(Pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter sage sauce and garnished with salty roasted pumpkin seeds - recipe in post)
Am I the only one with pie pumpkins left? Maybe I over-did it a little when I stocked up over Thanksgiving. Now I'm trying to find ways to use them before they go rotten besides pureeing and freezing them for later - fresh is best, and all.
Of course, the hardest part about deciding how to use them is all the possibilities: pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cinnabuns, pumpkin pudding, I could go on for ages. Right now, though, I'm just not feeling the desserts, so that narrows things down.
What about pumpkin soup, then? Pumpkin chili? Maybe oven roasted pumpkin fries, like sweet potato fries... Pumpkin risotto, perhaps? Okay, so maybe it doesn't narrow things down that much.
Finally I settled on pumpkin gnocchi. Original? No. Tasty? Yes. *Shrugs* what can I say, I go where the stomach tells me.
If you aren't familiar with gnocchi, it's a type of pasta-like dumpling. Soft little pillows most often made with potatoes, squash, or ricotta cheese, and dressed in sauces anywhere from classic tomato to cream. They're quick and fairly simple to prepare, and can be made ahead and frozen for a later date, making them perfect for busy week-night dinners.
As is my routine, I looked over a few recipes before picking and choosing the direction I wanted to go. The recipe I most closely adapted from, and would love to try replicating word for word, is Foodie Crush's pumpkin gnocchi with sage, hazelnut and brown butter sauce. This looks divine, but after deciding to incorporate a few different elements and realizing that I didn't have any hazelnuts, I ended up making my own variation.
The recipe calls for pumpkin puree, which I must emphasize is best when home-made. See "Pumpkin Puree two ways, and neither are from a can" for some basic ways to make your own, or do what I did this time and abandon all norms and traditions.
Knowing that my pumpkin was going into a savory dish, I decided to sear it in a pan, lightly charring the outside and drawing out a different side of the pumpkin flavor.
I cut my pumpkin into half inch cubes, small enough to offer lots of surface area and also a quick cooking time, then tossed it with lots of salt and cracked black pepper.
I threw the chunks (in two batches) into a rippling hot skillet with a couple tablespoons of canola oil and let them cook, giving them a shake every few minutes, until browned on the outside and soft most of the way through. Then I added about a 1/4 cup water and covered the pan with a lid to let them steam the rest of the way through, killing the heat. Once all the water had dissipated, I took my potato masher to the pumpkin and called it done.
Off to a good start already. Then I added some butter and an egg yolk before mixing in my flour. I decided instead of using regular all-purpose flour that I'd use the gluten-free flour mix I made the other day. After all, I wanted to know how it performs in different applications, and gnocchi is a very delicate test of its abilities.
I rolled the dough into long ropes, then cut them into small segments. Not having a gnocchi board, I rolled each piece along the tines of a fork to create the traditional grooves.
Gnocchi is designed with little ridges to help hold on to sauces, so while the grooves aren't necessary it's an extra step I was willing to take.
Once all the gnocchi was cut and rolled, I started a pot of heavily salted water to boil.
In the meantime, I took fresh leaves of sage, rolled them into a cylinder, and then cut into strips.
The confetti of sage turned full-flavored and crispy in the brown butter sauce - then I added a splash of cream to thicken it up before tossing in the gnocchi.
I garnished the dish with salty roasted pumpkin seeds for a little texture, and to bring the pumpkin theme full-circle.
Served in little pumpkin bowls, this dish was eye candy just as much as it was hearty and filling.
My only wish - something I am often disappointed by with gnocchi, so it might just be me - is for the pumpkin flavor to shine a little more. Still, whether 'pumpkiny' enough or not, it was delicious - if you're a fan of gnocchi, you'll be a fan of this recipe.
Pumpkin Gnocchi with Creamy Brown Butter Sage Sauce
(Adapted from Foodie Crush)
For the gnocchi:
1 Cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour (I used gluten-free with near perfect results)
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (fresh if possible)
Fresh cracked pepper
For the sauce:
4 TBSP unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, sliced, chopped, or torn
1 cup whole milk or cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
Optional: Roasted pumpkin seeds or toasted nuts to garnish
For the gnocchi:
In a pot or pan, reduce pumpkin puree over medium-low heat until thickened. Turn off heat and add butter, stirring until melted. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, mix in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and egg yolk.
Add 1 1/2 cups flour and fold in with a rubber spatula. Add more flour 1-2 TBSP at a time, until the dough is just barely not sticky. The amount of flour you'll need will depend greatly on what type of flour you use, and how wet your puree is. If necessary, rub hands with flour to make the dough easier to work with.
Break off a chunk of dough and roll it into a ball, then roll the ball into a long rope about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick. Cut the rope into 1/2 - 3/4 inch pieces, then roll the pieces on a gnocchi board or along the tines of a fork to create ridges. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Set gnocchi aside, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water liberally, so that it tastes like the sea.
Cook gnocchi in batches, not over-crowding the pot, until they float to the surface. Depending on the size of the gnocchi, this will only take 1 - 2 minutes. Remove gnocchi to a bowl with a slotted spoon or strainer.
(Note: Uncooked gnocchi can be tossed lightly in flour, bagged, and frozen for later use.)
For the sauce:
Melt butter over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened in color. Add the sage and cook for another minute or two.
Pour in the milk or cream, and stir often until reduced to desired thickness.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss gnocchi in sauce, and add cheese if using.
Garnish with freshly roasted pumpkin seeds or chopped toasted nuts, and enjoy!