Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ Sage Pesto
It is funny how the mind works. People often ask me “how do you come up with your recipes?” or “what inspires you most?” and those questions are never easily answered. I always say that it depends; whether it be a recent dining experience, a magazine article in the latest Bon Appetit, or a recipe that I once spotted on another blog, there is really no “one place” that the inspiration comes from. Sometimes, it happens from one single ingredient that I mull over in my brain until I think of all it’s possibilities for combinations. Recently, at our favorite wine bar, Kris and I had ordered the sweet potato fries that were topped with this incredible cheese; called Ekte Geitost. It is a Norwegian goat’s milk cheese that is heated until the sugars in the milk begin to caramelize (which gives it it’s signature brown color). This cheese is seriously heavenly. It’s a mild cheese that tastes sweet of caramel and almost has a nutty and buttery finish. It is melts incredibly and is super smooth. I honestly couldn’t get enough, and there was no way we were leaving without taking some home. We bought a small block and the wheels in my head began to turn.
I have been wanting to make pasta from scratch for quite a while, but the task always seems pretty daunting to me. I didn’t grow up with an Italian grandmother or in the heart of New York where I could witness the magic of homemade noodles. Shoot, the closest thing I have to Italy is Giada de Laurentiis. I have never met her but she is someone who inspires me whenever I watch her show on the Food Network. I once saw her make a sweet potato gnocchi and I thought “now, that seems like something I can do”. Gnocchi do not take much time nor a whole bunch of utensils and equipment. They seemed pretty straightforward so I decided to give them a try and I was happily surprised with the outcome. The little pillows are soft yet al dente and have so much flavor. I decided to pair them with a healthy pesto to lighten them up a bit (I didn’t want a buttery cream sauce that I thought would make them too rich). Of course, I was saving the richness for the Geitost cheese. The gnocchi were perfect with just a few shavings of the cheese and I was so happy with the finished product. I definitely recommend that you try this cheese at some point and hopefully use it in this dish, because it is so worth it!
- 1.5 cups spinach, packed (the most spinach you can get to fit in the cups)
- 2 TBSP fresh sage leaves, packed
- 1 TBSP fresh cilantro, packed
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- heaping 1/4 cup pistachio nut meats
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small sweet potato
- 1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta* (see note)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- Freshly shaved Ekte Geitost for garnish* (see note)
- Add all the ingredients into the food processor except the olive oil and pulse three times. Then, while the motor is running, add in the olive oil through the feed tube of the processor until everything is combined well. Set the pesto aside (there will be leftover pesto and I do not consider this a problem).
- Preheat the oven to 425. Line a small baking sheet with foil and place the sweet potato on the foil. Poke a few holes in the potato with a fork and then bake for about 50 minutes until the potato is tender and fully cooked. Cut in half and let cool (It is important to let the sweet potato fully cool so that there is no more steam coming from the potato or else it will make the dough very wet). Scoop out the inside flesh of the potato and measure 1/2 cup before adding it into a large bowl. Add the pumpkin puree, ricotta cheese, salt, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and blend until it is all mixed well.
- Using 1/2 cup of flour at a time, slowly mix in the flour with a spatula. Once you have added about 1 cup of flour, start using your hands to kneed the dough. Add the other 1/2 cup of flour and form the dough into a round disc. Lightly flour a surface and cut the dough in half, and then each half into thirds. Roll out each segment into a long rope (about an inch wide). Cut the rope into small 1-inch pieces (the gnocchi puff up a lot when cooking so if you want them smaller cut them into half-inch slices). Roll the gnocchi pieces over the tines of an upside-down fork to create the little grooves (this helps the pesto sauce stick to the gnocchi, but can be skipped if you are short on time).
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi in 3 batches and cook until tender but still al dente (6 minutes per batch; taste and make sure the “raw flour” taste is cooked out). Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon and put into a bowl (tent the bowl with foil to keep the gnocchi warm while you are finishing the other batches). Add about half of the pesto to all the gnocchi and toss to combine. Serve immediately with freshly shaved Ekte Geitost. Enjoy!
- I highly recommend using the whole milk ricotta as opposed to skim milk ricotta. It is such a small amount in the batter (so you really aren’t sacrificing your waistline too much) and the creaminess adds a lot of flavor.
- Ekte Geitost is an incredible Norwegian caramelized goat cheese I found at our local wine shop. If you can’t find it use freshly shaved parmesan or pecorino.