Have you ever mindlessly scrolled through social media and stumbled upon an “easy college recipe” that looks too good to be true? Well, dear reader, I have — and I’m here to inform you, through the tale of my own (albeit abbreviated) hero's journey, that it often is, in fact, too good to be true.

Call to Adventure

At some point early in the semester, I was melting my brain on TikTok when I swiped to a viral video of a man promoting a two-ingredient sweet potato gnocchi that “got him through college.” At one dollar a serving and with very few special kitchen tools needed, it seemed like the perfect recipe for me to try. So, several weeks later, the video still racing through my mind, I decided to try the recipe for myself and set off for the grocery store with high hopes.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

The first thing I discovered was that the recipe cost me more than a dollar per serving, mostly because I bought a tub of pre-made pesto rather than making my own sauce. Thankfully, the TikTok commenters told me to expect this, so my grocery store receipt didn’t hit as hard.

Sydney Pearson

Once I had spent forty-five minutes of my day grocery shopping, I went back to my dorm and began, basing my method partially on the video, and partially on a recipe I found. The first step was to stab the sweet potatoes a few times, then stick them in the oven for around forty-five minutes. A little bit longer than I expected, but no matter — I just did homework in the meantime.

Sydney Pearson

Approach to the Innermost Cave

Once the potatoes were done, I opened them up and put them in a bowl, then began the mashing process. That’s when things started to go south.

As it turns out, one of the sweet potatoes wasn’t fully baked, so the mixture took longer to mash, and ended up vaguely lumpy. 

Sydney Pearson

The Supreme Ordeal

Once the potatoes were thoroughly smushed, I added flour to the mix, then started to knead it with my hands — a process I expected to be reminiscent of happily playing with Play-Doh as a child — but that soon turned frustrating and arduous. It turns out I should have floured my hands first, as the mixture began sticking to my hands and getting all over the place (some say that traces of the sweet potatoes remain on my bag of flour to this day.)

Sydney Pearson

The process of kneading in more and more flour took me an incalculable amount of time, and a whole lot of frustration, but eventually it became a nice dusty orange dough. From there, I cut the dough into four parts, rolled them into “gnocchi snakes,” chopped them into roughly gnocchi-sized pieces, and boiled them.

Sydney Pearson


Since my cooking pot is tiny, I had to do four rounds of cooking to get everything done. Finally, all the gnocchi boiled, I mixed it with the pesto sauce and enjoyed my delicious creation. Estimated cooking time? Over two hours, not including the shopping time.

Sydney Pearson

Return with the Elixir 

Analyzing this adventure, I do concede that if I had followed the directions more carefully and floured my hands, I could have cut off a decent amount of time. However, it definitely would have taken me over the hour I was quoted - the baking time for the sweet potatoes alone is 45 minutes. I also got several servings out of the ordeal, but each serving still cost me roughly $6: a good price, but not the one I was quoted.

All-in-all, the gnocchi was delicious, and great if you happen to have three hours to spare. However, I come here to warn you that what a professional chef on TikTok tells you “got him through college” likely takes far more time and materials than the average college student with minimal cooking skills may be willing to dish out (I didn't even touch upon the part where he makes a "simple" sauce with a food processor). So, be wary of the allure of the "easy college recipe," and take your cooking advice from actual college students on sites such as Spoon. Happy cooking!