Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
With a Burnt Butter Sage Sauce and toasted Hazelnut & Pumpkin Seed Crumb
If the world wasn’t trying to tackle a pandemic, James and I would be in Tuscany right now, after attending my gorgeous sister’s wedding in Newcastle on the 17th and spending a week travelling through France. The next stop on our trip would be Venice, before flying home after our very first trip together, and our first trip to Europe and the U.K.
Thankfully, our trip and my sister’s wedding have been postponed till next year. But I can’t help feeling a little broken hearted at the immense pain and suffering sweeping through both of these European countries. I am also heartbroken that this isn’t going to be the year I see the Eiffel Tower up close, or taste the rich, flavoursome wines of the Florence countryside, not to mention all the soul-comforting, life-changing food I was planning to eat. But the biggest heartbreak is not being able to see my sister walk down the aisle this year, and see her dream wedding come to life after almost two years of thoughtful planning with her fiancé, Ally.
But the magic of food is that it can transport us anywhere. Even to places we’ve never been to physically. It can also connect you to others on the other side of the world, and evoke memories that reintroduce so many reasons to be happy and grateful, in the here and now.
Enter this pasta dish - inspired by my family’s love of pasta, as well as the bold, rich flavours that both France and Italy are known for. Not to mention the great sense of achievement that comes from making a meal like this entirely from scratch, and sharing it with those you love. I present my Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi with a Burnt Butter Sage Sauce and a Roasted Hazelnut and Pumpkin seed crumb. Knowing full well my sister prefers potatoes (in fact, there have been a few family debates over whether pasta or potatoes are best, and Gnocchi was always the dish that pleased us all), I know I could’ve easily done a traditional gnocchi. But I wanted New Zealand to also be represented in this dish, and as we are submerging ourselves into Autumn, with Cambridge’s famous trees bursting into shades of gold and red, I figured pumpkin was a worthy replacement.
To further celebrate Autumn foods, and the subtle sweetness of this dish, I created a roasted hazelnut and pumpkin seed crumb. This delicious nutty seed mix not only adds delicious texture to the dish (which you need due to the pillowy softness of the Gnocchi), but it also pairs perfectly with the earthy sage, rich butter and of course - parmesan! This dish celebrates the best of pasta - comfort, ease, and cosiness. As well as paying tribute to the great European nations that have brought so much joy to our lives through their incredible commitment to great food, prepared and shared with love. To me, this dish is personal. It’s a dish created as a symbol of love and gratitude for my sister, a tribute to Italy and France during this incredibly difficult time and a promise that I will be visiting these great countries soon.
But to you, this is a great yet sophisticated family meal. It might seem like an intimidating dish, but I assure it’s not. Gnocchi is much easier to make than other homemade pasta dishes, and it is a lot of fun. The secret to soft, fluffy gnocchi lies in how much you work the dough and how much flour you use, as well which flour you use. Follow the instructions closely, and you should have no troubles bringing this dish together any night of the week.
This dish is pure comfort. Not only pasta, but butter and cheese (less than you think though!) and if you can’t find a bit of comfort in food during a time like this, when can you? This will create enough for four people who aren’t looking for a massive meal. Each person should get 8 soft pillows of Gnocchi each and a good smothering of butter sauce and crumb. My advice? Make extra to freeze so you have it on hand whenever the cravings strike! Or, if you like a big bowl of pasta, double this recipe for a much larger dish.
A Few Tips:
A Note on Using Pumpkin
Pumpkin is a great alternative to the traditional potato for Gnocci. It not only adds variety and a striking colour, it also packs the dish with vitamin A and vitamin C - two crucial vitamins for our bodies during these colder months. It is also a great way to feed your kids vegetables without them knowing. But you do need to be aware of a few things! Firstly, roasting the pumpkin is the best way to prepare it for this Gnocchi. This ensures that it doesn’t absorb too much water, which will make the gnocchi too soft. If the Gnocchi is too soft, you will end up with dissolving pillows as soon as it reaches water, or you will likely add too much flour in the kneading process to dry it out, and that is the surest way to compromise the texture when it’s cooked.
Flour makes or breaks Gnocchi
For all Gnocchi, not just the pumpkin variety, the amount, and type of flour you use is crucial. You want to use just enough to stop the gnocchi being too soft and wet, but not so much that you basically make hard rubbers. The most preferable type of flour to use, and what the Italians use for their pasta, is called 00 Flour, a finely milled flour that makes incredible pasta. However, if you can’t find this flour then all purpose flour is your second best bet. Other flour varieties are too glutenous, and gluten = glue which makes harder pieces of Gnocchi.
Why you need to score your Gnocchi
The original reason Italians rolled Gnocchi down the frongs of a fork, was not to just make the Gnocchi look as though it had texture, but also to create more surface area for the sauce to absorb into the gnocchi pillow itself. However, if you find rolling them down the fork too finicky you can simply make an indent with your thumb, or gently pressing them over the handle of a wooden spoon works just as well too.
The Secret Sauce
Burnt butter sauce is one of those heart-stopping sauces. Not just for the obvious indulgent reasons, but also because it is just oh so comforting! While I am not bashing other sauce recipes that call for double (or triple!) the butter, if you are conscious of using too much butter you’ll be pleased to know that my sauce recipe actually uses a lot less than you’d expect. But don’t worry! The flavour is still there! In fact, due to the delicate creamy consistency of my sauce, the gnocchi successfully absorbs the sauce, rather than just pooling in the bottom like some other burnt butter sauces. The secret? Add the starchy water that the gnocchi has been cooking in! This is how Italians do it, because that milky water is full of thickening, creamy starch that when added to a sauce (whether butter, cream or red tomato) enrichens and thickens it, creating a delicious, glossy sauce that you get to taste during every mouthful!
What dishes instantly make you think of your favourite place or bring back cherished memories? During these times of isolation, we may feel more disconnected than ever from those who don’t live right under our roof. Allow yourself the time to reminisce on some of your favourite meals, and try your hand at creating them. We all need a bit of nurturing at the moment, and a home cooked meal smothered in good memories is a great place to start. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my top three tips to making self-isolation a self-restoration period instead.
Ready to tuck into this recipe? If you’re after an impressive yet surprisingly easy dish that is elegant and indulgent but still packs in nutrients (pumpkin, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds - all very good foods!) then keep scrolling for the recipe to make this delicious, comfort-in-a-bowl dish!
Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi
With a Burnt Butter Sage Sauce and toasted Hazelnut & Pumpkin Seed Crumb
Preparation time: 45 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour & 30 minutes
For the pasta:
500g of pumpkin, unpeeled
1 ½ cup of all purpose flour
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1.5 tsp of nutmeg
Drizzle of olive oil
For the sauce:
2 Tbs of chopped fresh sage leaves
¼ tsp of garlic
For the crumb:
¼ cup of whole hazelnuts
¼ cup of pumpkin seeds or pepitas
1 tsp of olive oil or melted butter - enough to coat both the nuts and seeds
Preheat the oven to 160C, brushing a baking tray lined with baking paper with the drizzle of oil. Keep a second tray aside for the crumb and also line with baking paper.
Cut pumpkin into large wedges, leaving the skin on, and bake for 1 ¼ hours or until very tender. Cool slightly, to a warm temperature that is easy to hold.
While cooling and the oven is still to temperature, combine the nuts and seeds and coat with oil or butter. Place on the prepared tray and cook for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and the hazelnut shells are flaking away. Once done, set aside.
Scrape the flesh away from the pumpkin skin, avoiding any tough or crispy bits
Transfer the pumpkin into a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth with no lumps. But be sure not to overwork it.
Next, sift the flour into a large bowl, and create a well in the middle. Add the beaten egg into the middle as well as the nutmeg and half of the cheese.
Place the pumpkin in the middle too, and start incorporating the flour from the side of the bowl, mixing the pumpkin, egg and cheese together thoroughly. Be sure to flip the dough in the bowl before scrapping more flour from the sides so that you are effectively drying out the wet parts of the pasta. This will make it easier to knead and ensure the flour is evenly dispersed so you don’t reach for more. At this point, the dough does not need to be very smooth.
Once all the flour is combined, tip the ball onto a lightly floured surface and knead for two minutes until smooth. Put a large saucepan of water onto the boil and salt it to taste.
Next, divide the dough in half. With floured hands, roll each half into a long sausage shape about 40cm long. Cut each line into 16 equal parts (about 2cm each). Form each piece into an oval shape and roll down the floured frongs of a fork. Alternatively, press your thumb into the middle of each oval to create an indentation. For a tutorial of rolling it down a fork, watch here.
Lower batches of gnocchi into the large saucepan of boiling water and cook until the gnocchi float to the surface before removing immediately with a slotted spoon and keeping them warm.
Towards the last batch, melt the butter in a small frying pan until it browns slightly. Spoon in tablespoons of the starchy pasta water and stir until the butter and starch water combine well and the desired thickness forms. Note: this sauce isn’t meant to be overly thick, but glossy, sort of like syrup water. Add the garlic and stir through until cooked, before removing from the stove and adding the chopped sage leaves and mixing well.
Finally, using a mezzaluna or sharp knife, finely chop the nut and seed mix until you have a crumb.
To serve, place equal amounts of gnocchi in warm bowls, drizzle over sauce and top with the remaining parmesan and the nut and seed mix.
Love, Amy Claire xx