100% Local: Pumpkin Gnocchi

These, my friends, are good. I might go so far as to say damn good.  I’ve made gnocchi in the past and it’s always been tasty, but it has been rare to achieve a perfect texture. These are not a traditional dense potato gnocchi, which I do enjoy (although I consider them more a vehicle for a fantastic, chunky sauce than a delight all by themselves); these are the fluffy little pillows that are the pinnacle of gnocchi love: a curious combination of al dente and airy that is immensely satisfying. As satisfying, for me, is that these delectable gnocchi were made entirely with local & homemade ingredients: ‘pumpkin’ purée from my massive Fishkill Farms Hubbard squash; homemade ricotta cheese from Stone Wall Dairy raw milk; flour and cornmeal from Wild Hive Farm; organic, pastured chicken eggs from Holbrook Farm; cheeses from Sprout Creek; home-dried and ground chile powder; even local Rhode Island sea salt.

In addition to the best possible ingredients, the key to a good ricotta gnocchi, it would seem, is a light yet quick hand, something at which this Scottish girl does not excel. You don’t want to work the dough more than you have to, as you will develop gluten which yields a tough, dense gnocchi, and you don’t want to compress the dough as you roll it out, as you will lose the pillowy lightness. Trust me, there is plenty of dough here with which to perfect your technique: if this is your first gnocchi attempt, I recommend rolling out a few, testing them in boiling water, and making adjustments (amount of flour, size of gnocchi, rolling technique) as needed. And you might consider cutting the recipe in half: the original recipe stated that it served four, so, wanting to freeze some for future meals, I doubled the recipe. And then I spent what felt like six years standing at the counter making approximately 7 gajillion gnocchi (or, you know, about 300). Serves 4?!? Four marauding Huns, I guess. Four marauding Huns who are also training for a marathon. Or are wrestlers trying to gain into the next weight class. Or are just coming off the first two weeks of the South Beach diet. Have I mentioned that the recipe makes a lot of gnocchi? A lot. Be forewarned. That said, it went much faster when Tai jumped in to help me, and we now have lots (and lots) of delicious pumpkin gnocchi in the freezer for quick weeknight meals. Or visiting marauding Huns.

Adapted from Pumpkin Gnocchi with Crispy Fried Sage in The Great Little Pumpkin Cookbook by Michael Krondl

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Pumpkin Gnocchi

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb (2 cups) pumpkin purée
  • 1 lb (2 cups) whole milk ricotta (if using store-bought, drain in a fine sieve for at least 30 minutes prior to using)
  • 9 and 1/2 oz (2 cups) whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose flour) + extra for adjustments and shaping
  • 3 oz (1 cup) freshly grated parmesan or other hard grating cheese (I used Sprout Creek Ouray)
  • 3 oz (1 cup) finely grated Asiago, pecorino, or other semi-hard cheese (I used Sprout Creek Toussaint)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground dried chile powder or cayenne pepper
  • cornmeal

METHODS

  1. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, cheeses, flour, eggs, salt, white and cayenne peppers. Mix until uniform, but try not to overmix (avoid developing gluten in the flour, as this will yield a tough gnocchi). Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
  2. Generously flour a work surface (a wet dish towel underneath a cutting board prevents slipping).  With floured hands, remove about a baseball-sized piece of dough from the refrigerator. The dough will be very wet and sticky; flour the ball generously and pat gently into a cylinder shape. Roll the cylinder out, using a light touch (for fluffy pillows of gnocchi, try  not to condense the dough), and stretching it into a long rope about the width of a finger. Break the rope into two pieces if at any point it becomes difficult to handle. Using a sharp knife, dipped in flour, cut the rope into gnocchi pieces, each about 3/4-inch long. For decorative swank, roll the tines of a fork along one floured edge of each gnocchi. Using a small offset spatula, transfer each gnocchi to a tray, generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Continue with remaining dough.
  3. To cook, bring a large pot (the more water the better here; you want gnocchi to cook as quickly as possible, while absorbing as little water as possible) of well-salted water to a boil. Drop gnocchi in, all at once, and replace cover on the pot. Once water returns to a boil, remove cover. When gnocchi pop to the surface, about 1 – 2 minutes, they are done; remove with a slotted spoon or small sieve. Serve hot with your favorite pasta sauce.

Serves at least 8 marauding Huns (about 300 gnocchi).

OPTIONS

  1. The original recipe called for all parmesan cheese and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg instead of chile pepper. Ground chipotle, smoked paprika, ginger & allspice or minced fresh sage are all good ideas for spicing the gnocchi.
  2. Sauce ideas: browned butter with crispy fried sage leaves; cilantro pesto with toasted pepitas and a dash of chipotle; fruity olive oil with oregano and black pepper; basil pesto with shavings of parmesan; basic tomato sauce. These gnocchi are wonderfully flavorful and don’t need much: I prefer a light drizzle of sauce to tossing the gnocchi in with the sauce prior to serving.
  3. Although it seems a round-about way of preserving, this recipe uses up a lot of cheese, as well as pumpkin, and gnocchi freeze quite well. If you have several tag ends of hard grating cheese slowly moldering in the fridge, use ’em up in this gnocchi recipe and freeze them for a quick dinner when you’re pressed for time.

STORE

Store refrigerated, individually on trays, for up to 1 day (they will start to get a bit limp and soggy within hours).  Frozen (individually quick frozen, then piled into Ziploc bags) for up to 6 months.

SEASON

Fall and through the winter.

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12 comments

  1. were we joined at the palate in another life? i love pumpkin gnocchi! i make it every year – mine is a blend of pumpkin, potato and flour. my spice of choice is nutmeg – and i have a boat load of walnut sage pesto in the freezer just waiting for me to get off my arse and make my yearly pumpkin gnocchi.
    hopefully this weekend, along with that marmalade i need to get to. i’m loving your ricotta version and the chipotle suggestion! and i’m with you; i consider making gnocchi part of my preserving efforts.

  2. janemaynard

    hi there! just wanted to let you know we featured this post on the FoodPress.com homepage today! a fun and unique use of pumpkin, and your description of the gnocchi sounds divine! thanks! jane

  3. Hmm. I attempted pumpkin gnocchi for Canadian Thanksgiving, but it was a total disaster and I abandoned it (which, I maintain, was the right thing to do). I did a 50/50 pumpkin / potato mix, and I had to knead in a tonne of flour so I could handle the dough, which made it really tough. I’ve heard of ricotta gnocchi, and it sounds good. Perhaps I’ll give this combo a try and have better luck using the pumpkin!

    I used fresh roasted pumpkin puree, which holds a lot of liquid. Did you drain yours first?

  4. Hi all, and welcome!

    Sam – you freeze the gnocchi before cooking. Then, don’t allow to thaw, just drop into boiling water while frozen. They will simply take a little longer to cook. Gnocchi, like most dumplings, can also be pan-fried for a different flavor and texture.

    Muffinmyth – yes I do strain my homemade pumpkin puree before using in recipes; otherwise I find the extra liquid throws off the recipe. I haven’t actually tried a potato gnocchi yet (next on list!), but in general, the key to handling a wet & sticky dough without adding a lot of flour is handle it as little as possible and/or to use damp hands, which reduces sticking. This dough as I made it was quite sticky, but only needed one good roll in flour to make it manageable.

    Let me know how it turns out!

  5. Pingback: pumpkin gnocchi « fried sig

  6. Pingback: Cook It 2012: January Resolution | grow it cook it can it

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