By Angela Denstad Stigeler
A recent addition to our household cookbook library got a bit of a trial by fire when, in the mood for something new, we decided last-minute that the usual Sunday roast needed a rest. In my sights were the sweet potatoes that would’ve been an accompaniment, and the Paul McCartney-endorsed Meet Free Monday Cookbook. Inside its visually appealing pages, one of the first recipes listed is a dish of sweet potato gnocchi, which are little dumplings that are traditionally sauced and eaten like pasta. So I decided to give the spotlight to the sweet potatoes, mashing them up into a quick dough. To make this Monday dish a bit more Sunday special, I took more care with forming the gnocchi, employing a traditional Italian technique of rolling the cut gnocchi against the tines of a fork to make grooves in them for gripping the sauce.
In short, my groovy meat-free gnocchi were a big hit. They were quite easy to make and the spring-like no-cook sauce hit just the right note. Time will tell if the book will be as much a household staple as its main proponent’s music, but so far, we’re off to a sweet, meat-free meal start.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto
1 1/3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2)
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup semolina (cream of wheat)
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pesto*
2 ¼ cups arugula
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons pine nuts
½ cup olive oil
Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain and leave to cool.
Place all the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor or pound with a mortar and pestle to make a coarse paste.
Mash the potatoes in a bowl until smooth. Add the butter, flour, semolina, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Mix to a dough. Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each piece into a long roll about ¾ inch in diameter, using additional flour as necessary. Cut each roll across unto equal-size disks. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drop the gnocchi into the water in batches and cook for 3-5 minutes until they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm while you cook the rest. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, stir in the pesto, thinning with pasta cooking water as necessary, and serve.
*spinach or herbs, like basil, may be substituted for the arugula if you prefer, and almonds or walnuts can stand in for the pine nuts.
Recipe adapted from Meat Free Mondays Cookbook, forward by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney.