Sweet potato ricotta gnocchi…for breakfast!

December 10, 2010 § 13 Comments

So, I just had a revelation.  Or at least, it felt like a revelation at 6 am, when I was still rubbing sleep out of my eyes.  We’ll see how it stacks up now that I’m in a slightly more awakened state.  I was thinking about why I like eating breakfast in my PJs so much.  Even if I take a shower before breakfast, I have a tendency to put my pajamas – and usually a big fuzzy sweater – back on, then go and eat breakfast, and then finally get dressed and gussied up for the day.  This morning, I suddenly realized that while many people need the time it takes to shower, spruce up, and generally get ready to go to work before they can gather the where with all to grab breakfast, I need the time it takes to eat breakfast and sip a cup of coffee in order to work up the gumption to put on my clothes for the day.  Not particularly revelatory yet?  Well, wait, it gets better!  I also realized that one of the most relaxing parts of vacation, for me at any rate, is sitting for a long time at the breakfast table in my pajamas, browsing over the newspaper and making my way through a little too much coffee.  And, even if I’m not on vacation, if I wear my PJs at breakfast, I can still conjure up a little hint of that leisurely feeling, starting the day off on a more tranquil note.

We are heading due north into the season of laid back, drawn-out holiday breakfasts, and I can’t wait.  No, really, I can’t wait.  I’ve totally jumped the gun and have been cooking all manner of scrumptious, not your everyday toast, this is the most important meal of the day so why not seriously enjoy it, breakfasts.  Even though it’s still a couple of weeks until vacation.  (So, if I proceed to write a string of breakfast posts, that’s why.)  On this one, though, I outdid even my breakfast-obsessed self.  It’s simply so good, I’m not even sure what to do with myself.  I want to make it over and over and over again.  And I probably will.

It all started with some leftover ricotta cheese.  Ricotta is one of my favorite leftover ingredients to have.  It’s such a nice dolloping agent.  You can dollop and schmear it on this and that, and it is nearly always good.  Anyways, my last half-cup of ricotta was causing me much anguish because I was torn about what I wanted to do with it.  I really wanted to make sweet potato and ricotta gnocchi.  But, I was also craving ricotta pancakes (we made some last summer, with huckleberry sauce, and they were the most wonderful fluffy little coins of maple-syrup drizzled goodness).  Whoa is me!  What a conundrum!  But, suddenly a solution dropped out of the blue and nestled itself in the space between my ears.  Why not make breakfast gnocchi?!  That way I could have it all!  And now that I’ve gone and made it, I’m wondering why I haven’t been making breakfast gnocchi for years.  They are phenomenal!  Darling, soft little pillows of rich, sweet ricotta and sweet potato flavor.

The gnocchi by themselves are delicious, but then I coated them with a buttery maple-syrup glaze, touched with a just a hint of orange and cinnamon.  My friends, I seriously think this is what angels eat for breakfast!  I easily could have eaten the entire batch myself (and then probably would have wanted to go back to bed to nap and digest, so I guess it’s good that I didn’t)!  And, I was also astounded by how simple they were to make.  If you don’t include the time it takes to cook the sweet potato – which you could do at some earlier point, anyway, so I’m not going to count it – they were mere minutes in the making (okay, well, more like 15-20, but that’s still pretty good).  Mere minutes, for a breakfast worthy of the most 5-starish bed & breakfast in the land, if I do say so myself!  Now that’s a pretty good trade off.  Consider me a newly minted gnocchi devotee.  I can’t wait to try all sorts of other fun flavor possibilities for breakfast gnocchi…except I also just want to eat these ones!  (Oh, and of course, if you’d prefer you can pair the gnocchi with a savory sauce – a cream sauce, a tomato sauce, or a brown butter and sage sauce – and then have them for dinner instead.)  What are your favorite leisurely breakfasts?

Sweet Potato Ricotta Gnocchi (serves 4)

  • 1 pound or a little more, swet potato
  • 1/2 cup full fat ricotta
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 4 teaspoons chopped, toasted pecans
  1. Heat your oven to 400F. Wash your sweet potatoes and score them with an x. Place them on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven until very soft, close to an hour. Allow to cool, remove the peels, and press the potatoes through a potato ricer. Take out one cup of the mashed sweet potato – if there is any extra you can use it for something else.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the sweet potato mash, ricotta, salt, and egg until combined. Then, stir in the flour 1/4 cup at a time, just until you have a workable dough. It will be sticky and a little tricky, but you want to use as little flour as possible so that your gnocchi don’t wind up dense and chewy.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and keep your hands floured as well. Divide it into four pieces and roll each piece into a log that is about an inch thick.
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut the logs into 1 inch pieces. Then, use the back of a fork to press lovely little tine marks into your gnocchi (this is optional, but it looks nice). If it’s going to be a bit until you cook your gnocchi, refrigerate them until you’re ready. At this stage they can also be spread on a baking sheet and frozen, then stored in the freezer. Don’t defrost frozen gnocchi, just toss them right into your boiling water.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently add in about half of your gnocchi. Boil until they come rising up to the surface, and as soon as they rise up, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl. Once the first half of the gnocchi is done, cook the second half in the same manner.
  6. Make your maple-butter sauce (see below). Once the sauce is cooked, stir the gnocchi into the frying pan with the sauce, stirring them to get them all well coated. Cook them on medium for a minute or two on each side, until they look a little golden.
  7. Divide the gnocchi between four bowls and sprinkle each bowl with the toasted pecans. Me being me, I discovered that the gnocchi were also absolutely phenomenal with a little dollop of whipped cream on top (or creme fraiche), if you’re feeling decadent.

maple-butter sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. In a rather large frying pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat until it is foaming. Stir in the orange zest, and cook, stirring frequently until the butter has browned and smells wonderful and nutty.  Add in the rest of the ingredients, stir well to combine, then cook for a minute or two until the sauce thickens slightly.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium or medium-low and stir in the gnocchi and finish (see above).

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