Sweet potato gnocchi with sage butter

Gnocchi are small Italian dumplings that may or may not be made from potatoes and flour—though the potatoes and flour combination is common. They have more of a bite than mashed potatoes, but they are much softer and more tender than pasta.

I love gnocchi.  I love it so much.  I have a hard time expressing why.  But then, it’s not hard to love something’s that carb-y, potatoe-y, cheesy, and bite-sized. And, while they take a fair amount of preparation, they store well after they’ve been boiled and frozen, so you can make a super batch and hold the rest for when you want a quick dinner during the week.

Characteristic of gnocchi are grooves and/or a dimple in each dumpling, meant to hold onto sauce for optimal yumminess. You’re supposed to either use a gnocchi board, which I don’t have, or use the back of a fork and flick off each individual dumpling. I have not mastered this technique. When I “flick” off each dumpling, it doesn’t make much of an indentation. When I apply a heavier hand, the dumpling become a little misshapen. That’s not a big deal, though, because you can easily press the dumpling back into its desired shape.

Armed with this knowledge, I started making gnocchi in a lazy-bastard way, in a way that minimized the time it took for me to put indentations in each individual dumpling. (I’ve detailed this method at the bottom of the post.) I feel very guilty over being “inauthentic,” but I think it’s allowable because this sweet potato version is not exactly traditional. And sometimes, we just want some quick and dirty gnocchi for dinner, right?

Acquiring/making a gnocchi board is totally on my list of stuff to get/do. Some other day, I will spend hours painstakingly shaping each dumpling after I spent hours YouTub’ing videos on how to do this. I console myself with this promise.

Sweet potato gnocchi with sage butter
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
  • 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 heavy pinch salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup butter
  • 10 or so fresh sage leaves, in a chiffonade
  • ¼ cup (or more, or less) of grated hard Italian cheese, to taste
  • Additional salt to taste
  1. Boil or bake the whole potatoes until they are soft (about 45 minutes).
  2. Save the hot water, or bring new water to boil in a large stock pot. Near the stock pot, on the counter, place a large bowl filled halfway with cold water. Add a few ice cubes to keep the water cold.
  3. While still hot/warm, peel the cooked potatoes and push through a ricer or a sieve into a clean, large bowl.
  4. Make well in center of potatoes and add egg, cinnamon, and salt in the center. Lightly distribute the flour evenly over the top of it all.
  5. Using a light hand (and a large fork) stir the flour and egg into the potato, using a "fluffing" motion to keep the potatoes from getting overly dense and packed.
  6. Once well incorporated, pinch off a baseball sized hunk and roll into a ball.
  7. Sprinkle flour on the counter and roll the ball into a ¾-inch worm.
  8. Press the tines of the fork into the body of the "worm" so you can see the indentations. These grooves help hold sauce. If you press too hard and it gets flattened, it's okay. Use your fingers to press the sides of the worm back into a roundish shape. (Alternatively, if you have a gnocchi board, you can use that. Though, if you have a gnocchi board, you are probably not reading my directions ;D)
  9. Cut the worm into 1-inch segments with a butter knife, the side of your fork, or a fancy cutting wheel, if you have that.
  10. Repeat with the whole batch of dough, placing finished gnocchi on a lightly floured sheet pan or something comparable.
  11. When done with whole thing, drop gnocchi into boiling water, about 6-10 at a time, depending on your stock pot. Cook until they float (it won't take very long, 1 minute at most).
  12. Start fishing out gnocchi as they float to the top, depositing them in the cold water to stop the cooking process. Repeat with the rest.
  13. Once all gnocchi are in an ice bath, warm up a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Melt the butter, not letting it burn or brown too much.
  14. Drain the gnocchi from their ice bath. Add to warm pan and toss lightly, letting the butter warm up the dumplings. (Alternatively, you can panfry the gnocchi to get them crispy and awesome, but this may require a tad more butter in the pan. ;D)
  15. After about 5 minutes or until the gnocchi is warmed through again, sprinkle on sage leaves and toss again. Take off heat and transfer to serving bowl.
  16. Toss in grated cheese while gnocchi is still steaming. Salt to taste. (The amount of salt depends on just how much cheese you put in.)

They sort of look like Circus Peanuts candy, don’t they?  Trust me, though, they taste way yummier.

I was once obsessed with making gnocchi as light and fluffy as possible so I reduced the amount of flour in the dough. The result was gnocchi that disintegrated in the water. That said, gnocchi making doesn’t seem to be an exact science, so once you get a feel for the firmness and texture of the dough, you can pretty much make it whenever you want, without a recipe. You can also experiment with different starches and potatoes and get really creative with it. I’ve always wondered, for instance, how gnocchi would turn out if all-purpose flour was substituted with potato flour or potato starch and do a completely gluten-free version. I’ll experiment and there’ll eventually be a recipe for this.

Okay, here’s my lazy-bastard method of forming gnocchi, in pictures (I’m already ducking because I scared of being slapped by the gnocchi-making gods):


  • Myaa MiDen Yeakey

    I made this today and it’s pretty good! for the recipe, I like the salty and sweet together. How do I avoid mushiness?

    • Stacy Nguyen

      You can add a little bit more flour until the dough feels more substantial and less sticky. :)

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  • I have always wanted to try this. I have had some delicious spinach gnocchi, and while I’m not enamored by plain potato gnocchi, I think using sweet potatoes would be absolutely delectable!

    • :) I’ve never had spinach gnocchi before! I’ll have to be on the look out from now on.