Food + Wine

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Leeks and Tarragon Cream

Raise your hand if you love gnocchi.  If your hand is not raised, maybe you misunderstood the question. Perhaps you don’t recognize the word for these little pillows of happiness. Let’s try it again.  I said Raise your hand if you love Nnn-Yo-Key.  Ah, yes.  There you are.  I love, love, love, and adore gnocchi.  What’s not to like? It’s like mashed potatoes meets pasta meets dumplings.  Comfort food on top of comfort food on top of comfort food.  Yum.

I make my own gnocchi (sweet potato gnocchi for this recipe) and you can see the recipe here, but I’ve also been known to keep a pack or two of the store-bought variety on hand for a quick and easy, comforting dinner.  The store-bought kind is just not the same though, it doesn’t even hold a wimpy candle to the taste and texture of homemade gnocchi.  (The frozen gnocchi is a much better product than the packaged kind you find in the pasta section, fyi.  And if you do end up making your own, please make it a double batch and freeze some for later!)  I love making my own, there’s something so soothing about doing something that Italian grandmothers have been doing for generations. But I do break tradition when I make mine…(Shhh, don’t tell your Nonna)…I don’t make the ridges at the end.  I just don’t have the time.  And I kinda don’t feel bad about it because I am making my own gnocchi here.  And while we’re talking about making gnocchi, I need to show you the picture of mine from the other day.  My 4 year old son helped me make them and they’re just adorable.  The one at the bottom of the frame is my favorite. It looks like a baby seal.

If you’ve never worked with leeks before, I’m gonna give you a little lesson in how to clean them because these sneaky suckers will trick you into thinking they’re clean if you don’t do it right. Leeks are grown in sandy soil so grit will get stuck in between every layer and it can be tricky to remove it all.  All you do is slice each leek in half down the middle, lengthwise, and then cut into 1/2 inch or so
pieces. Place the pieces in either a large bowl of cold water, or your
clean sink filled with water. 

Shake them around with your fingers, pulling apart the layers, to
help release the dirt. There will be a lot of dirt.  Drain water and repeat. Allow your chopped leeks
to dry before cooking (do this in advance, if you can, and store them in
an airtight container in the fridge.)

See the dirt? No one wants that on their plate.

So, that’s your little lesson on leeks.  Now on to the important part…the recipe!  It’s a really delicious one.  The combination of the flavors from the sweet leeks and creamy tarragon sauce is awesome, and the sweet potato gnocchi just cannot be properly described in words. This dish is creamy and comforting, but isn’t too rich.  There’s no butter, only a bit of half and half and some cheese.  It tastes far more rich than it actually is, which really makes me happy!  So I hope I’ve gotten your tummies all riled up for the weekend!

Go on and make some gnocchi… even if they do end up looking like sea animals.


Oh, sorry. You can put your hand down now.

*Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Leeks and Tarragon Cream

-Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, salt it heavily and let it boil until you’re ready to drop your gnocchi and while you make your sauce.
-Cut, clean and dry 1 lb. leeks, (which is usually 2 medium ones and will equal about 10 cups chopped)
-Heat a large skillet on medium heat with a little extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add your leeks and toss to coat in the oil. Season well with kosher salt. (You don’t want any color here, this is just a sweat.)  Cook until softened, about 3-5 min or so.
-Drop your gnocchi now, one by one so they don’t stick to each other.  I always boil mine in batches just to be safe.  The gnocchi is done when it floats to the top of the pot.  And don’t discard the cooking water, you may need some for the sauce.  (If you’re cooking the gnocchi before your sauce is ready, then place them on a cookie sheet covered with olive oil and reserve until you need them.)
-Add a good splash of dry, white wine to the skillet with the leeks (about 1/4-1/3 cup or so…enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and bring it to a bubble. Let this bubble for about a minute and then pour in about the same amount of half and half, maybe a little more. Sprinkle in about 1 TB of tarragon leaves (Use whatever you have.  Dry tarragon is a dried herb that I happen to really love so I always have it but we also grow fresh.)
-Add your cooked gnocchi to the skillet and toss to coat them in the sauce.
-Add about 1/2 cup of grated Aged Gouda cheese* (you will need another 1/4 cup or so to garnish) and stir. If you need more sauce, add some of the reserved gnocchi water, or even more half and half if you want to.
-Sprinkle with your reserved grated cheese.
-Serve it up and enjoy!

(*This needs to be a high quality, aged Gouda, or if you can get your hands on some Beemster, that would be great. But if you can’t find the Aged Gouda, please don’t buy the domestic, or smoked kind, it’s a completely different animal.  Asiago or Pecorino would be fine too…it just needs to be a strong flavored, buttery and slightly nutty cheese)

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