Ahhh. That’s a sigh of relief to be finally posting this recipe. This post has been a long time coming. Like last week, this is not my own recipe. But this again, is too good not to be shared with you.
I discovered this recipe, from Food and Wine, at the beginning of winter and have made it every week since, I think. The first time I made it, Greg declared it as his new favorite meal. And even as I’ve made it many more times, it’s still a favorite. It’s just plain good. Homemade beet gnocchi with a butter sage sauce and topped with toasted walnuts and parmesan cheese – need I say more?
I’ve found some tips and tricks that make the preparation of this meal go smoothly. Today I’m going to share those with you. If you want to make this meal, read the original recipe on Food and Wine. Then read through my tips and take a look at my photos. I feel that a visual always helps. Before making this, I had no experience with homemade gnocchi or pasta of any kind. Trust me, it’s not hard. You can totally do it. And it’s so fun. It’s fun and tastes so good. Have you got a weekend coming up with not much to do? Plan to start this in an afternoon and slowly make your way through the recipe. Play some music, have a glass of wine. You’ll love it.
So, warning: lots of words and photos ahead. If you decide to make this, read and look through. If you aren’t going to make this, look through the photos anyway – this dish is pretty!
1. Use parchment or wax paper to cover your cutting board while peeling roasted beets. While my cutting board still got just a bit stained using wax paper, it’s a lot better than when using nothing at all.
2. The four small beets I used (as you see in the photo) produced just under 1 1/2 cups of beet puree (what the recipe calls for). For a full 1 1/2 cups, I would have used 5 small beets. The amount of beet puree that you use, however, is slightly forgiving in my experience. I have used both slightly less and slightly more than 1 1/2 cups for this recipe and it has always been good.
3. Your beet puree does not have to be perfectly pureed. My food processor can’t seem to puree the beets into a perfectly smooth consistency. There are always still some small chunks. I have learned that not only does it not poorly affect the finished product, I quite like the small chunks of beet scattered throughout the cooked gnocchi.
4. I used white whole wheat flour for this recipe rather than all-purpose flour, just because it’s what I had on hand. It worked quite well.
5. The recipe calls for toasted walnuts. My suggestion is to start toasting walnuts in large batches and keep them on hand. Since I started to make this many months ago, I started to keep chopped, toasted walnuts in a plastic reusable container to use whenever I please. Toasted walnuts taste incredible and go well on so many things. My favorite dishes to sprinkle them on are this, any pasta dish, lentils and green salads. Having them on hand eliminates a step while making this.
6. View my photos on how to easily roll out the gnocchi dough. Once the dough sits at room temperature for 30 minutes, I cut it into 10 mostly even pieces with a sharp knife. I then flour my cutting board, take one piece of the cut dough and roll it into a ball. I place it on the cutting board to coat the ball in flour and roll the ball into a rope, about the length of my cutting board. I then cut that rope, with a sharp knife, into pieces, about 1/2 inch long, usually making 18 gnocchi from one rope.
7. The recipe on Food and Wine calls for 1 1/2 sticks of butter for the sauce. While I do think that butter is delicious, I don’t prefer to use that much on a regular basis. I use 2-3 tablespoons of butter plus a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for the sauce instead. I have never felt that I was missing out on the butter I didn’t add.
8. Speaking of the sauce, don’t skimp on the sage leaves. I don’t always love to buy fresh herbs because I rarely use the entire thing, but for this recipe, buy fresh and use all that you can.
9. I do the ending of this dish a bit differently than the original recipe calls for. What I do (this is what I do instead of steps 6-8 of the original recipe): once the gnocchi is cut and I am ready to cook, I set up my stove with one large pot of boiling water and on another burner, my cast iron skillet. In the cast iron, I melt a couple tablespoons of butter and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I tear the fresh sage leaves into tiny pieces into the cast iron and let them fry while the gnocchi boils. I boil the gnocchi as the recipe says – boiling 1/3 of the gnocchi at a time and removing it from the boiling water with a handheld slotted strainer. Instead of transferring it to an oiled baking sheet, I usually let it drain off very well in the handheld strainer and put it directly into the hot cast iron skillet and turn the heat down to low. You don’t want it to burn, but I like the crispiness the outside of the gnocchi gets as it cooks in the cast iron skillet. Once all the gnocchi is boiled, I let it all cook for several more minutes in the butter/olive oil/sage sauce in the cast iron skillet. I then put it on plates and garnish with the toasted, chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
10. This does freeze so well. With just Greg and I eating, I always freeze half of this recipe. After cutting the gnocchi, I always end up with two cookie sheets full. I place one cookie sheet directly into the freezer for 30 minutes. I then transfer the gnocchi to a gallon-sized zip bag and freeze. When I’m ready to make it (I’ve saved it for up to a month), I cook the gnocchi directly from frozen. We love this as a quick weeknight dinner!
11. The most important tip I have for this dish is to truly enjoy making it. It is a dish that is meant to be enjoyed during the process of making it and the process of eating it. Make sure you do it when you have plenty of time and will not be rushed. I remember one Sunday a few weeks back where I spent the entire afternoon slowly making my way through this recipe and being so happy while doing it. I was even happier when after a long day of cooking, I sat down with Greg and enjoyed this beautiful meal.
Okay, I think I’m done. I know that was a lot to take in. If you want to make this dish and have questions about my experience, leave them in the comments! I hope that you find this helpful, but like with all things cooking, you will of course find your own rhythm and shortcuts as you go. Enjoy!