Gnocchi, pronounced gnawk-KEY, (dumplings) with pumpkin is a classic autumn dish when pumpkin is in season.
These dumplings are small pieces of pumpkin and potato dough, usually round or oblong in shape, which are boiled in water and then served with melted butter and sage. The taste is delicate, a little bit sweet and inviting. Gnocchi is an easy, fast and light recipe to prepare, although you do need to take care in minimizing the amount of flour used.
I grew up making gnocchi al cucchiaio – gnocchi made with a spoon (a typical Lombard recipe) with my mom, especially on Friday. In fact, gnocchi is considered a weekday dish.
This recipe belongs to my book Love is Eating.
GNOCCHI DI ZUCCA (PUMPKIN DUMPLINGS)
450 g (1lb) unpeeled potatoes (Patate a pasta gialla di Avezzano, Yukon Gold potatoes)
450 g (2 cups) mashed pumpkin (zucca di Mantova or butternut squash)
240 g (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
60 g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter
8 sage leaves, cut into large pieces
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve
1. Cook the potatoes until just tender either by boiling or baking (220°C-425°F). The potato flesh for gnocchi should be dry, therefore it is better to boil potatoes in the skin to prevent water absorption. Drain well and set aside until just cool enough to remove the skin. The potatoes should be warm, otherwise the flour and the potato purée will not bind with the egg.
2. Put the warm potatoes through a potato ricer (never a mixer) into a bowl. Add the pumpkin and season with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the egg and the olive oil, incorporate the flour and mix just enough until the dough is formed. Be careful not to overwork it; the dough should be lighter and the texture softer if you are able to minimize the flour used.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a slow boil. Drop teaspoon-sized balls of dough (using another spoon to scrape the dough) in the boiling water. Before cooking the whole batch, I recommend making a couple of tests to see if the dough holds together. Cooked gnocchi should be firm but not tough and should not fall apart in the water. If they fall apart, you should add 1-2 Tbsp of flour. If they are tough, then you’ve used too much flour, therefore when you add the flour keep one or two spoofuls that you can add at the end! I find that the spoon method is easier and requires less flour in comparison to the rolling method, thereby allowing you to make very tender gnocchi.
4. Gnocchi are done as soon as they float to the top, after only about 10-15 seconds (no longer or they will fall apart in the water!!). Remove with a slotted spoon or spider spoon and place on a preheated serving dish. Repeat with the remaining dough and toss gently with the melted butter and sage. Serve immediately with pepper and grated Parmesan.
Note: The type of pumpkin and potatoes is crucial (I strongly recommend the use of butternut squash and patate farinose (Yukon Gold potatoes), rich in starch), as well as the use of a potato ricer, which lets the steamy moisture out of the hot potatoes.