After making the pumpkin cookies with caramel frosting I had a little over a half cup of pumpkin puree leftover. I’d been wanting to make some more gnocchi so this seemed to be a good opportunity. If you’re unfamiliar with them, gnocchi are a type of dumpling generally made of flour and potato. Until recently if you wanted gnocchi you had to make them yourself or visit an Italian deli. Nowadays there are commercial varieties available.
Pumpkin gnocchi are easily made at home, although they take a bit of preparation. The good news is it’s no more difficult to make a large batch than a small one so if you’re willing to spend a little time making them you’ll be able to freeze portions for later. It takes an hour or so to prepare the gnocchi for cooking (including cooking the potato) but the actual cooking time is less than making a pot of spaghetti. Cooking once and eating twice (or more) is an easy way to get ahead in the kitchen.
Gnocchi are generally served with a simple sauce. The pumpkin gnocchi themselves are seasoned with parmesan cheese and just enough spice to complement the pumpkin and an easy butter and sage sauce. I served them over a bed of sautéed crimini mushrooms.
Leftover mashed potatoes can be used, but they aren’t the best choice. The starch that makes leftover potatoes great for making potato cakes will make a chewy gnocchi. Most recipes call for the potatoes to be boiled in the skins, then peeled and mashed. I go ahead and cook peeled, diced potatoes. Mash them without any additions while they are still hot.
As soon at the potatoes are cool enough to handle comfortably, mix in the remaining ingredients. Use as little flour as possible to get the whole mass to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. Portion the dough into manageable pieces and roll it into a rope shape using your hands. When the rope is about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick, use a large knife or bench knife to cut the rope into about 1/2 inch pieces or slightly larger. (I made mine a little large thinking they’d photograph better…they were two bites each when one bite would be better)
It’s important to cook the pumpkin gnocchi in batches and to make sure the water comes back to a boil quickly. I cook a serving at a time and use a strainer to keep them from sticking together. The gnocchi will rise to the top as they cook. Let them bob in boiling water for a few minutes longer before removing them with a strainer. I find it easier to have the sauce ready and drop the gnocchi into the sauce to keep them warm as they are ready. You could also put them into a little melted butter or warm olive oil if you’re going to use a different sauce.
This recipe is based on one from the Food Network and will make 6 to 8 full sized servings (more if serving as an appetizer or side dish). For us, it’s a double batch, so I freeze half. See the Method for instructions on freezing.
- 3 – 4 cups mashed potatoes (I used 4 russets, a little more than a pound)
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling…any winter squash puree will work)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of allspice or nutmeg
- salt and pepper (use more salt than you normally would, up to a teaspoon)
- 1 1/2 cups flour plus another 1/2 cup in reserve (for dusting and adding to the gnocchi dough if needed)
For the sauce (for half a batch of gnocchi):
- 1 stick butter (1/4 pound)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves (I purchased a 2 ounce package and used all the leaves, saving some for garnish)
- more parmesan cheese for garnish
For the mushroom sauté:
- 1 8 oz pack sliced crimini or button mushrooms
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- pinch red pepper flakes
To make the pumpkin gnocchi:
- In a large bowl, mix the mashed potatoes with the pumpkin, eggs, parmesan and seasonings.
- Add the flour in gradually, stopping when you form a nice sticky dough. Use your hands. You’ll be able to feel the difference when it changes from potatoes with other ingredients to gnocchi dough.
- Turn the dough out onto an area dusted with some of the reserve flour. Knead briefly but don’t over do it. Add more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- Portion the dough into manageable pieces and use your hands to form a rope between 1/2 – 3/4″ thick. Depending on the size of the portion, the rope can be pretty long. Cut the rope into small pieces about 1/2″ long.
- This step is optional, but traditional. Hold a fork in one hand with the tines facing down. Use your other hand to roll each gnocchi across the tines. You’ll end up with the imprint of the tines and a little divot where the end of the fork bites into the gnocchi.
- Place the gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet, giving them another dusting of flour as the sheet is filled. Repeat until all the dough has been turned into pumpkin gnocchi. Cover the trays with a damp towel to help prevent them from drying out.
- You can stop at this point and hold the gnocchi in the fridge for several hours as long as you keep them covered. To freeze place an entire tray into the freezer and after 2 hours transfer the individual gnocchi to freezer bags. Since the gnocchi are individually frozen, it’s easy to remove just the amount you need but it’s also nice to portion them into meal sized packs. Squeeze as much air out as you can and close the seal.
- When you’re ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add gnocchi, a couple at a time, to the boiling water. Don’t add so many the water stops boiling. Let them cook a few minutes longer after they rise to the top of the water. Remove the gnocchi with a strainer and hold them until all of them are cooked. (I have the sauce ready and add them to the sauce as mentioned in the text)
To make the mushroom sauté (Do this while heating the water for the gnocchi):
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with the red pepper flakes.
- Add the onions and cook until they start to change color.
- Add the mushrooms and cook until tender.
- Transfer the mushroom sauté to a bowl and keep warm.
- Use the same skillet to make the butter sage sauce.
To make the butter sage sauce (Do this in the same pan used for the mushrooms):
- Melt the butter over high heat. It will foam a little, but that will subside as the butter begins to turn a nice golden brown color.
- Add the sage leaves and allow to crisp.
- Reduce the heat as low as possible.
- Add the gnocchi to the sauce and shake the pan or gently stir to cover them with the sauce.
To serve make a bed of sautéed mushrooms and arrange the gnocchi overtop. Spoon some of the remaining sauce over the whole thing and garnish with more parmesan cheese and reserved sage leaves.