Comfort food preferences are as personal as it gets and my ultimate comfort food is gnocchi. For me, comfort not only comes in those pillows of soft baked potato but in the making of the dish as well -– the mixing, rolling, cutting, and shaping, which is a choreography that's intrinsically cathartic. I didn't grow up eating this style of gnocchi as we were quite the traditionalists, but for the last few years this Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Balsamic-Brown Butter Sauce has been a cold weather staple.
plus more to taste
as needed, plus more for garnish
plus more for garnsish
quartered and thinly sliced
For the gnocchi: Heat an oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil, season with a few good pinches of salt and a few cranks of pepper, place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast until fork tender, about 30 minutes.
Set aside until cool enough to handle. Scoop flesh out of skins then pass flesh through a potato ricer (or mash with back of a fork) and stir in cheese, egg, honey, and the 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms. Taste and add additional salt, as needed. You've added enough flour when you touch the back of the dough and it is damp but not sticking to your hand.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into a square. Use a bench scraper to divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into a rope (about 1/2 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. (However, don't add too much additional flour, as too much will make for heavy gnocchi.) Cut each rope into 1/2 -inch pieces. Stop here or, as desired, using your thumb, roll each piece down over the tines of a fork to indent.
Gnocchi can be made formed up to 1 month ahead - stored frozen in an airtight container.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, simmer gnocchi until they float then cook and additional 30 (if fresh) to 60 seconds (if frozen). Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a clean rimmed baking sheet. Reserve 2/3 cups of pasta cooking water and drain the rest.
Gnocchi can be made 4 hours ahead -- let stand at room temperature then dip in simmering water until heated through.
For the sauce: Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it foams, add sage and cook until crisp and fragrant. Remove sage to a plate and return frying pan to stove. Add shallot and, watching it carefully and stirring often, allow the milk solids to begin to brown and the butter to become fragrant and nutty. Scrape along the bottom to prevent the solids from sticking and burning.
This is enough sauce for half of the gnocchi. If you want to cook off all the gnocchi, go ahead and double the recipe. Just note that I'd recommend you make this sauce through twice as doing twice this amount in one pan would be unwieldy.
When the butter is brown, immediately remove from heat, and carefully stir in the vinegar (otherwise it may sting your eyes). Stir in pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, return to heat, and cook until just coated in the sauce. Add a lot of freshly ground black pepper, taste for seasoning and finish with additional pasta water, salt, black pepper, the crisp sage, and freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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Photography by Christopher Kalima