About six years ago, I was in Italy with my ex visiting his enormous family. I didn’t speak Italian, but he did – and even though we had a great trip, the whole experience was mildly terrifying for me.
I would liken it to a demented version of “Meet the Parents.” You know, where there are actually 42 different parents, and they are all yelling at you in a foreign tongue, repeating the same phrase over and over, each time expecting a reaction different from you staring at them blankly and quietly peeing your pants in fear.
The second time we went to Italy, I actually did learn to speak Italian and figured out that they were usually saying things like “wonderful day for a drive!” or “look, that cloud is pretty!” instead of the “why don’t you speak our language yet, you dumb American bitch,” that I had imagined. Go figure.
But on that first visit, I was incredibly intimidated, and the only place I truly felt comfortable was the dinner table. Now that was an experience. Aunts would chatter all day in the kitchen, cooking up a storm for the family meal we’d be eating at 10:30pm – after my stomach had eaten itself, flopped over, and died of hunger. But once the food was on the table, the wait was totally worth it.
It was the first time I had ever tried fresh gnocchi, and a moment I will never forget. I remember thinking they tasted like tiny pillows of heaven. It was love at first bite.
These days, I build a lot of hype around gnocchi nights. We spent a half day making it from scratch once, and didn’t even have leftovers to spare because it was so delicious (see the tutorial and post here).
This time, I opted to trust the grocery store with the labor-intensive part, and focus my efforts on making a delicious fall-themed sauce to top my gnocchi. And oh. my. god. it was incredible. I made it for my friends Amanda and Hunter last week, and they adored it. Which is saying a lot because Amanda doesn’t even like complex carbohydrates.
You know that I never bullshit you with how hard it is to make a recipe, and this one is really very easy. If you can brown butter, you can do it. Even if you’ve never browned butter, you can still do it. I think a seven-year-old could probably handle it solo. Not six, though. That’s definitely too young.
So make this for dinner soon. Or have your seven-year-old make it for you. Just get it made.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter, Hazelnuts, and Sage, serves 5-6
- 2 packages pre-made sweet potato gnocchi (Whole Foods has a great one in the frozen pasta section), plus water and salt to boil it in
- 1/2 c hazelnuts (plus 1.5 c water and 2 Tbsp baking soda to remove skins if they are not already removed)
- 12 Tbsp butter
- 8 leaves fresh sage
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring 1.5c water to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp baking soda and the nuts, boil for about 3 minutes. Remove and drain. Run the nuts under cold water and slip skins off with fingers until all skins have been removed. Dry hazelnuts and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until fragrant and toasty. Give nuts a rough chop.
Next, make the sauce. Melt butter in a large skillet, then add hazelnuts, sage leaves, salt, and pepper. Cook, whisking, over medium heat for about 5 minutes until butter is browned. Light brown specks will form at the bottom and butter will give off a nutty aroma. Sage will crisp up.
Make gnocchi according to directions on package. This usually involves boiling water with some salt, adding the gnocchi, and waiting about 2 minutes until the gnocchi floats to the top. Drain gnocchi and mix with sauce. Serve immediately.