Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Sausage with Brown Butter and Sage Sauce…. Is this really recommended by a dietitian????
Post by Olivia Martino, Registered Dietitian and Co-Owner, Nourish Northwest
As a dietitian, I often find people watching what I am eating with leery eyes. I am quite familiar with a friend’s shocked expression when I order something fried off of a menu at a restaurant. I have even heard stories of someone being appalled that I ate a handful of chips at a party, “Isn’t she a dietitian?????” she asked, after I left.
Many people (including other dietitians) expect that I follow a low fat, low calorie diet. To be honest, calories have never been the first thing on my mind when choosing the food I put in my mouth. My lunch will probably never be baby carrots with fat free ranch dressing, a sugar-free cookie and a diet coke (although I do enjoy an occasional diet soda as a treat). More likely you will see me eating a huge bowl of roasted vegetables (cooked with oil and salt) and topped with a dollop of full fat yogurt. Yes, occasionally, I will eat a handful of chips, or will order fried fish. But this is very occassionally and I balance those choices out with a plant-based, whole foods diet and plenty of exercise. And I don’t feel guilty about it or that I should have to justify those choices.
Yes, calories can be an important thing to focus on if weight loss is the goal. I have seen calorie counting work as an effective tool for some and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But you could effectively lose weight by following a diet that consists mainly of Twinkies, as long as you stay within a certain calorie range. This Kansas State Nutrition Professor did. He lost weight, he did, but he probably didn’t feel good and he probably would go on to develop a number of chronic health problems and nutrient deficiencies if he followed this diet for a lifetime.
I like to focus of quality and enjoyment of food, as well as the overall big picture. I feel that we often get so wrapped up in restricting certain foods and viewing them in terms of “good” and “bad” or “too high in calories” that eating loses all pleasure. At Nourish Northwest our cooking classes reflect this philosophy. We use a whole foods approach when choosing our recipes and ingredients. This means, that as often as possible, we use foods that we can imagine growing from the ground or in some cases, coming from an animal and there has been nothing added to or taken away from it. Typically a whole food has just one ingredient. We like to know where our food is coming from and shop at the farmer’s markets whenever possible. We follow this philosophy most of the time. If the occasional white flour sneaks into a dish, as it does in this recipe, we don’t stress out over it. It’s ok. While a whole grain flour is often a good replacement, it would not have produced the same texture for these delicate gnocchi.
These gnocchis are so much more than the calories and ingredients that make them up. To me, they were about spending my Saturday morning at the Farmer’s market, picking out sweet potatoes. They were about celebrating the first of the fall produce and our first weekend of real rain in Portland. They were about me having a really tough week and taking the time to gather with my two best friends to prepare and enjoy this meal. So I invite you to make these, eat them and smile. That’s an order from a dietitian.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Sausage with Brown Butter and Sage Sauce
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2005
1/2 pound chicken sausage, sliced
1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet.
Brown chicken sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Set aside.
Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.
Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes. Empty skillet onto rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Add sausage to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.
Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves.