Perfect Sweet Potato Gnocchi

published Aug 19, 2021
Sweet Potato Gnocchi Recipe

Pasta may be a weeknight staple for many of us, but fresh, homemade gnocchi is definitely a special treat.

Serves2 to 4

Prep40 minutes

Cook35 minutes

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi  on a plate with a cream sauce and green garnish.
Credit: Shilpa Uskokovic

Pasta may be a weeknight staple for many of us, but fresh, homemade pasta and gnocchi are definitely a special treat. Want to show someone you care? Make gnocchi! With only five simple ingredients for the actual gnocchi themselves, this is a calming, tactile project for two. You don’t need a grooved pasta board or any special flour — just a bowl and some other simple tools and ingredients you likely already have at home.

In the rusticity lies the appeal. If your gnocchi are a little bigger or smaller or slightly misshapen, it simply doesn’t matter! Once they’ve been gently crisped in some butter, it will all taste delicious. The ricotta sauce in the recipe is a rich, lactic blanket to the gnocchi but you can easily forgo it and just use the pesto instead. Another alternative is to finish the gnocchi with a mountain of freshly grated Parm and cracked black pepper. 

These gnocchi are surprisingly filling. This amount easily serves two as a main along with a simple salad, or suits four if served as part of a more elaborate menu with one or more sides and some roasted meat.  

What Is in Sweet Potato Gnocchi?

These simple sweet potato gnocchi have only five ingredients! Sweet potatoes (of course!), butter and egg to enrich the dough, plus flour and cheese to provide structure and binding.

Are Potato Gnocchi Healthy?

As the star ingredient in these gnocchi, sweet potatoes bring all their powerhouse nutrition to the party. The high fiber content of sweet potatoes helps you stay full for longer and, being a complex carbohydrate, they are also slower to digest.

Credit: Shilpa Uskokovic

Is It Better to Boil or Bake Potatoes for Gnocchi?

In the biggest surprise discovery, the answer is neither! It turns out the microwave is the best way to cook the sweet potatoes for this recipe. I cooked the sweet potatoes multiple ways, weighing them before and after cooking to determine how much water they lost (or gained!) in the process. All sweet potatoes were cooked whole, in the skin, with four small, shallow cuts along their length to prevent any potential bursting. Below are the results.

  • Electric pressure cooker: I love my pressure cooker for lots of things, so this was my first option for cooking the sweet potatoes quickly. It was certainly efficient. So efficient there was minimal moisture loss of only 3%! Usually a good thing, but not when it comes to gnocchi. 
  • Boiled: Cooked in a pot with plenty of water until tender, I expected the sweet potato to weigh more than it did before cooking. I was pleasantly surprised to note a 7% moisture loss. 
  • Steamed: Thinking it might be better if the sweet potato was not fully submerged in water, I steamed one and the results upheld my thinking: It weighed a full 16% less than at the start.
  • Roasted: Most gnocchi recipes call for roasted potatoes, especially those made with regular ones, so I knew this would work well. The potato took a long time to cook, but it emerged weighing 25% less than before. 
  • Microwave: The long cook time in the oven seemed inefficient and I was impatient (gimme gnocchi now!) so I threw a sweet potato in the microwave just to see what would happen. Behold! A whopping 32% moisture loss, making for a much drier sweet potato than any other cooking method! This would translate into tender gnocchi because it would need the least amount of flour to bind.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Recipe

Pasta may be a weeknight staple for many of us, but fresh, homemade gnocchi is definitely a special treat.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info


For the gnocchi:

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 pound

    sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for cooking

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the gnocchi

  • 2

    large egg yolks

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/3 cup)

For the sauce and serving:

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 8 ounces

    whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1

    large lemon

  • 1/4 cup

    basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)


Make the gnocchi:

  1. Place 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium bowl and let sit at room temperature until softened. Using a paring knife, make four shallow cuts along the length of each sweet potato (this is to ensure they don’t burst as they cook). Place the sweet potatoes on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave until cooked through and soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

  2. Holding sweet potatoes with a dish towel for easier handling, cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a the bowl of butter. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and mash with a potato masher or fork until mostly smooth (it’s OK if there are some tiny lumps).

  3. Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 2 large egg yolks, and 1 1/2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/3 cup). Stir with a rubber spatula just until combined with no dry pockets of flour. Transfer the dough onto a parchment paper-lined plate and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Freeze for 15 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, set up for shaping and cooking the gnocchi. Generously dust a rimmed baking sheet with all-purpose flour. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice and water.

  5. Cut the dough into 4 portions. Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour (try to use just 1 to 2 tablespoons). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, gently roll and press it into a 1/2-inch-thick rope about 18 inches long. Cut the dough crosswise with a bench scraper or knife into 3/4-inch pieces. Gently transfer the pieces to the baking sheet. If the dough starts to feel too sticky at any point, freeze for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up slightly.

  6. Cook the gnocchi in two batches: Gently drop half the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to cook for 1 minute longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi into the ice water bath. Let the gnocchi cool for 3 to 5 minutes (they will become firmer as they cool). Meanwhile, cook the remaining gnocchi.

  7. Strain the cooked, cooled gnocchi through a colander to drain completely.

Pan-fry the gnocchi and make the sauce:

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat. (If your skillet is any smaller than 10 inches, it is best to cook the gnocchi in 2 to 3 batches.) Add the gnocchi and cook, shaking the pan or stirring only a few times, until golden-brown on the bottom, about 6 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, place 8 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Using a Microplane, finely grate the zest from 1 large lemon into the ricotta, then stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Cut half the lemon into wedges (reserve the other half for another use).

  3. Spoon the ricotta into the bottom of a large, shallow bowl. Scoop the warm, crispy gnocchi on top of the ricotta. Drizzle with 1/4 cup basil pesto and serve immediately with lemon wedges for squeezing onto each portion, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The sweet potatoes can be cooked and mashed with butter and salt up to 4 hours ahead. Keep covered at room temperature before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. Boiled and fully cooled gnocchi can be transferred to a rimmed baking sheet and tossed in a few spoons of extra-virgin olive oil before being refrigerated, uncovered, for up to 8 hours. Pan fry according to recipe directions, allowing for a few extra minutes of cook time. The ricotta sauce can be made up to 8 hours ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Let come to room temperature before using.

Variations: While microwaving provides optimum results, the second best way to cook the sweet potatoes is roasting them in the oven. As above, make 4 shallow gashes along each sweet potato and place directly on the oven rack in a 400°F oven. Roast until the sweet potatoes are tender, 50 to 60 minutes.

Storage: Gnocchi is best eaten right away, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.