Why Pumpkin Gnocchi?
It is nearly a year since my fabulous trip to Italy and has taken just as long to create a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi that is of any justice to some I ate while I was in Siena.
The Siena version: I found in a small delicatessen/ green grocer that stocked ripe deep red tomatoes and other vegetables, freshly made pici, robust passatas, home made cinnamon baked apples and little orange coloured miss-shaped dumplings. The orange dumplings turned out to be home made pumpkin gnocchi, that were delicately light, a beautiful orange and deliciously yet subtly sweet. I was told by the lady who made them in a unique Italian/English dialect that she "did not add any of the potato and that the recipe would not leave". Translated: The gnocchi was not made with potato, and she was not going to give me the recipe.
My version: After quite a few attempts I have come up with a recipe that I am happy to say is just as good if not better. The secret to them is that the pumpkin has to be soft yet dry, and that unlike my recipe for ricotta gnocchi which is light and fluffy although has a roll-able dough, the dough for these dumplings remains too soft to roll and is spooned straight into the water.
I think this may be a new favourite - the sweetness of the pumpkin and the earthy spiciness of nutmeg match perfectly while the dumplings remain soft and light.'They are perfect with sage leaves fried in butter and freshly grated Parmesan.
1 kilo pumpkin (such as butternut or Japanese), seeds removed and cut into 2-3 inch pieces with the skin on
1 egg, beaten
approx 200 g plain flour
2 pinches nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with foil and a drizzle of oil. Place the pumpkin pieces on tray, season with salt and bake for 30-50 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and dry on the surface.
Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender until smooth. Scrape the pumpkin into a bowl, add the egg, salt, nutmeg, pepper and mix well. Add the flour tablespoons at a time add mix well. Try to add as little flour as possible until your mixture holds together on a spoon.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Pour a little oil in a small cup to oil two teaspoons and set to the side.
When the water is boiling, lightly dip the teaspoons in the oil and form quenelles by passing the pumpkin back and forth between the spoons, and gently drop into the water. Remove with a slotted spoon when they bob on the top of the waters surface, and placed on a lightly oiled plate. Repeat until all are cooked. You can cook the gnocchi in advance and keep them on an oiled plate or tray heating them later either in the sauce or blanching them in water.
To serve them in a sage butter simply melt 125 g butter in a sauce pan and add 4-5 small sage leaves. Continue to cook until the butter starts to turn brown and add a squeeze of lemon (this will prevent the butter cooking). Toss the gnocchi in the butter and serve with some grated Parmesan.