Vegetarian Beet Gnocchi with Sage Butter and Walnuts
by Meghan Rodgers
October 12, 2020
This vegetarian dish takes homemade gnocchi to a new level of delicious! Instead of using traditional white potatoes alone, this recipe swaps half for brightly-colored beets. The results are sweet and earthy and unlike anything else. Add a pop of fresh green sage and warm, toasty walnuts for an eye-popping, elegant dinner combination.
Gnocchis are a great hands-on date or a fun friend get-together activity. COVID-19 has all of us battling a little boredom. Use this weekend to learn a new skill and brighten up your recipe repertoire.
The beautiful jeweled colors of Beet Gnocchis with Sage Butter and Walnuts make it a great dish for Christmas or Valentine’s Day, but right now is the best time if you enjoy eating seasonally. As a root vegetable, beets can be found year-round, but they’re at their peak flavor in October.
Zero-waste healthy cooking tip: If your beet greens are young and fresh, sauté them with the butter mixture for 30-45 seconds. Serve them as a bed for your Vegetarian Beet Gnocchi with Sage Butter and Walnuts. Beet greens have even more health benefits than their famously healthy taproot. Beet greens are an excellent source of magnesium, potation, copper, iron, and manganese, while also being high in fiber and low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. If that’s not enough to convince you to serve them up, one study found that beet greens have a high level of vitamin K, which offers significant benefits for bone and nervous system health.
Can I make this dish vegan? Of course. Just use vegan-friendly butter. Most vegan-friendly butter is made from plant-based milk and offers a similar texture, mouthfeel, and flavor to cow’s milk butter. Substitute the vegetarian Parmesan for any salty grated vegan cheese substitute, or just omit it and replace it with a little salt.
Wait. Parmesan isn’t vegetarian? Technically, no. Parmesan contains animal rennet — an enzyme that helps milk separate into curds and whey. Vegetable rennet exists, but unless your Parmesan specifically states it’s vegetarian, it isn’t. Even if the ingredients say, “milk, salt, and enzymes.” Those enzymes, unless specified, are more likely than not, referring to animal rennet. When in doubt, ask a knowledgeable cheesemonger. Trade Joe’s and Whole foods both carry a nice selection of vegetarian and vegan cheese.
Do I have to add the grooves? Grooves are a traditional marker of gnocchis, but they’re not necessary. They can help the pasta cook faster and hold onto more sauce, but it’s entirely up to you.
My dough is wet. What can I do? This gnocchi dough will be on the tackier side, but it should still be able to hold its shape when it’s done. It should take about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of whole wheat flour, but feel free to use a tad more if necessary. The dough will be slightly more difficult to work with than regular gnocchi dough, so make sure you dust your surface well with additional flour.
Why are my gnocchis chewy? Gnocchi dough that has been handled too much will typically produce tough or chewy gnocchi. To make light and airy gnocchis, avoid handling the dough any more than just what’s necessary to mix ingredients.
How do I know if my gnocchi are done cooking? The old Italian grandmothers’ rule of thumb says that gnocchi are done once they float. This is almost always true. Wait until gnocchis float and then cook about 30 more seconds, and they should be perfect. However, nothing works better than enjoying a tester, so take a bite of one of your delicious homemade beet gnocchi and see if the center is cooked.
1 medium beet, greens removed
1 large russet potato
1/2 cup fresh-grated vegetarian Parmesan cheese (or substitute), plus more for serving
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling out dough
12 medium fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 stick unsalted butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Place the beet in an oven-safe bowl or deep dish. Pour water in bowl until it rises 3/4 way up the beet. Cover dish with foil.
Poke the potato several times all over. Place potato and bowl with beet in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until potato is tender enough to easier pierce. Remove from oven and set aside until cool.
Remove the beet skin by rubbing firmly with thumb. (Wear gloves to prevent staining hands with beet juice.) Remove and remaining stem and roughly chop beet.
Add beet to food processor along with egg, vegetarian Parmesan, and salt. Puree on high until smooth.
Peel skin from potato and press through potato ricer, or grate it through the small side of a box grater.
In a large bowl, combine the beet mixture and grated potato. Fold gently until just mixed (over-mixing will make the gnocchis chewy).
Add flour 1/2 cup at a time. Fold until dough forms. (You may not need quite 2 cups.)
Turn the dough out on a dusted surface and knead until dough becomes tender but not sticky. Divide into 8 equal segments and roll each into a 1/2-inch rope. Cup ropes into 1-inch pieces.
Roll each gnocchi over a gnocchi board (or substitute the back of a fork) to create ridges.
To cook: Bring a salted pot of water to a boil.
Drop gnocchi in small batches (so they don’t stick) of 10-12 into the boiling water. Cook until they float to the surface. Cook for 20-30 seconds longer, then remove using a slotted spoon. Place on a lightly-oiled baking sheet.
In a large skillet, roast chopped walnuts on medium heat, tossing, until golden brown and fragrant (about 4-5 minutes). Transfer to plate and let cool.
Add butter to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes to lightly brown. Add sage leaves and cook for 20-30 seconds. Add lemon juice and stir. Add gnocchi and toss. Season well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and freshly-grated vegetarian Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!