After I was off camera I proceeded to finish making my dough in a calm fashion. I wasn’t about to let perfectly good homemade ricotta and local sweet potatoes and egg go to waste. Them’s, as they say, good eatin’. I know gnocchi can have a reputation as a bit of a bear to work with, but I assure you this dough is exceedingly simple. (So simple, in fact, I delusionally thought I could do it in a few minutes my first time on camera…)
All it takes is a sense of touch. Think with your fingers. You don’t want your dough too sticky to handle nor do you want to add too much flour. So just add flour bit by bit, I usually start with half a cup and add 1/4 cup at a time after that up to 1 1/4 cups total. So just add it until your gnocchi is a workable, soft play-dough-like consistency. Adding too much flour will make your gnocchi tough, so easy does it. The excellent thing about this is once you’ve made your gnocchi and lined them all up on your baking sheet like little soldiers you can freeze them (on the sheet tray to prevent sticking) and then toss them all in a ziplock in the freezer and keep them for up to 3 months. Which means that nothing stands between you and impromptu homemade gnocchi but a pot of boiling water, about 3 minutes, and deciding what to put with them. And I’m here to help with that last part. Figs! Buttermilk mornay (aka cheese sauce)! Pancetta (aka bacon)! If this seems odd, just trust me. It’ll be real good, baby. You’ll see.
We eat a lot of sweet potatoes when they abound at the market, specifically, we eat a lot of baked sweet potatoes. Butter, salt, and little else. But even for sweet potato enthusiasts such as ourselves (I think the high levels of potassium excite us…), baked sweet potatoes night after night can get boring. Herein lies the solution.
The other great thing about these gnocchi are how affordable they are. I don’t usually go on about how quick, cheap, and convenient things are (though these are all of those things). I think that sort of mindset and language reduces your meals to a love affair in the red light district. Even still, the beautiful thing about shopping at the market and using raw ingredients instead of preprepared ones is that you do save money in cutting out the middle man. Added bonus, you get a far better tasting product and your money goes to your community. Wins abound.
Velvety is a food word, a food word that one arguably should eschew. That, unfortunately, just isn’t practical in this situation. These are, for sure, velvety. The sauce is velvety. Hell, the figs are velvety. The crispy pancetta adds just the right amount of crunch to offset it. And the flavor profile is a well orchestrated team effort. The lightly spiced gnocchi are creamy and ever so slightly sweet as are the figs while the buttermilk mornay chimes in with tangy, salty notes which are further punctuated by the pancetta, and all of it is brightened with an herbaceous bite from either chives or sage. A peppery green like watercress or arugula would be good here too. This is nonna meets grand-mère meets grandma, an Italian classic in a French sauce with Southern flavors. In short, no matter where you are or hail from, this is comfort food for fall.
Drizzle potatoes with egg yolk, crumble the ricotta on top, and sprinkle ½ cup of flour on top. Using a bench scraper or spatula, cut the flour, yolk, and ricotta into the potatoes using a chopping motion until beginning to become incorporated. Then start using the bench scraper to fold the mixture together. Sprinkle with an additional ¼ cup of flour, and chop/fold it in. At this point I switch to using my hands, lightly floured.
Gather the dough into a ball. If the dough is still too sticky to do this, work in up to an additional ¼ cup flour. Pat dough into a disc. If disc is too sticky, sprinkle with another ¼ cup flour. Work in flour, if needed, until just not too sticky to handle. Form dough into a compact log and let rest 5 minutes.
Cut log into 8 individual segments. Lightly flour work surface. Roll one segment out at a time into 1” thick logs. Cut logs into individual pieces, about 1”. To create grooves, the gnocchi can be rolled on a gnocchi board or the tines of the fork. This step is optional. Place formed gnocchi on a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to cook if cooking soon, otherwise the gnocchi can be frozen on the sheet tray and then placed into a ziplock bag and kept in the freezer up to 3 months. To cook frozen gnocchi just put directly from freezer into boiling water just as with fresh gnocchi, do not thaw.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi. Give them a gentle stir after a few seconds to prevent sticking. Cook about 2 minutes or until they float to the top. Remove, draining well, with a slotted spoon or spider. Toss gently with mornay sauce, pancetta, and figs. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.