Fall is a favorite culinary season for many of us. There’s still an abundance of fresh produce to be had in the markets, but the cooling temperatures allow the chef to once more unfold the apron and re-enter the kitchen. Days gets shorter, the light gets more golden, and we again turn to comforting, hearty recipes that will carry us through the winter.
We of course turn to carb-heavy dishes, and pasta is definitely a favorite of all, but after all the pasta salads of the summer, you might be hankering for something more filling and a bit more interesting. Like gnocchi: small, pillowy pasta dumplings are so evocative of Italian Nonas. Or, in this case, pumpkin gnocchi!
Alas, many people hear the word “homemade gnocchi” and hear: kitchen nightmare! But don’t be intimidated by this homemade pasta! It’s actually very easy to make, and is a great recipe for any weeknight (yes, we promise).
We decided not to go with the traditional potato gnocchi, which can still be quite heavy for this time of year, and also has no nutritional benefits to speak of (other than delicious, which is not a nutritional benefit). Instead, try our very seasonal pumpkin gnocchi, made with roasted pumpkin (butternut squash will also do in a pinch). Not only is it lighter, pumpkin is also rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, which are great to pump our immune system for the winter ahead (for more information on the amazing health benefits of pumpkin, check out this article).
You can choose to mark the pumpkin gnocchi with the traditional ridges with the tines of a fork, but if you find that too time-consuming, gnocchi can be perfectly (and in some chef’s opinion, correctly) served plain. What is important is to roast the pumpkin instead of boiling it, so you don’t add any water to them – water is the enemy of gnocchi. Also important: make sure the gnocchi are about ½ inch thick, and not any thicker, which will cause the outside to cook faster than the inside.
Pair your pumpkin gnocchi with your favorite sauce. In our case, that is a simple and traditional brown butter and sage sauce. A generous serving of grated Italian cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, and you’re got a delicious fall dinner recipe.
- 1 ½ cups pumpkin, cubed
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg yolk
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- 1/3 cup Grana Padano cheese, very finely grated
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/3 cup for kneading
- 2 tsp. Sea salt
- 5 tbsp. Butter
- ¼ cup fresh sage leaves
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- In a bowl, toss the cubed pumpkin with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Arrange in a baking sheet, and bake until they’re tender and golden about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, let cool down to warm, and puree using a food processor.
- In a bowl, mix 1 cup of the pumpkin puree with the Grana Padano cheese, egg yolk and nutmeg, until incorporated. Slowly add in the flour, mixing and forming a soft dough ball.
- Working on a floured surface, cut the dough into equal pieces, then roll them out into ropes of about ½ inch thick. Add more flour as needed as you go along. Cut each rope into small pieces, about ½ inch wide. They should resemble small, plump pillows.
- Optional: using a fork dipped in flour, mark the gnocchi with the tines of the fork by rolling it and gently pressing down.
- Transfer to a floured baking sheet.
- Boil a large pot of salted water, and start adding the gnocchi, a few at a time, stirring once in a while. Once they rise to the surface, cook for an additional 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Set aside on a pan or large plate while you work on your sauce.
- Heat a large saucepan until hot, then add the butter. Once the butter has melted completely, add the sage and stir. Leave it for about ½ minutes, until fragrant, then add the gnocchi and toss till golden. Serve with a good amount of grated Grana Padano.