Easy Pumpkin Gnocchi
The Whisper of Early Love
I first fell in love with gnocchi in college. I was on an Italian food kick, devouring cookbooks left and right and forcing sauce experiments down everyone's throats (rarely to their chagrin). One day, in the aisle of Italian ingredients (the most classic a Tennessee grocery store could offer), I discovered gnocchi — tiny little pillows of potatoes all sealed in a plastic, vacuum-packed bag.
It was love at first sight. The little guys made it home with me and it was to hell with the noodles. What can a ziti offer that a cloud of potato dumpling cannot? While my love was immediate, the proper cultural adoption of the gnocchi was not.
The Abandonment of Elegance
One fateful Tuesday, I arrived in freshman English boldly holding onto a Tupperware full of gnocchi. My inquisitive, Yale-educated, almost Italian (can't remember the exact relationship there) professor inquired as to what I enjoyed. To this normal question, I replied that I was enjoying gnocchi. Unfortunately, I had yet to learn that it was not pronounced "Ga-naw-chi" (as it appeared to my uncouth eyes) but rather a rather elegant "N(Y)OK-ee". The twinkle in my very couth professor's eyes as I pridefully relayed the name of my lunch haunts my perfectionistic spirit to this day.
The Ricer Crisis of 2012
Despite this hiccup in my relationship with the gnocchi, I remained a devoted fan. One evening, I decided to start learning how to make them from scratch. This endeavor was appropriately christened the "Ricer Crisis of 2012" by my amused yet supportive roommate at the time, Liz. A ricer is a rather pain-in-the-ass kitchen utensil which requires the brawn of Hercules to force potatoes through its tiny holes. The hypothetical result of this pressing process is tiny, rice-like, potato pieces. The actual result was a pile of half squashed potatoes and a pulled bicep.
Fast-forward, I have the deepest respect for the brave men and women who correctly make gnocchi every day. I have, however, abandoned authenticity out of deference to my biceps and sanity and moved to the very easy autumnal gnocchi recipe I present here.
Why Pumpkin Gnocchi Will Get You Married
What I love about pumpkin gnocchi is that is is not only the perfect base for a brown butter sage or harvest squash sauce but also the key to my take on Italian-Indian fusion cuisine. This fusion, presented most frequently as pumpkin gnocchi with a curried tomato sauce and goat cheese, is likely the reason I am married. In a bold attempt to chef my way into a relationship, I included that dish in a preposterously elegant spread of Indian-Italian dishes (think coriander pistachio gelato, homemade rosemary naan, and the infamous gnocchi) to lock down my now husband. Thanks for taking the bait, babe.
So that is the backstory to this recipe. It is not a hard recipe to whip up. I am offering the vegan version here, but you can sub a regular egg for the flax-seed egg if you feel a deep need to maintain a connection to animal life. Top if with whatever sauce you love. Trader Joe's has an Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce I highly recommend. A brown butter sauce with a bit of sage works or whatever canned delight you have on hand is good too. Keep it simple and enjoy! You can also freeze the uncooked gnocchi and cook them from frozen for a few extra minutes as an easy weeknight meal.
Easy Pumpkin Gnocchi
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
3 tbsp (almost boiling) hot water
1 tbsp flax seed, ground
1 tsp salt, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
2 tsp brown sugar
1-15 oz can pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
2 tbsp butter (or oil if you are vegan)
Combine hot water and ground flaxseed in a small bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes or until the mix thickens into a gel.
Add the flaxseed mix to the pumpkin in a large bowl. Combine until mixed evenly.
In a medium bowl, mix the salt, nutmeg, sugar and flour.
Fold in the flour mixture to the pumpkin until evenly mixed. (I lightly work the flour in with my hands at the end to get it all mixed.)
Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting board. Knead about 10 times or until it creates a smooth round of dough.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each into skinny logs, about 1 inch in diameter and 16 in long.
Cut the rolls into gnocchi, about 1 inch across. (You can freeze the gnocchi at this stage. First, freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet or cutting board and then transfer to an airtight bag)
Heat butter in a pan over medium heat until melted. Add gnocchi in a single layer to the skillet and fry 3-5 min minutes, stirring frequently or until evenly golden browned. (Add a few minutes of cooking time if you are cooking the gnocchi from frozen).
Remove from the pan into a serving dish. Salt, to taste.
Serve immediately with whatever sauce you like! I recommend a Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce or a brown butter sage sauce topped with freshly shaved parmesan.