Friday, April 22

One Victory, One Attempt

As I was going through the vegetarian cookbooks I checked out from the library, I came across this recipe which I thought sounded amazing. There was a brief story featured regarding the recipe. It comes from a restaurant (Green), that’s owned by a mom and son in San Antonio, Texas. This happens to be a well known meal at the restaurant. Reading the ingredients which consist of sweet potatoes, cinnamon, and nutmeg, I thought this would be a perfect Fall recipe. Since we live in Michigan and it’s cold even in April, I decided now would be as good of a time as any to try this dish.

I have never made gnocchi. I never even tried gnocchi until this past year when Ryan and I were vacationing in the U.P. and ate at a small family owned Italian restaurant. I ordered the gnocchi as I’ve always wanted to try it. It was very tasty. I had traditional gnocchi, which is why when I saw this recipe for sweet potato gnocchi I thought it sounded pretty interesting. If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen gnocchi served and thought that would be very hard to make. Technically it’s not that hard. 

By technically I mean that if you read the full recipe, the steps really aren’t hard to follow and there aren’t many ingredients. I thought I’d be golden in reproducing this dish. WRONG. I started the day before I cooked the gnocchi by preparing the dough and making the homemade marinara sauce. I have to say the original recipe does not include a lot of detail. I didn’t realize this until I started cooking. Lesson learned. With the lack of detail I had to look a few things up online as I was cooking. How long should I boil the sweet potatoes for before they’re cooked? How long should the marinara sauce simmer for? I know you’re thinking well you just simmer the sauce until it’s warm, however I’ve made sauces in the past where you assemble the sauce at least a day ahead of time so that the flavors really have time to be fully absorbed.

While searching online I learned that the potatoes should boil for about 30 minutes. I was not expecting this to take that long. That’s why when you make gnocchi, it’s wise to start the day before and save yourself some time on the actual cooking day. After the potatoes were cooked I followed the instructions and mashed them with the spices. Pretty easy. Then I added ‘about 11 ounces of flour’ as the recipe states. I’ve made plenty of dough to know that this dough was too sticky to roll with a rolling pin. I then added another cup of flour. I thought it was working as the dough seemed to gain a little bit of consistency, but after it was fully mixed the dough was still too sticky. After reading reviews online I learned that the dough is generally sticky, but you should still be able to roll it. Many reviewers caution against adding too much flower as the gnocchi will become chewy and won’t fully cook. I didn’t want to add too much flour so I followed another reviewers advice; put the dough in the fridge for a few hours. I had high hopes that if I left the dough in the fridge over night it would be more solid by the next day and I could easily roll it out. 

As I was making the gnocchi I decided to make the marinara sauce as well. Like I said in the past I’ve prepared sauces the day before, allowing the flavors to reach their full potential. I’ve had good with this method and decided to follow it even though the recipe didn’t suggest it. I’ve never made marinara sauce from scratch and after reading the simple list of ingredients I wasn’t sure if it would taste good. But I put everything together, let it simmer for a half hour, and cooled it down before storing in the fridge.

The next day I began simmering the sauce on the stovetop while I prepped the dough before boiling it. I plopped the dough onto the counter and was surprised that it was still sticky! There was no way I was going to be able to roll it. As an alternative I floured up my hands and pulled bits of dough forming them into balls. This was not an easy process and I had to re-apply flour as my hands became more gooey. I became frustrated as I pretty much knew these weren’t going to turn out right. I was ready to call it quits as I was starving (Ryan too) and the option of eating out sounded VERY appealing. Ryan convinced me to keep going and see what would happen. When gnocchi is fully cooked, the dough balls float to the top of the boiling water. I decided to try 1 piece to see if it worked before adding all the dough balls to the pot. It floated to the top so I added the rest. As I pulled them out and added them to the strainer, they didn’t look appetizing at all. But I know they’re dumplings and the marinara sauce typically hides their imperfections.

I served the gnocchi in shallow bowls like a restaurant typically does and covered them with the marinara sauce. It had been so long since I had gnocchi that I didn’t remember what the texture should feel like. Ryan and I ate them, but I wasn’t overly impressed with how they tasted. What we absolutely loved though was the marinara sauce! It tasted amazing. Who knew as I didn’t have high hopes for the sauce. Making it was really easy, so now I think we’ll be making our own sauce a lot more.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi 
Adapted from The Best of Vegan Cooking, by Priscilla Feral (Amazon Affiliate link)
Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 40 mins.
Cook time: 20 mins.

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • About 11 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Cut sweet potatoes in half and boil in salted water.
  2. Once potatoes are cooked, peel, mash and add: nutmeg, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
  3. Add flour to potato mixture and knead until dough is smooth (but don’t overwork the dough).
  4. On a floured table roll the dough out to a 1/4 inch thick. With a knife cut into 1 inch squares and drop into boiling water.
  5. Remove the gnocchi with a strainer when they begin to float. Add sauce and serve.

Marinara Sauce
Adapted from The Best of Vegan Cooking, by Priscilla Feral (Amazon Affiliate link)
Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 5 mins.
Cook time: 20 mins.

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cups crushed canned tomatoes

  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add ingredients in this order: olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and herbs.
  3. Simmer for 20 minutes.*
     *Recommendation: Make sauce the day before it’s needed. Simmer for 30 minutes and refrigerate once cooled.

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