Hank Shaw is back, tempting us with pumpkin ricotta gnocchi. It’s crazy good, and actually not as hard as you would think to make. Enjoy! ~Elise
Pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage is a classic for a reason: The color, the texture and the flavors of winter squash, fried sage and browned butter are a match made in heaven. But making ravioli requires a fair bit of skill. Gnocchi, however, are easy to make once you get the hang of it.
The key to making any dumplings is to make them as light as possible. We’ve all had leaden lumps of unhappiness before; they’re memorable, and not in a good way. What keeps these gnocchi fluffy are the ricotta cheese and a light hand with the flour. Gnocchi dough is often sticky, and it’s the ability to resist the urge to keep adding more and more flour that separates a good dumpling from a heavy one.
Keep in mind that some squashes are drier than others, and some pumpkins can be really wet. And the wetter the squash, the more flour you’ll need to hold the dough together — and that makes heavy gnocchi. While any winter squash (except spaghetti squash) should work with this recipe, I prefer to use butternut or kabocha squash.
When it comes time to serve, it is important to let your butter get hot, to keep your gnocchi in one layer in the pan, and to let them cook undisturbed for a minute or more. You want your dumplings to have a crispy side and a soft, pillowy side, and this is how to achieve that.
Could you use olive oil instead of butter? Sure. You can also substitute rosemary or oregano or thyme for the sage. I’ve tried other combinations, and they’re OK, but nothing is quite so wonderful as browned butter, pumpkin and sage.
The only thing that can make this dish even better is a dash of truffle salt. Truffle salt? Yeah, it’s fancy, but a little goes a long way and it will make a refined, date-night dinner even more swanktastic.
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi Recipe
The amount of flour you need to make the dough will vary depending on how moist your pumpkin or winter squash is.
- 1 cup of puréed cooked pumpkin or winter squash (canned or homemade)*
- 1 cup ricotta (use whole milk for best results)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 3-4 cups cake flour, Italian "oo" flour, or all-purpose flour
- 2-3 teaspoons minced fresh sage
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- Black pepper to taste
- Truffle salt to taste (optional)
To make your own pumpkin purée, use a strong chef's knife to cut a small sugar pumpkin (or other winter squash) in half. Scoop out the seeds and strings. Lay the pumpkin face down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes to an hour, until soft. Allow to cool, then scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork. Alternatively, if you are working with leftover fresh pumpkin pieces, roast or boil them until tender, and then cut away and discard the skin.
1 Mix the pumpkin puree, ricotta, parmesan, eggs and salt together in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix well with your hands. The dough should be very sticky, impossible to work. Add another half cup of flour and mix that in — you want the dough to still be pretty sticky, but pliable enough to shape into a large log. If it's not, keep adding a little flour at a time until you can get a soft dough that will be rollable. It should never require more than 4 cups of flour. Cover the dough with a damp towel.
2 Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add enough salt to it so that the water tastes salty. Let this simmer while you make the gnocchi.
3 To make the gnocchi, spread some flour on a large work surface and have more flour ready. Cut the dough log into four equal pieces. Take one piece and cut it in half. Roll the piece of dough into a snake about 1/2 inch thick, then cut it into pieces about the thickness of a fork.
4 Dust the gnocchi with a little flour, then use one finger to push the dumpling up onto the tines of a fork. Let the gnoccho drop back to the work surface. This does two things: It makes the dumpling a little thinner and lighter, and it creates depressions and ridges that sauce can hold onto. If all this is too much bother for you, skip it. The gnocchi will not be quite as good, but they'll still taste fine.
5 Repeat this process with the other piece of dough and then, using a metal spatula, gently pick up a few gnocchi at a time and drop them into the water. Increase the heat to a rolling boil. Boil these gnocchi until they float, then remove them with a slotted spoon or spider skimmer. Lay the cooked gnocchi on a baking sheet and toss with a little olive oil so they don't stick together.
6 Now go back to the next big chunk of dough and repeat the process. it is important to boil gnocchi in small batches so they don't stick to each other.
7 When all the gnocchi are made, heat the butter over medium-high heat until it stops frothing. Add enough gnocchi to the pan to cover it in one layer. Do not let them stack up on each other. Let them fry undisturbed for 90 seconds. Sprinkle half the sage over the pan. Cook for another minute, then turn out onto plates. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
8 If you have to do this in several batches, keep the finished gnocchi on baking sheet in the oven set on Warm. Serve as soon as they're all done, dusted with black pepper and the truffle salt, if you have it.
Yield: Serves 4-8.