I've always wanted to try to make gnocchi, so being in a festive spirit I thought of a pumpkin version would be the perfect chance. I read a few different recipes and watched a couple videos to brush up on my gnocchi knowledge, then gave it a whirl. It wasn't as hard as I was expecting, and sort of reminded me of playing with Play-Doh as a child.
The recipe I worked from was this Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi, which was good, but maybe not great for gnocchi beginners. It also yielded a ton of gnocchi, meaning I ended up spending a lot of time rolling and cutting, and then we froze what we didn’t cook that night. To freeze the gnocchi to enjoy later down the road, I sprinkled a baking sheet with cornmeal (a tip I got from Giada De Laurentiis) and arranged the gnocchi on top in a single layer. When they were completely frozen, I transferred them to a freezer bag for storage. There seems to be much debate over whether it’s better to cook the gnocchi before freezing, but in this case we just went with the easiest method and froze them uncooked. However, next time I might try experimenting by freezing half of them cooked and leaving the other half uncooked for comparison.
For the sauce I came up with my own recipe whichof course had to be cream based with pancetta, sage, and garlic, and I topped the dish with toasted pine nuts and garnished it with fried sage. It yields enough sauce for about a quarter of the gnocchi made or about enough for 3 or 4 people.
Here’s the recipe:
12 ounces pancetta
2 tablespoons butter
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 to 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 to 1/3 cup pine nuts
canola or vegetable oil, as needed
8 to 10 fresh chopped sage leaves - with a couple extra for optional fried garnish
1/2 to 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese flakes
Slowly cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-low heat, until it’s brown and crispy. Next, remove the cooked pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a paper towel–lined plate.
Leave all the fat rendered from the pancetta in the pan. Add the butter to the pan, increase the heat to medium, and let the butter melt and incorporate with the fat. Then add the garlic and shallot to the pan, and let cook until the shallot becomes translucent. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, and sage, then pour in the cream. Stir until incorporated, and reduce the heat to medium-low.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh gnocchi and stir. Once the gnocchi float to the top, they’re finished. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and transfer directly to the sauce.
Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toss them in the pan every few minutes to make sure they don’t burn. They’re done when they smell fragrant and are lightly browned.
To fry the sage leaves, pour enough canola or vegetable oil into a pan to fully cover the bottom, and warm over medium-high heat. To be sure the oil is hot enough for frying, test it by putting the end of a wooden spoon handle in the oil; if little bubbles immediately form around the wood, you’re ready to go. Once the oil is hot, drop a few sage pieces in. They should fry quickly. Pull them out and transfer to a paper towel. Repeat with the remaining sage leaves.
To serve, top the gnocchi with the toasted pine nuts, fried sage leaves, and fresh Parmesan flakes.
We paired this with a Carneros Pinot Noir from Sebastiani Winery. It was a perfect pairing. This Pinot isn't the classic fruit forward and instead is full bodied with smoky hints to it.
I hope you enjoy this upscale take on familiar fall flavors. If you happen to share it with your family and friends, you’ll be sure to impress them with this delicious dish. Since I ended up with so many extra frozen gnocchi, I’m excited to keep the pumpkin flavor going all fall long. If you make your own sauce to go with your pumpkin gnocchi, let us know what it is. The variations are endless!