No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the ancient ruins of the old city. Standing in the Colosseum and imagining gladiators and the historic events of centuries long past, really puts time in perspective. In North America we think of history as the past two hundred years. In Europe and Asia history is a world of ancient civilizations. Ruins of the Roman times are strewn across the country bearing witness to this historic era.
Before we leave Rome for Florence and Tuscany I want to share one more recipe from this region. It is one of my favourite Italian dishes, Gnocchi. These fluffy little dumplings were first introduced in Roman times and have become very popular all over Italy. This recipe is a modern-day variation of the classic potato gnocchi that I adapted from one in the Earth to Table cookbook.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Browned Butter
Makes 6 servings
4 medium sweet potatoes
4 medium Russet potatoes
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
12 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place sweet potatoes and potatoes on baking sheet, prick with a fork and roast until soft, about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly, then cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl.
Add flour, salt and pepper to the potato mixture and mix until smooth. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs. Using a fork and starting at the centre of the mixture, incorporate the eggs into the mixture.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until a soft, slightly sticky, spongy dough forms. Do not over work the dough. Shape into a ball and place on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut ball into 8 pieces and cover with a clean tea towel. Dust a baking sheet with flour.
On a lightly floured surface, working one piece at a time and keeping the rest covered, roll each piece into a 20-inch rope, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut rope into 1-inch lengths. Using your thumb, roll each piece back over the tines of a floured fork, leaving an indentation from your thumb on one side and the marking of the fork on the other. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all dough is prepared.
Dough can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to one day.
Melt butter in a small fry pan and add sage leaves. Simmer over medium heat until the butter turns golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
To cook gnocchi bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Plunge half of the gnocchi into the boiling water. Once they float to the surface, continue to cook for 1 minute longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a plate and repeat cooking process with the other half of the gnocchi.
Drizzle with sage butter and parmesan and serve.
Recipe adapted from Earth to Table by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann