Before moving to Iowa in 2003, I had never heard of gnocchi. In fact, I was not food adventurous at all.
My first Spring in Iowa, I decided to do some networking and volunteer for Wine Fest (hosted by Meredith Corporation...aka the HQ of Better Homes and Garden Mag). It was the first year of the annual event, and I was selfishly hoping to get some face time with a few Meredith Corporation big wigs and hopefully land a sweet writing job. Neither of which happened.
I was assigned the task of welcoming the guest chefs and fetching their needs. Had I been a true foodie, I would have known who each of them were and been salivating at the chance for them to sign my cookbook...but, alas, I was clueless except for Oprah's chef Art Smith, and unfortunately I wasn't assigned to him.
Anyway, as I watched the first chef expertly make a batch of her famous cioppino, (which, by the way stunk up the joint), and talking of her time spent in northern Italy, I looked down at my syllabus to see that the next chef was making 'gnocchi'. What the heck? Never heard of it, and all I cared was that it smelled nothing like the fishy cioppino that was already making my hair reek.
As cioppino lady cleared out, a young man stepped in, air kissed both of her cheeks and gave her some sort of Italian greeting before displaying is array of cooking gadgets. As he began his demonstration, I soon discovered, gnocchi are a little potato dumpling regarded as a pasta in Italy. He peeled, diced, and boiled potatoes for the gnocchi, all the while talking of his tutelage under Lidia Bastianich, and totally losing me when he pulled out his little wooden gnocchi board and began rolling the little dumplings one by one down the board and into the boiling water. Delicious as these little dumplings were, it was so much work! I resigned myself to enjoying gnocchi only at various restaurants (which, if you haven't tried it, do! So delicious and worth the calorie splurge!).
Recently, I found a recipe for gnocchi on Pinterest, and decided to give it a try. The recipe called for pumpkin as the non-traditional star ingredient instead of potatoes, which cut out a majority of the work of peeling, chopping, boiling and ricing potatoes. I was a bit skeptical at first, but the result was a light, savory dumpling equally as good as it's sister potato gnocchi with far less time and work involved. It was so easy that a little helper even got in on the fun...
Believe me, making this gnocchi is just as easy as she makes it look...let's get started!
1/2 C. skim milk ricotta
1/2 C. canned pumpkin
1/2 C. shredded parmesan cheese (I used kraft parmesan/asiago blend)
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. lemon zest (plus extra for garnish)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 C. sifted flour (I used white whole wheat--but regular flour is fine)
4 Tbsp. butter divided
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced fresh sage
Preheat oven to 200F
1)Combine ricotta, pumpkin, parmesan, yolk, zest and salt in a large bowl. Mix well. Sprinkle in half of the flour and gently turn with a spatula a few times. Add in remaining flour, and knead until just combined. Too much kneading will make the gnocchi tough.
2)Dust a clean, dry surface with a generous sprinkling of flour. Divide dough into four parts. Taking each dough ball, roll it into a long 1" in diameter log. Cut gnocchi into 1" pieces. Repeat with remaining dough.
3) Using 1 tablespoon of butter for each batch, heat the butter in a large saute pan. When melted, add a fourth of the gnocchi to the pan and saute a couple of minutes, tossing the gnocchi in the pan until all sides begin to brown. Remove gnocchi and place in a large pan and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi.
4) When all gnocchi is cooked, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and heat 2 Tbsp of butter (over medium heat). When melted, add the fresh sage and cook a couple of minutes until browned a bit (but not burnt!). Add 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar to the butter/sage and whisk until combined. I added another tablespoon of butter to top this off. Toss the gnocchi with the sauce and serve. This does not make a lot of sauce, it's just meant too lightly coat the gnocchi so it does not over power the flavor of the gnocchi.
5) Serve with additional chopped sage and shaved parmesan cheese.