Easy sweet potato gnocchi with kale and brown butter is a perfect dish for a fall dinner party. It’s low key, delicious, and comforting. Just be sure to make extra, because you will want these leftovers!
This recipe was originally published on September 25, 2018. It has been updated with new photos and content. Enjoy!
Comfort is king these days. When I get home from work all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a bowl of something warm, gobble it up, and then find the nearest pillow on which to land. If you added some ice cream to that equation, that’d also be OK by me.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Kale and Brown Butter
So today we’re revisiting a comforting dish that may not immediately seem like one. Sweet potato and kale really sound more like health food if you ask me. And while there are plenty of antioxidants and vitamins to go around here, there is also cheese and brown butter. So basically two of my favorite things. And I don’t think you can have crispy, buttery, pillows of gnocchi and not call it comfort food – just one lady’s opinion.
Why This Sweet Potato Gnocchi Recipe Really Works
To be honest, this is an older recipe that I’ve revisited personally a number of times since initially hitting publish way back last year. It came about before my testing process was really all that streamlined and I’ve made some tweaks to the old girl, which I think makes it even better.
- Firstly I’ve replaced mascarpone cheese with whole milk ricotta. While I love me some creamy, rich mascarpone cheese (which is really just an Italian version of American cream cheese), it was a little too fatty and wet for this recipe. If you’re shocked and appalled by this omission, feel free to add it back in, but be wary that you’ll need more flour to compensate for the outrageous creaminess.
- Secondly I’ve nixed the unnecessary step of blanching the kale. It really just needs a solid saute in brown butter and lemon juice. Because to be honest, who is looking at the kale really.
- I’ve given you (yes you!) permission to think intuitively and go with your gut. No two sweet potatoes are identical, some ricotta will be drier than others, and your hand with the flour may be heavier or lighter than mine. I always think that part of the fun of cooking is adapting to what’s in front of you. So if the dough seems hella sticky, add some more flour. You’re looking for something that’s just a little sticky, but not a pain to work with.
What You Need to Make Sweet Potato Gnocchi
The ingredient is short by mighty. Substitutions may be made (and will be discussed a little later), but with the caveat that even small changes may effect the overall moisture of the gnocchi dough, which you’ll want to keep in check so you have beautifully brown and crispy gnocchi, and not just a big pile of orange mush.
- Sweet potatoes. Sometimes red garnet yams are actually sold as sweet potatoes – either one will work. You’re looking for one large or two very small sweet potatoes.
- Whole milk ricotta. Please do not use low fat ricotta. It’s not good – there I said it. Plus, what’s more comforting than full fat dairy?
- Grated pecorino cheese. Full disclosure, I buy mine pre-grated (GASP) at Trader Joe’s. But if you grate your own please know that you have my utmost admiration. You can also substitute grated parm or grana padano here instead. I just like the very salty hit of pecorino personally.
- Brown butter. I’ve discussed my love for this luxurious liquid of the gods before, and go into detail here about how to make it. Basically just heat up butter until it bubbles, foams, and turns a rich, nutty brown color. Make sure to keep a close eye on it though, as it can go from brown to black in a flash.
- Kale. I use lacinato (sometimes referred to as dinosaur) kale for this. Reason being – it’s prettier and a little easier to work with. But if you want to use your basic grocery store kale, that’s totally fine too. Just remember to thoroughly de-stem the leaves, as they won’t see enough heat to break down all those woody ends.
- Lemon. Because all those buttery carbs desperately need a lift from some acid. A hit of acid at the end does wonders to almost any dish.
- Salt and pepper. Because you can’t do anything without them.
How to Make Sweet Potato Gnocchi
- Prep your sweet potato: You can do this by baking it OG style, popping it in the microwave (my preferred method), or tossing it in your instant pot. Any way you slice it though you want to end up with very soft sweet potato. I would however avoid boiling, as that would introduce too much moisture to the party.
- Make your gnocchi dough: Mash together your sweet potato with the ricotta, salt, pepper, and lemon zest, until you have a pretty smooth mixture. Then gradually add flour until you have a dough that is a little bit sticky but generally easy to handle.
- Roll and cut your gnocchi: Divide the dough into three or four pieces. Roll each piece into a long, even log about 1 inch thick. Then use a sharp knife or bench scraper to quickly cut the log into bite sized pieces. Repeat with the remaining dough, dusting with flour as needed. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.
- Brown your butter: In a large, non-stick skillet cook the butter until it sizzles and foams, swirling frequently. The foaming will eventually subside and the butter will begin to darken. Let it get to a chestnutty brown before removing from the heat.
- Blanch your gnocchi: Bring a large pot of water to a medium boil. Add half of the gnocchi and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Brown your gnocchi: Bring your brown butter back up to a medium-high heat and add in your blanched gnocchi. Make sure that all the gnocchi can easily fit in the pan without crowding. Let them fry for 2-3 minutes or until dark, golden brown on one side. Flip and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Transfer finished gnocchi to a paper towel lined plate and continue blanching and browning the rest.
- Saute the kale: When the gnocchi is all finished, add your kale and lemon juice to the remaining brown butter in the pan. Cook until the kale begins to wilt and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve it up: Pile your gnocchi on top of a bed of buttery, lemony kale. Garnish with lemon zest, grated cheese, and any brown butter that may be left in the pan.
Tips for Making Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Who doesn’t love some helpful tips?
- Prick your sweet potato a few times with a fork before baking or microwaving. It will help it cook more evenly.
- Keep a good amount of flour close by when you’re rolling and cutting your gnocchi – depending on the moisture level of your potato and cheese, you may need a sprinkling of it from time to time.
- Don’t boil your gnocchi for too long. They will get plenty of time to cook in the brown butter, so just a couple minutes in boiling water is enough. If you let them get too too soft they risk falling apart.
- Don’t crowd your pan. Only saute as many gnocchi as will comfortably fit in one layer. I usually do this in two batches. You can keep any browned gnocchi warm in a low oven, but honestly it stays pretty warm on its own.
- Finish with a little salt and pepper. Always always always taste as you go, but because there is a lot of butter in this recipe it needs a fair amount of salt to balance things out.
- Make your gnocchi ahead of time. You can roll and cut your gnocchi ahead of time and freeze them until you’re ready to use them. No need to defrost – just blanch them for one extra minute before draining and finishing in butter.
Questions About Making Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Q: Can I use regular potatoes instead of sweet potatoes?
A: While regular white potatoes make a great batch of gnocchi, they are unfortunately not interchangeable in this recipe due to moisture content.
Q: What can I substitute for kale?
A: Any dark, leafy green will do. Although if you’re using spinach be aware that you’ll need a lot of it, as it wilts down substantially.
Q: Do I have to brown the butter?
A: Of course not. Frying the gnocchi in regular butter will still make for a killer dish. What the brown butter adds is really a hint of nutty goodness that in my opinion can’t be beat.
Q: Can I freeze these gnocchi?
A: Yes! After rolling and cutting the gnocchi, transfer them to a parchment lined sheet pan. Pop the whole thing in the freezer for a few hours, or until they are frozen solid. Then transfer them to a labeled, zip top bag and use within one month.
Looking for more fall comfort food?
- Brown Butter Spiced Chickpeas with Easy Polenta
- Caramelized White Chocolate Almond Blondies
- Creamy Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup
- Crispy Oven Fries
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Kale and Brown Butter
Homemade gnocchi is intimidating, but I honestly don’t know why. Microwave that potato, mash it up with some tasty cheeses, and then add in just enough flour to bring it all together. You will get a little messy, but it will be soooooo worth it. Also brown butter because yum and kale because balance.
- Prep Time: 15 Minutes
- Cook Time: 25 Minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4 Servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: American
1 large sweet potato (about 1 ½ C of flesh once cooked)
¼ C grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for garnish
4 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
½ tsp black pepper
1 t lemon zest
1 C flour, plus more for rolling
6 T unsalted butter
10 ounces kale, roughly chopped
Juice of one lemon, plus more for garnish
Bake or microwave the sweet potato until completely tender (approximately 45 minutes in an oven or 5 minutes in a microwave). Set aside until just cool enough to handle.
In a medium bowl combine pecorino, mascarpone, ½ tsp kosher salt, black pepper, and lemon zest. Peel the sweet potato, scoop out the flesh, and add it to the cheese mixture. Mash with a fork until smooth (some lumps here and there are fine though). Add the flour and stir until you have a slightly sticky but workable dough. Divide into the thirds.
On a well-floured surface, gently take one piece of dough and using your fingers roll it into a 16 inch rope (it should be about an inch in thickness). Continue with the remaining dough – dusting with flour as needed. Using a knife or pastry scraper, cut each rope into 16 one-inch pieces. Place on a floured baking sheet and transfer to the fridge. You can also freeze them at this point.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you’re waiting, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Cook the butter, swirling frequently, until it bubbles up and then begins to brown. Then lower heat as low as it will go (or just turn it off).
When your water is boiling, add a generous handful of kosher salt (like 3 tablespoons or more). Add your gnocchi and cook, stirring gently for about 1-2 minutes. Using a spider or slotted spoon, drain the gnocchi well and add them to the brown butter – the less water you bring over in this step the better.
Crank your heat to medium high and spread the gnocchi into an even layer (do this step in batches if your pan is too small – you can park any extra boiled gnocchi on a lightly oiled plate). Cook undisturbed for at least 2 minutes, or until the gnocchi begin to brown and crisp. Then flip and cook on the other side. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
Add the kale to the skillet, tossing to coat in the remaining brown butter. Saute until it begins to wilt. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve gnocchi on top of kale and garnish with grated pecorino cheese, more lemon zest, and any brown butter remaining in the pan.
Depending on the size of your sweet potato, you may need a little more or less flour than the recipe calls for. Aim for a dough that isn’t sticky, but holds together easily. I tend to avoid adding a lot of flour to the mixture itself, but dust it quite liberally in flour once the gnocchi have been rolled and cut.
Don’t crowd your pan. Your gnocchi stand a much better chance of crisping up and not sticking to the pan if they each have their own little space. Second to this, don’t mess with them too much. You want them to get good and brown on one side, before you flip them. If they’re sticking, they’re not ready to flip.
Make ahead: You can freeze the uncooked gnocchi on a parchment lined sheet pan for a few hours. Transfer from the sheet pan to a ziplock bag and store for up to 1 month. Then cook straight from the freezer, adding one minute to the boiling time.
Keywords: vegetarian comfort food, homemade gnocchi