Last year, while on a trip to Rome, Dear Daughter's culinary experience hit a new high. We were dining in a small, uncrowded restaurant on our first day in Rome, and she was determined to have gnocchi for lunch. I am not sure why she was so determined. It could have been because of discussions she had with her best friend, who was from Italy. It could have been that it was just something new to try. Regardless of the reason, she had her gnocchi and dining at an Italian restaurant has never been the same. If gnocchi is on the menu, then you know that will be her choice. When she recently heard a friend explain how she helps her mom make gnocchi at Christmas, she shot me a look as if to say, "Why can't you make it?" The dare was on...
The dare might be on but so was almost a full container of ricotta cheese. I cannot remember why I needed it but from the looks of the opened container, I had only needed about a tablespoon. What was I going to do with the other two cups? Then, there was the small pumpkin sitting on my counter. It had arrived in last week's CSA shipment and was too small for many dishes. A flash of pure culinary brilliance came to me...seriously...why not try to make Ricotta Pumpkin Gnocchi? I had heard that ricotta gnocchi was easier to make than the potato based version. Who cares that I cannot make pastry dough or pizza dough? Who cares that I am not a big fan of gnocchi? I was on a culinary mission...to make my kid proud.
I learned that the key to a good gnocchi is to make it light - you don't want to be eating tiny bowling balls. That meant that the flour content had to be kept at a bare minimum. Too little and the dough would not come together. Too much and the dough would be much too heavy. I was amazed at how fast the dish came together. A little music wafting through the kitchen, a small glass of red wine and I was in the Italian zone! The finished product was served in a browned butter sage sauce and Dear Daughter declared it a winner!
Ricotta Pumpkin Gnocchi
based on Simply Recipes
1 cup roasted pumpkin
1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 t salt
4 cups all purpose flour.
Reheat the oven to 350. Cut the pumpkin in half and take out the pulp and seeds. Place cut side down on a foil lined cookie sheet and roast until soft (45 minutes to an hour). Remove from oven, cool and then spoon out the pumpkin and mash.
Place pumpkin in a bowl. Add two eggs, ricotta, salt and cheese. Stir until combined. Add two cups of flour. Combine.
Now here is where it get tricky. The dough will be very sticky. Add about 1/4 cup more flour and continue to combine. Continue adding the flour in 1/4 cup increments until the flour is still just a bit sticky. You should use no more than 4 cups of flour.
Pull off a piece of the dough and with your hands, roll it in the shape of a cigar about 1/2" thick. With a sharp knife, cut into small pieces. Dust with just a bit more flour.
From here, you can roll the pieces lightly onto fork to make small indentions (to catch the sauce) are choose not to do this step.
In small batches, place the gnocchi into the boiling water. Make sure that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the gnocchi float to the top, they have finished cooking.
In a small skillet, melt butter. With a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the skillet. Let them cook about 90 seconds on each side. At the end, toss in some minced, fresh sage. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and a bit of black pepper.