sweet potato & parsnip gnocchi with sage lemon butter sauce


I’ve been watching my mailbox with anticipation lately, waiting for my first issue of Food&Wine® magazine to arrive. I bought a year subscription a couple of months ago from the neighborhood kids who were selling magazines to raise money for their school. Whenever I go grocery shopping or am at the bookstore, I see F&W’s tantalizing covers and want to grab an issue to take home. I know, though, as soon as I buy a copy, that same day my first issue will arrive in the mail. In the meantime, about a month ago I received a Favorite Italian Recipes booklet which included a delicious-looking carrot-potato gnocchi by F&W’s senior recipe developer Grace Parisi. 


The recipe, made with white potatoes and carrots, is a more traditional take on gnocchi, but I wanted to give it a little more nutritious turn. I substituted yams, higher in vitamin A, for the white potatoes, and parsnips, lower in sugar, for the carrots. In keeping with my whole grain preference, I used my favorite white whole wheat as the flour. It took a bit of patience, and the purchase of a good potato ricer to get the gnocchi just right. For a simple sauce, I combined fresh sage from our garden and a little lemon zest to some melted butter. Overall, I’m happy with the mix of flavors and consistency of the gnocchi.

To finish the gnocchi, I grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese on top. I think this dish would go well with a salad of bitter greens, such as arugula, and a nice white wine.

Sweet Potato & Parsnip Gnocchi with Sage Lemon Butter Sauce

(adapted from the booklet Favorite Italian Recipes by Food&Wine magazine)

1 1/2 lbs. yams
1 lb. parsnips, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups white whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Scrub yams under water, dry, and puncture in several places with a fork. On high power in the microwave, cook the yams for 10 minutes. Turn the yams over and cook on high power for 5 minutes. Carefully lift the yams from the microwave with an oven mitt, and set on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes until soft.

While the yams are cooking, scrub the parsnips under water, dry, and use a vegetable peeler to peel the outer layer off. Cut off root ends and any dry tips, and slice thinly. In a medium-sized skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add parsnips and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and a tiny bit of salt. Cover skillet and cook parsnips for 15 minutes until soft. When done, drain any excess water and purée in a high-powered blender until smooth.

Once the yams have finished cooking, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Cut yams in half and scrape flesh into a potato ricer. Rice yams, measuring 1 1/2 cups worth, and put in large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of parsnip purée. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and gently stir to combine. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you can handle the dough without it sticking to your hands. You may not need to use all the flour called for. Remove dough from bowl and knead for about a minute on flat surface.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Sprinkle a little flour on flat surface, and working from the middle, roll out one of the pieces into a 3/4-inch thick rope. Set aside and repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. When finished rolling out the dough, take each of the ropes and cut them into 1-inch pieces. To shape the gnocchi, take an individual cut piece and lightly press each cut side on the lightly floured flat surface, making the cut sides uniformly flat. This helps give the gnocchi a little better shape before you do the next step. Next take the cut piece and roll it on the back side of a fork, pressing down so it creates a fingertip indentation on one side of the gnocchi and ridges on the side touching the tines of the fork. Repeat until all 1-inch pieces are shaped. Place formed pieces on a large baking sheet lined with wax paper.

(Note: The gnocchi can be made ahead of time up to this point and frozen. Simply put baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap, in the freezer. Once frozen, put gnocchi in a container for future use. When ready to cook, don’t thaw gnocchi before boiling).

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Drop in the gnocchi and cook until they rise to the surface of the water, then let cook for one minute more. Remove from pot with a slotted pasta scoop or spoon and place on large plate.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat, and cook until it begins to turn a golden brown color. Add lemon juice and sage, and reduce briefly. Add gnocchi to the sage-lemon butter mixture, sprinkle with the grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat. Transfer to pasta bowls, sprinkle with a little more grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

2 thoughts on “sweet potato & parsnip gnocchi with sage lemon butter sauce

    • Hi Melissa,
      I haven’t tried using parsnips by themselves for gnocchi yet, but Mark Bittman has a recipe for Parsnip Gnocchi in “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” so I know it can be done. You might be able to rent the cookbook from your local library or definitely be able to find it at a local bookstore. Best wishes!

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