It was nearly two years ago now that I first learned purple sweet potatoes existed upon this earth. After seeing a recipe on Pinterest for ube ice cream, I was immediately smitten. That same week, I went to the grocery store in search of my very own purple potatoes. To my premature relief, I did find purple potatoes (which I purchased with great enthusiasm). They were purple on the outside. When I cut them open, they were purple on the inside too. Everything looked promising…until I baked them. The purple color faded to a dull lavender-gray and I was more than mildly devastated.
Sadly, I must admit that I lost faith in finding truly purple potatoes. Pictures of gorgeously vibrant edibles continued to float through my Pinterest feed, but my hopes of ever creating a purple masterpiece of my own seemed dashed. A few weeks ago, however, I learned something that shattered my culinary worldview. I learned that there is a big difference between purple potatoes and purple sweet potatoes.
What I bought two years ago were simply your average starchy potatoes with purple skins and slightly purple flesh. As I have already mentioned, the flesh did not retain this hue when baked. In order to create vibrantly purple food, you need to use purple yams or sweet potatoes. Here there are two choices. You can use ube (purple yams) or the vibrantly purple Okinawa sweet potatoes.
Upon learning this, my dear friend Brooke and I began scouring the internet to learn where we could procure our own. We discovered Stokes Farm online and seriously considered having 20 pounds of their purple sweet potatoes (the smallest quantity available) mailed to my dorm room. However, 20 pounds seemed a bit much for one little dorm room. Frustrated, Brooke and I took a dinner break and went to Whole Foods. While we were there, the darnedest thing happened. Whole Foods had Stokes sweet potatoes right there in the store! We didn’t have to order 20 pounds after all. After two-ish years of off-and-on searching, they practically fell on our heads.
Inside, however, they are a bright magenta. This color only deepens when they are baked.
Even the skins turned a brilliant purple! Never in my life had I expected to find myself standing on a chair straining to take a decent picture of potato skins, but that is exactly what happened. And aren’t they beautiful? I was positively awed.
I decided to make pasta with my new treasures. Working with sweet potatoes inherently involves dealing with an excess of moisture and stickiness. Accordingly, the dough turned out to be stickier than most pasta doughs I’ve worked with in the past. This necessitated choosing a type of pasta that could be made with slightly stickier dough. Spaghetti was definitely out as it was too slender and fragile. I opted to make farfalle (bow-tie pasta). Here’s how I did it.
- 3/4 cup mashed purple sweet potatoes (approximately one sweet potato)
- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup semolina flour
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes until tender (mine took about 40 minutes, but it will depend on the size of your potatoes). They should give when you press on them. Allow the potatoes to cool and then peel off the skin. Mash potatoes until smooth with no clumps remaining. Stir in egg yolks, oil, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together semolina and all purpose flours. Sift in half of the flour into the potato mixture and thoroughly combine. Sift in remaining flour and knead until smooth. If dough is still sticky, add 1-2 tablespoons all purpose flour, or until dough is stiff enough to handle.
Normally, it is best to let pasta dough rest at least 30 minutes so that the gluten can absorb liquids and relax. However, due to the moisture of the sweet potatoes, this rest period is not necessary. On the contrary, actually, I found it was much easier to begin rolling the dough out immediately without allowing it to relax.
Cut the dough into two portions. Flatten dough between your hands, lightly dust dough with excess flour, and begin to roll through pasta machine on the largest setting. Lightly dust and roll again, this time on a smaller setting. Continue to do this, rolling the pasta thinner and thinner until it forms a workable sheet. Repeat with second portion of dough.
Cut pasta sheets into rectangles 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch tall. Pinch in the middle to form a bow-tie.
You now have two options. You can cook the farfalle immediately. Or you can set them out to dry to be gifted or eaten another day.
I chose to dry mine. I left them out on a cookie sheet and covered them with a paper towel for approximately 48 hours. The deal with drying pasta is that you want DRIED pasta. If any moisture remains, the pasta is at risk of molding (yikes!). So in the case of uncertainty, it is always better to allow your pasta to dry longer. The pasta begins to take on a subtle magenta hue as it dries.
If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can make trofie instead.
Trofie is a kind of pasta that is formed by rolling a small bit of dough between your palms. Sometimes, it is also twisted or wrapped around a skewer to give it more of a spiral shape. Check out this YouTube tutorial I found for more detailed instructions.
Due to the fact that the pasta is made from sweet potatoes, it is a bit sweeter than your average run-of-the-mill. But it is ever so delightful when served with a light cream sauce! You could also try serving it with brown butter instead.
As a sort of epilogue, Brooke and I went back to Whole Foods and bought a lot more purple sweet potatoes, so there is a fair chance this will not be the last you hear of them 😉