the last of the nectarines


Well, the weather here has turned cool and damp — I have hopes that we will have a few more warm days yet, but I can still celebrate the end of summer with some gorgeous nectarines I found in the farmer’s market. Recently I enjoyed mouth-watering meal at Cantinetta in Bellevue, a lovely Italian ristorante. My entrée of choice was gnocchi with nectarines and hot Italian sausage. It was a delight for my palate, all tender, hot, sweet, salty, with a bit of zing supplied by the nectarines. It’s one of those dishes I dream about. So, of course, I had to make it my way, with sweet potatoes, and a smaller version of gnocchi known as gnocchetti. I want to share this dish with you. Here you go!

sweet potato gnocchetti with sautéed nectarines and hot Italian sausage

for the gnocchi:

  • 1 small russet potato, scrubbed
  • 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten (we will use only ½, reserve other half for another use)
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely snipped chives, divided

for the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 or 3 hot Italian sausages, casings removed, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 small nectarines, three cut into dice, one thinly sliced for garnish
  • salt & pepper
  • hot pepper flakes, if desired
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

for the gnocchetti:  Scrub and dry potatoes, prick with fork. Bake at 425°F until potatoes are fork Gnochetti-4635tender, 50 to 60 minutes, or microwave on high for about 6 minutes. Cool until warm to the touch, about 15 minutes.

Halve and scoop potatoes out of shells. Using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes into a large mixing bowl while still warm; add the butter. On very low speed, add the egg, mix just until combined. Add ¼ cup of the flour; mix just until combined. The trick to successful, pillowy light gnocchi is to mix as little as possible, adding as little four as necessary. Check the consistency – the dough should be very soft, but not sticky. If necessary, add more flour to achieve desired consistency. Gently stir in half of the chives.

Gnochetti-4640Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into quarters. With floured hands, shape dough into long ropes, about ½ inch in diameter. Cut into even pieces, about 1/2 inch. Transfer gnocchetti to floured tray.****

for the sauce:  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, breaking up as you go. Sauté until sausage is not longer pink. Remove from the skillet and keep warm.

Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the skillet. When butter is sizzling, add the diced nectarines with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and a dash or two of red pepper flakes if desired. Gently toss the nectarines about every minute, until they begin to brown.

Meanwhile, bring a shallow pan of water to a boil, add about1 teaspoon salt. Add half the the gnocchetti and gently stir to make sure they are not stuck together. Cook gnocchetti in the boiling water just until they float to the top, Remove from the water and add directly to the skillet with the nectarines. Repeat with second batch. Gently toss and cook until gnocchetti begins to brown. Return the sausage to the skillet along with the remaining tablespoon of butter and half of the basil; gently toss to combine. Serve on warmed plates, topped with the remaining basil and Parmesan cheese

Serves 4.

If you choose to serve the gnocchetti with a different sauce:

Cook several at a time in gently simmering salted water for 3 to 4 minutes. Gnocchetti are done when they float to the top of the water. Using a spider, remove the gnocchi from the water and drain, serve immediately with desired sauce, pesto, or butter and cheese. Or top with sauce, bake in 350°F oven 15-25 minutes, until heated through. Makes 4 generous servings.

****Can be made ahead through this step. Store separated in airtight container. They also freeze well. Arrange the gnocchetti separated in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze util solid, then store in airtight container. If frozen, do not defrost before preparing; take directly from freezer to boiling water.

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