Some of my favorite dishes have – what I’d like to call – an increased raised eyebrow factor. Take homemade pasta or gnocchi for instance, mentioning these may likely give you the one or other odd look and make people wonder: She can’t be that crazy, making all pasta or gnocchi herself, no??
I can see Oliver nodding here, but no, I’m not. Well, it’s not exactly like that, homemade pasta still is a rather infrequent companion at our table, reserved for special occasions or dear guests. However, homemade gnocchi are a whole different story. Huge difference. Because I love potatoes so much, I love (love love!) these little bite-sized pillows, always have, always will!
Making gnocchi is, once you get the hang of it, dead easy. You’ll quickly notice that adding more flour certainly improves the workability of the dough, but consequently makes the gnocchi too dense and firm; can you say rubber ball? I have become so hooked on these little Italian dumplings with the velvet-like texture, that I have to have them every other week. Last week my addiction kicked in at 9.30 pm… and a good hour later I sat in front of a plate of steaming hot gnocchi with browned pine nut butter. I was the happiest person in Munich that night, without a doubt.
And then there is Oliver. He likes gnocchi, he really does. But I guess I must have been pushing it a bit too far, putting his relationship with them in jeopardy. While I’ve heard tales of other boyfriends kissing their girlfriends’ feet for having a simple homemade meal, he just recently started to act allergic to the term homemade gnocchi. So I had to get creative…
Who said, that gnocchi have to consist of potatoes only? Look around, cookbooks and online recipe sources not only offer countless variations (recipes in English/recipes in German) with herbs and such, even for when you crave a potato-less alternative, it’s all there. The options are endless.
Why not try a seasonal inspired variation? Since pumpkins are crowding my grocery’s shelves and my spoiled boyfriend loves them as well, I sniffed my chance for more gnocchi. This time around without potatoes but with a gorgeous, bright orange hue. They were such a big hit, I’ve prepared them the third time in two weeks… and no not again!s to be heard so far. Watch out potato gnocchi, here’s some serious competition sneaking up ;)
Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F). Wash the pumpkin and pad dry. Cut it in halves using your largest knife and discard the stem and seeds. I use my GDS (grapefruit dedicated spoon) with serrated edges (like these), which make it relatively easy to remove all fibers and seeds. Cut into finger-thick slices and scatter on a parchment lined baking tray. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast in the oven (middle) for about 30 minutes or until soft.
Use a potato ricer to mash the hot pumpkin. If you used a Hokkaido, the skin has become soft and can be blended with the puree. Discard bigger skin pieces which resist the shredding process. Let steam off for about 15 minutes.
Add the egg yolk and flour, then season the puree to taste with salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Blend quickly using a fork, the dough will still look quite sticky. Of course you can add more flour at this point, but keep in mind, that the more flour you use, the denser these little dumplings become in the end. And you want them to be light & fluffy, with a velvet-like texture!
Forming these gnocchi is the tricky step, this is the technique that works best for me: I generously flour a wooden board as well as my hands and take a big tablespoon of the dough in my hands, making sure it is covered in flour. Then I carefully form this piece into a finger-thick roll and cut it into little pillows (stick the knife’s blade into the flour to prevent it from sticking to the dough). Then place each gnoccho on a floured parchment paper lined baking tray and quickly continue with the next steps – or they will stick to the paper anyway.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt and reduce heat until the water bubbles lightly. Add the gnocchi – stir once, so they don’t stick to the bottom – and let cook until they start floating on top. Depending on their size this may take 4 to 6 minutes. Take out with a skimmer, because pouring them through a pasta strainer could easily damage these fragile gnocchi.
Preparing the browned sage butter: Wash and pat dry the fresh sage leaves, then stack and cut them into thin chiffonade. Meanwhile melt the butter in a pan over low to medium heat, add the sage chiffonade and sauté until the sage has become crisp and the butter has gained a golden brown hue and nutty flavor (but don’t let it burn!). Spoon over the gnocchi and add some freshly ground black pepper, grated parmesan and – optional – roasted and chopped pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin gnocchi with browned sage butter
Recipe source: own creation, inspired by many others
Prep time: ~1-1,5 hour
Ingredients (for 2):
1 smaller Hokkaido pumpkin (~450g puree)
1 large eggyolk
100 g all-purpose flour (more as needed), extra for dusting the board
freshly ground nutmeg
50-75 g butter
15-20 mid-sized sage leaves
freshly ground black pepper
parmesan, freshly grated
optional: roasted and coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds