Sweet Potato & Sage Roman Gnocchi

gnocchi romaine

Sweet potato & sage gnocchi (Roman style)

As some of you may know, I’m married to a Frenchman but whether he’s a true Frenchman can be a bit of a debate.  He’s Corsican.  Although the island of Corsica officially belongs to France, their cuisine is more Italian in spirit.  More on that subject later…  In our house, we tend to eat a lot of pasta.  The children LOVE to get covered in flour making homemade tagliatelle: I prefer that the flour coats the pasta. 😉

This has to be another of my favourite Italian-style dishes.  We all know gnocchi as the round little potato dumplings but this version is baked in the oven, Roman-style. I found this recipe for Baked Butternut Squash Gnocchi by Jean-Christophe Novelli in a magazine ages ago and since then I’ve been playing around with it, as it’s so versatile:  in place of the butternut squash I’ve used pumpkin, parsnips and here I’ve used sweet potato.  They all work wonderfully.

In summer I’ve even tried this with roasted red peppers (skins removed.) It completely transforms this dish.  Serve it as bright red gnocchi with fish for a real treat.  Don’t forget you can also chop and change the herbs – with lemon thyme, basil and rosemary, depending on your accompaniment.

Serve this as a starter or a main course, top with some good melting cheese and finish off under the grill.  Serve with a rocket salad tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and toasted pine nuts.  You could use polenta instead of the semolina but I personally find the semolina is lighter.   Use wholemeal semolina, if you’re wanting to be particularly healthy.  I love serving this as a side dish (without the cheese topping) to accompany saltimbocca or roast chicken.

Serves 4 people as a main dish or 8 as a side dish or starter.
Adapted from a recipe by Jean-Christophe Novelli

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes + 40 minutes

2 sweet potatoes (about 550g), peeled & chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 sage leaves, finely chopped
100g semolina
50g  Parmesan cheese, grated (or grana padano)
65g butter, softened
3 large organic eggs
125ml carton crème fraîche
Fontina, gorgonzola or taleggio (good melting cheeses)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Throw the sweet potato, garlic and sage in a roasting tin.  Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes. There’s no need to use oil if you cover with the foil.

    No need for oil since roast covered in foil 

  3. Whiz the potato, garlic and sage in a food processor until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and add all the other ingredients.  Season to taste.
  4. Spread the mixture in a brownie tin lined with baking paper, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes (I use the roasting option on the oven).

    Spread the mixture in a brownie tin

  5. Cool in the tin then cut into squares, triangles or circles (circles are pretty but I prefer the squares as there’s no waste.)
  6. If serving as a main vegetarian dish or a starter, put the slices on a baking tray.  Cover with the cheese of your choice and grill until melted.
  7. We ate this at home thinking of Manuela’s event for the 150 years of the Unification of Italy at Manu’s Menu on 17 March but I didn’t get around to writing it up on the site.  Sorry, Manu!  Mieux vaut tard que jamais, as they say here (better late than never) 😉

roman gnocchi side dish

Crispy Sage Leaves

Crispy sage leaves with sage flowers

Crispy Sage Leaves are one of my favourite decorations to add that extra je ne sais quoi to the plate.  They are also the easiest things to make in no time.  They are ideal for decorating pastas, risottos, purées, chicken and fish dishes.  Sage also goes beautifully with pumpkin or butternut squash – as well as the traditional apple and pork dishes.  Add them to roasted veg and vegetarian dishes, too.

There’s no need for a deep frier, either. 🙂  The result is not only crispy, but the leaves still taste of beautiful sage.

Preparation Time: 1 minute

Cooking Time: 3 minutes

  1. Clean the fresh sage leaves and dry them out thoroughly using kitchen paper.
  2. Warm some vegetable oil or olive oil in a frying pan and when hot, add the leaves.  Fry them gently for about a minute on each side.
  3. Remove from the pan using tongs and drain them on more kitchen paper.  They will crisp up beautifully as they cool.

 

Delicious and stunning sage flowers

In spring, make the most of pretty sage flowers; they are edible and taste just as strong as the sage leaves!

Crab, Ginger & Coriander Gluten-free Quiches

 

This is such an easy starter. You’re basically replacing the pastry with cornflour, so they are gluten free. Prepare the mix earlier in the day and chill until needed. Pour into 6 briochette silicone moulds just before your guests arrive and bake during the aperitif. Serve with a herb salad with lemon olive oil or with Thai Green Curry Macarons (see p.105) for something different.

They are also ideal served as minis for party finger-food or as an apéritif: just use smaller moulds and bake for only 10 minutes. It’s amazing how my French guests love these in particular – especially the slim French ladies; I think it’s because they’re so light and there’s no pastry. 😉

Serves 6 as a starter

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time:
40 minutes

3 large eggs
400g crab
300ml crème fraîche
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp fresh coriander
2cm grated ginger
1 red chili, finely sliced
50g freshly grated parmesan
seasoning

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C

2 Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and pour mixture into silicone briochette moulds.

3 Bake for 20 minutes.

Ideal partners: chilled South African chenin blanc or pinot blanc from Alsace. My own preference is my Frenchman with the wine too.