Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Spinach Pesto

Fall is in the air, the trees are turning, the breeze is chilling – excluding the glorious, high 20s degree  weather this past weekend –  and the COVID cases are rising,  It feels like the perfect time to shelter in place and bury ourselves in the comfort of good home cooking, of substantial warming meals that are nourishing to both our spirits and bodies.  I can’t think of anything more appealing at the end of these long, anxiety-ridden fall days than a heaping bowl of warm homemade pasta.

I find gnocchi to be a particularly luxurious and comforting form of pasta because it utilizes potatoes, another hearty and beloved ingredient.  But as much as I love potatoes, I’ve always found sweet potatoes to be a comparable source of great culinary consolation, as well as a whole heap of additional nutrients, so why not make a sweet potato gnocchi!  Pesto works really work with gnocchi, but of course you use a traditional tomato sauce as well.
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Ingredients (makes four to five servings)
For the Gnocchi
2 x 284g bags of cubed frozen sweet potatoes (this is about 2 cups worth if using fresh ones)
1 tbsp of vegan butter
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of pepper
2 cups of flour
1/4 cup of water

For the Pesto
2 cups of spinach
4 tsp of basil (fresh or dried)
1 rounded tsp of garlic 
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1 tsp of salt
1/3 cup of olive oil
2 tbsp of vegan parmesan, plus more for topping (I used Earth Island )

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Directions
For the pesto:
1.  In a blender or food processor, add the 2 cups of spinach, 4 tsp of basil, 1 rounded tsp of garlic, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 tsp of salt, 1/3 cup of olive oil, and 2 tbsp of vegan parmesan.  Set aside.

For the gnocchi:
1.  Cook the sweet potatoes.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.   Add the sweet potatoes, reduce to simmer and cook for approximately 20 minutes, until very tender.
2.  Drain the sweet potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.  Using a fork or potato masher, mash the sweet potatoes until smooth.  Stir in the 1 tbsp of vegan butter, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper.  
3.  Add the 2 cups of flour and 1/4 cup of water and using your hands knead the ingredients into a dough.  The dough is pretty wet, so it’s a bit of messy job.
4.  Grab a handful of the dough (it’s a better to do this a bit at a time) and roll it out with your hand, on a lightly floured surface, to form cylindrical roll that is about 2-3 inches thick.  Cut the dough every 2-3 inches to form smaller chunks of dough.  From here, I prefer to try and make spheres with my gnocchi dough – they seem to hold together better when cooking this way – but they can also be left as rectangular.  Don’t worry too much about the dough aesthetics – no one’s going to judge you for misshapen gnocchi.  It will taste good regardless.
5.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the gnocchi, reduce to simmer and cook for about ten minutes.  They will usually rise to the surface of the water when they are cooked.
6.  Drain the water, and serve the gnocchi topped with the pesto and extra parmesan. 

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