Autumn in Geneva and potato gnocchi in brown butter and sage sauce

A hilarious thing happened when I went to the hardware store the other day … I discovered that Christmas had thrown up all over the place. We’re talking mid-October, and Santa’s workshop is already fully set up. I’ve never seen anything like this before, and I used to cover and write about Christmas decorations for a living.* The entire back warehouse of the store (which is usually their outdoor area and greenhouse) is completely decorated top to bottom with candy canes, elves and the like. There was even a full room dedicated to an LED light show. No actual Santas, though, and I’m not yet sure where Switzerland stands on Santa yet. One thing I have discovered is that Christmas is a HUGE deal in Europe. I guess there’s no Halloween to break up the holidays – they go straight from summer to Christmas and, I suspect, back again. I’m excited to see how out of control things get.


Asides from Christmas’ early arrival, there is nothing very autumnal about Geneva right now. If anything, it actually looks greener now than when I left the city in September, because the new crops have just been planted and they are coming up a lush verdant green. That’s right, to all you Canadians out there – they have just planted a new crop. Who knows how long their harvest season is? I find this incredible and at the same time slightly unsettling. Like, if it doesn’t snow by November, how will I know that winter has started? Just kidding, I’m being a brat, but I love the fact that it doesn’t seem as though we’re on the lookout for snow flurries quite yet.

I have been doing some more fall-like cooking and baking, though. The weather might not show it, but I love autumn for it’s richer dishes and warm flavours. A potato gnocchi seemed to fit the bill, and I’ve been meaning to start using the hardy sage bush that grows in my backyard. I can’t believe I haven’t taken advantage of this yet, although sage doesn’t seem to be a herb used in a lot of local dishes. Anyway, it was time to get on that.


This amazing dish was found on the Serious Eats blog. I made a few changes to it, and my recipe reflects those changes. I could pretend that I was trying to make the dish “more Swiss,” but it actually has everything to do with the fact I was out of Parmesan cheese and lemon juice so had to make appropriate substitutions. It turned out really well, too. At first, I thought the whole procedure was weird, dumping the mix on a counter and cutting in ingredients like eggs, but it turned out really good. Probably my best gnocchi yet. So I would follow these instructions exactly again. Except I didn’t have a ricer, so I just mashed up the potatoes best I could.

Potato Gnocchi in Brown Butter and Sage Sauce


1 kilo potatoes

1 whole egg, plus one egg yolk

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for adding to boiling water and for final seasoning

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

½ cup grated gruyere cheese

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

White wine vinegar, as needed


Preheat oven to 400°F.

With a fork, poke a few holes in each potato and spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are cooked through and tender, about 1 hour.

As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still very warm, scoop out the flesh and pass it through a potato ricer or a food mill fitted with a small hole insert. Spread the potatoes onto a clean, cool, lightly floured surface.

Whisk together the eggs and salt together and drizzle over the riced potatoes. Sprinkle ¾ to 1 cup of the flour over the eggs. With a bench scraper, work the ingredients together, cutting into them and gathering them into a mass. Add flour to reduce stickiness.

When the mixture holds together, knead briefly, continuing to flour the work surface to prevent sticking and adding flour if the dough is sticky. As soon as the dough is smooth and soft and holds together, stop kneading and shape it into a thick log.

Working with ¼ of the dough at a time, roll the dough into long ½- to ¾-inch ropes. With the bench scraper, cut them into 1-inch-long pieces. Transfer the gnocchi to a lightly floured baking sheet while rolling out remaining dough.

Boil a large pot of water, add a generous pinch of salt, and blanch the gnocchi in two batches until they float. With a slotted spoon or spider, remove the gnocchi and spread on a baking sheet while brown-butter sauce finishes cooking.

While the gnocchi are cooking, heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted and beginning to bubble, add sage. Continue to cook until the solid particles in the butter have browned lightly and the sage is crisp. Add the cooked gnocchi, tossing to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce. Allow the gnocchi to brown lightly in some spots, remove from heat, add white wine vinegar, salt and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.


*The fact that writing about Christmas decorations used to be my job is as strange to me as it is to you. That was definitely one of those jobs where you would occasionally sit back and wonder “how did I get here?”


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