for whatever missing ingredient she needed.  Getting to the store was the easy part.

To this day, one of my sisters still teases me about those first few errands.  I was a painfully shy girl; I must have returned home with the wrong vegetable a couple of times before I mustered enough courage to ask a store clerk for assistance.  Is that leafy globe a green cabbage or iceberg lettuce?  Parsley or cilantro? Forget about telling mustard greens, collard greens and kale apart. I was hopeless.  Thankfully, store clerks were always happy to help and my mother’s dishes were seldom compromised.

This past week, however, I was the victim of product mislabeling.  I make the experience sound worse than it actually was but I was reminded of my first forays into the grocery store produce section.  I thought I purchased purple yam, ube (ooh-beh), a popular Filipino root vegetable that is used in many desserts.  I had my mind set on making one of those desserts until an online recipe search revealed that the tubers I brought home were in fact purple Okinawan sweet potatoes.  Both have purple meat but their skins tend to differ in color.  I was disappointed and promptly changed my cooking plans though I learned later via some of my Twitter friends and more research that both can be used interchangeably with good results.

Instead of making dessert, I embarked on another challenge: Gnocchi.  Pronounced, nyoh-kee, I was never a big fan of the Italian dumplings.  My experience with them always left me underwhelmed, leaving only an impression of something chewy and flavorless.  That is until I finally tasted the way gnocchi were meant to be.

At Michael Chiarello’s Bottega earlier this year, I was introduced to soft, pillowy and tasty gnocchi.  They needed little to no accompaniment from sauce and the best description I can offer for my experience was that the gnocchi melted in my mouth.  They were slightly browned in olive oil, too. They were perfect.

It was this experience that I wanted to re-live with my first attempt at making gnocchi at home, and I’m pleased to say that I was extremely happy with the results.  I substituted my purple sweet potatoes for regular potatoes and used less flour and egg yolks than called for in Mr. Chiarello’s recipe, so the natural sugary quality of the roasted sweet potatoes came through in the finished dumplings.  The nuttiness of the Parmigiano-Reggiano added to the mixture was also a pleasant complementary note after the initial sweet taste.  The gnocchi were soft, not gummy, and I might add, were also quite fun to make.  I finally had the chance to use my gnocchi paddle.  A couple of tries on the technique and the process took no time at all.  Best of all, who could resist these pretty purple darlings?

The gnocchi can be used immediately or may be frozen for later use.  As I mentioned, they’re also tasty prepared very simply.  I had a taste of them slightly toasted in olive oil and I could have easily eaten my entire batch this way but I prepared something special with them this weekend. I’ll share with you on my next post.

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

* Recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello here.

My changes:

  1. I used 1 pound purple sweet potatoes
  2. I used only 2 egg yolks instead of the 3-4 called for in the recipe
  3. Slightly less than 1/2 cup Parmigiano
  4. I used kosher salt
  5. I used less than one cup flour.  I started by adding only 1/2 cup to the potatoes then sprinkled a bit more as I mixed the dough.
  6. Instead of using a potato ricer, I used my food mill.
32 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2011 9:34 AM

    Very impressive!

  2. Roxan permalink
    June 13, 2011 9:54 AM

    Beatutiful gnocchi! I made it a couple times but I don’t have a potato ricer so mine turn out a bit lumpy. I love that gorgeous purple color too!

  3. June 13, 2011 10:38 AM

    Love, love, love. I can’t help but fall in love with purple potatoes either. 🙂 Such a gorgeous color and totally unexpected!

  4. June 13, 2011 11:05 AM

    Lovely! You mean you can buy fresh ube there? I can only but them frozen here. I remember having eaten purple sweet potatoes before but they weren’t as purple as yours ( or maybe because that was a long time ago, my memory faded). You are such a tease, Jean. I want to eat that now. Dipped in sugar is how I’ll eat it.

  5. June 13, 2011 12:42 PM

    Nice story Jean – I’m impressed you bought the purple sweet potatoes and on top of that you challenged yourself to make gnocci! They certainly look like little pillows and are a pretty color, I can imagine they melted in your mouth like the ones at Bottega:-)

  6. June 13, 2011 2:21 PM

    Wow nicely done! I love the purple, such a creative idea! They are beautiful!

  7. June 13, 2011 2:45 PM

    first class great job looks so pretty

  8. June 13, 2011 2:49 PM

    Your gnocchi paddle looks so cool! Lovely!

  9. June 13, 2011 3:21 PM

    Way to go! Great save, and these look so pretty.

  10. June 13, 2011 4:40 PM

    Hi Jean! Oh wow… you use Okinawan sweet potatoes. I used that to make a sweet potato pie one day (um, with pastry sheet, heehee), and I remember how purple it was and it was really beautiful. Your gnocchi is beautiful Jean! Your pictures captured those cute little gnocchi so well. Did you like Bottega? It’s one of the restaurants we want to try and hopefully soon (with kids, everything gets a little harder). I saw Michael Chiarello outside of his restaurant walking by and I took a picture with him. He seems like a nice guy. I can’t wait to see your next post with gnocci. 🙂

  11. June 13, 2011 5:09 PM

    My initial impression of gnocchi didn’t create a good one too si never have any cravings for it whatsoever. Maybe I need to be re-introduced haha and a good way of introducing them to me is through your purple yum gnocchi… but Jean I thought this is a brilliant take on gnocchi.. who would ever think of using purple yum? Great job!

  12. June 13, 2011 5:12 PM

    Gorgeous color! bet they look even better after cooking! Yummy!

  13. June 13, 2011 5:17 PM

    A brilliant use for the purple sweet potatoes! I can just imagine how pillowy and toothsome they are. And I loved that story – I went through a very shy phase growing up, too, and to muster up the courage to talk is something I remember well 🙂 Asking for a napkin at a restaurant was torture, I would rather use my sleeve, lol!

  14. June 13, 2011 6:15 PM

    How unusual, I love it!

  15. June 13, 2011 6:41 PM

    It’s a great idea and it looks like they came out great!

  16. June 13, 2011 6:45 PM

    Those sound truly amazing Jean! I have to admit I have never made gnocchi and you are making me want to finally give it a try, I love the idea of the sweet potato! Your right about good gnocchi they are a thing of beauty but unfortunately quite rare! Thanks for he inspiration!

  17. June 13, 2011 6:49 PM

    delicious looking gnocchi look wonderful
    check out my event food palette series purple

  18. June 13, 2011 7:47 PM

    I love okinawan sweet potato, they must be amazing as gnocchi! A little sweet and savory with the cheese. The purple color is so nice too. Great job!

  19. June 13, 2011 7:49 PM

    What a stunning color! And so unique. You rolled your gnocchi just perfect. I am a huge fan and these are on my list to try. I bet hubby enjoyed too! 🙂 BTW – Love the first photo – just makes my mouth water!

  20. June 13, 2011 8:30 PM

    Your case of mistaken identity had beautiful results! I’ve never made gnocchi but, in expert hands, they are heavenly and these look amazing! I remember your Bottega post – M. Chiarello would be as impressed as we are 🙂

  21. June 13, 2011 8:39 PM

    I loved your story about your fist forays to the store on your own. It looks as though the product mislabeling turned out really well in this case. What beautiful gnocchi!

  22. June 13, 2011 9:33 PM

    hehehe …Your story made me chuckle. 🙂
    And these are the prettiest gnocchi I have ever seen!

  23. June 14, 2011 5:01 AM

    Your gnocchi are gorgeous – love the natural purple color of these sweet potatoes!

  24. June 14, 2011 7:57 AM

    What a lovely story! It’s sometimes hard to figure out what you’re going to do with a vegetable you expected to be something different — but in this case it looks flawless! Great job!

  25. June 14, 2011 10:03 AM

    I’ve made sweet potato gnocchi, but never with the purple potatoes, so clever. Love the color. It’s hard to make them look as great as you did, fantastic job.

  26. June 14, 2011 12:45 PM

    What a beautiful way to use those potatoes 🙂 I was exactly the same, for a while I kept thinking to myself ‘what’s all this fuss about gnocchi!’ until i tasted the right one 🙂

  27. June 14, 2011 4:48 PM

    Aha…you finally used one of my top favorites in ingredients (besides chocolate), the purple sweet potato! If you scroll through my blog, I have too many purple sweet potato recipes than is legally allowed for one person…LOL. Saying that, I love what you’ve done with yours because this gnocchi looks splendid and I can’t it to see what else you did to them in your next post!

  28. June 14, 2011 6:23 PM

    Oh, your story was so cute and funny! I can see that you did not let the “wrong” ingredient discourage you! I love gnocchi (of course!) and sweet potato sounds like a great variation.

  29. June 14, 2011 7:51 PM

    Oh, Jean. I was reading this as soon as it came out but got pulled away as usual. You must have been a darling even then. I have tried M. Chiarello’s recipe and it was a good one, EXCEPT mine didn’t come any close to how beautiful your gnocchi turned out.

    Thanks for sharing this. I may give gnocchi another try.

  30. June 15, 2011 6:32 AM

    That’s so sweet that you lived in a neighborhood with a grocer down the street. It reminds me of my time in Japan. We didn’t have a grocer around the corner growing up, but I too was a shy child and I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to go by myself at that age. I Love the gnocchi paddle! Your gnocchi are gorgeous and I love the purple hue! My mom loves gnocchi but I’m a little shy about the carbs, and even more shy about making them myself at home. Kudos to you on a job well done. I’ll look forward to part 2!


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