Who doesn’t love gnocchi? Little morsels of potato-ey heaven dressed in butter and just made for parmesan…I figured gnocchi could only be improved by a hint of sweetness when I found this recipe for pumpkin gnocchi with sage butter a few months back. It may not quite be pumpkin season but my local Portuguese deli almost always has delicious looking slices of this under-rated ingredient, so when I invited my friend J round for dinner on one of the first longer nights of the year, it seemed perfect to serve something lighter, yet still substantial in these early days of spring.
I was also encouraged by the fact that gnocchi is apparently very quick and easy to make, making it perfect for allowing me to actually spend time with my guest. I roasted the pumpkin the night before in a very hot oven for about 35 minutes and boiled the potatoes whole in their skins. I wanted to minimise the amount of water in the vegetables, so felt the suggestion of steaming them as in the recipe wasn’t the best way forward. I left the pumpkin to drain overnight, propped on the side of the roasting tin and was pleased to see large amounts of liquid drain out. (I only used one slice for this recipe. The second will be used over the weekend.)
Just before preparing the dough I squashed the pumpkin through a sieve to remove any more water and peeled the potatoes before passing both through my trusty potato ricer to get a soft malleable texture. I gradually added in the plain flour and kneaded everything together to form a firm dough. It took only a few minutes and seemed extremely straightforward. I patted myself on the back…and then tried to lift my dough to roll it out only to discover it had metamorphosed into a sticky heap that wouldn’t leave the worktop.
Luckily I hadn’t put the flour away and I began adding a handful at a time and kneading it in to firm the dough up again. It seemed to work for a minute or two at a time, but almost instantly the dough became drippingly wet again. Eventually I sectioned it into 4 pieces and worked on each bit at a time, adding more and more flour until I could roll the dough into little gnocchi-esque dumplings on a plate. The recipe called for 160g of flour. I must have used at least 3 times that to get my gorgeous looking little pale orange globes. It was definitely time for a glass of wine.
I left the gnocchi sitting for about an hour before I cooked them and was slightly perturbed to find them sticking to the plate somewhat upon trying to cook them. Perhaps I should have refrigerated them? I managed to pull them off the plate despite their gummy texture, although they now looked more like slightly despondent commas than perky dumplings, and cooked them in batches in boiling water. Even though it might have been the pumpkin causing the problems with the dough, I was grateful for the gorgeous colour it imparted or the gnocchi might have looked wan and unappealing thanks to the misshapen state.
I tossed the cooked gnocchi in the sage butter which I had left infusing for a couple hours after picking the sage freshly from the garden to get as much flavour in there as possible. We then sat down to eat the gnocchi with lashings of freshly ground parmesan on top. Surprisingly they weren’t bad. Despite the difficulties with the dough, the texture was firm and slightly chewy as gnocchi should be. The sage went beautifully with the pumpkin, but over all the flavour was so delicate as to be almost non-existent. They could have done with about ten times more seasoning and the pumpkin was barely noticeable. We both seemed to enjoy them, but I think that was more because they were a vehicle for butter and parmesan.
I’ll be trying gnocchi again as they are a great vegetarian option for dinner and another way to add potato into my diet, but I’ll be skipping the pumpkin and trying Marcella Hazan’s wise words on the subject to see if I get less deformed dumplings next time!