Two Tastes for Every Bite


One of the best things I’ve eaten anywhere lately is the sweet potato gnocchi at Tulio, an Italian restaurant in Seattle. It is one of those dishes that was just a total surprise — sounds simple, looks simple, then you put one in your mouth and realize it’s a million miles from simple. Every bite of these little pillows had two distinct, equally beautiful tastes and textures: crisp and buttery on the outside, but with a sweet, melt-in-your-mouth middle.

Firmly on my homemade pasta kick, when I got back to New York I emailed Chef Walter Pisano’s press folks to ask if he’d be willing to share the recipe. Apparently he gets this request all the time and was more than happy to oblige.

“I’m surprised he would share his most popular recipe,” remarked the veggie gf. “Why would anyone go to the restaurant if they can just get the recipe for free?”

Well I figured that one out soon enough. Remember that “sounds simple, looks simple” thing? Yeah, turns out they’re not so simple to make. Chef Pisano only has one sous chef who he’ll trust to take charge of these babies, which take, oh, about a full day to make. Of course, being the slacker chef that I am, I glanced at the minimalist ingredient list (sweet potatoes, parm, nutmeg, eggs and flour), ran out to pick up a few SPs and got to work. Or so I thought.

It wasn’t until I washed my hands, set up and got all the ingredients out that I bothered to really look at the recipe and realized that no, I would not be tasting sweet-and-crispy gnocchi in a matter of mere minutes

Nope. First you’ve got to boil the potatoes for an hour. Then they’re pushed through a ricer, formed into a dough, chilled for a couple more hours, boiled up, and finally sauteed. Phew.

Now I guess we understand why someone would go out and pay for these, even if they can make them at home. I rescheduled my gnocchi-making for a day when I had a full afternoon free for prep work, and in the end they came out quite tasty, although perhaps needless to say, they weren’t exactly a bite-by-bite recreation of the delicious dish at Tulio.

If you think you can do one better, here’s Chef Pisano’s full recipe, along with a pic of what they’re supposed to look like.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi


2-2 ½ lb. Sweet Potatoes
2 oz. Fresh Grated Parmesan
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
1 Egg, beaten
2 c. All-purpose flour

Boil sweet potatoes with skin on, for approximately 1 hour or until soft. Drain the potatoes well and push through a food ricer. Add beaten egg, Parmesan, nutmeg, and seasoning. Incorporate these ingredients until just mixed. Slowly fold sifted flour into mixture. This is imperative in preventing clumps and keeping gnocchi light. After about ½ of the flour is added, start to feel the mixture for wetness and resistance when pushing in. Keep adding flour until dough is slightly wet, but still is coming away from bowl. Allow to rest 10 minutes.

Lightly dust table, then cut about 1/8 of the dough away and roll into a cylinder shape (about ½” wide), and cut into 1” pieces.

Refrigerate dough for two hours. To cook, drop gnocchi in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes or until they rise to the top. Cook an additional 30 seconds. Drain well. Heat butter in pan until it foams. Place gnocchi in pan; brown them on each side. Season with cracked black pepper and salt. Place on tray and finish with mascarpone.

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  • mary February 9, 2010  

    Oh. my. goddess. I just got back from Seattle and I, too, had this gnocchi at Tulio (I was staying in the hotel the restarant is housed in). It was, indeed, among the many delicioius items I ate while in town. So glad you shared this recipe. I’m not quite sure I could replicate the texture – what did you think? Did you recreate the taste?

  • BS February 9, 2010  

    @ Mary – too funny! I’d classify my attempt as “close but no cigar.” The outside was crispy, but not crispy enough; the inside was soft, but not soft enough….grr…the taste was actually pretty close though.

  • LabDog February 9, 2010  

    If you want to lighten up your gnocchi try baking the potatoes instead of the boiling method. You’ll end up adding less flour and keeping more of the potato taste. I’m betting that he bakes them at the restaurant too. It’s an old Italian trick.

  • Cleveland October 27, 2011  

    I was thinking of making this but baking the potatoes instead because it does make for a lighter fluffier puree.

  • Barb December 31, 2011  

    Just stumbled across this recipe, sounds delicious and will have to give it a try. Question for you though, after boiling the potatoes, do you peel them before pushing it through the ricer? Not mentioned and logic would say yes, but you never know!

  • BS December 31, 2011  

    @Barb – yep, skin ’em (sorry for the confusion!) Good luck!

  • Jason January 18, 2013  

    Semolina flour is what they use not all purpose. I learned this at the chefs table.

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