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Thursday, October 27, 2011

All Pumpkins Great and small

Fall's iconic orange pumpkin takes us gastronomically and ornamentally from Halloween through Thanksgiving.  Botanically a fruit, in the same family as squash and gourds, millions of pumpkins planted in the warmth of July are now ready for us to have our way with them.

California is one of the top pumpkin producing states in the U.S., and in Half Moon Bay up the coast, the annual Art & Pumpkin Festival draws over 250,000 visitors.  Farmers and other competitive food cultivators from near and far compete for bragging rights, and this year's winning orb weighed in at 1,704 pounds.

Another way that sizes matters is that small pumpkins are best for cooking and larger pumpkins are best for carving.  Baked, steamed, boiled, broiled, roasted, or mashed, the mild, slightly sweet pumpkin flesh is a tasty addition to puddings, muffins, soups, stews, cookies, cheesecakes, and of course pie.  To make a puree, cut the pumpkin open, remove the fibrous strings and seeds (set these aside to roast), cut the pumpkin into 4-8 pieces and place on a baking pan lined with foil.  Bake at 375 degrees for 1-1 1/2 hours until the flesh is soft, then allow to cool until the flesh can easily be scooped from the rind and then process until smooth.

One of my favorite seasonal recipes is for Pumpkin and Sage Gnocchi and I'm sharing a version of it with you here.  I cannot tell a lie - I was too lazy to make my own pumpkin puree, and my local grocery store was out of canned pumpkin, so I used a box of frozen butternut squash, and if I hadn't confessed that fact no one would have been able to tell the difference. 

Fresh Pumpkin or Frozen Butternut Squash and Sage Gnocchi
1 lb. ricotta cheese
8 oz. pumpkin or butternut squash puree
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs
2 tsp. sea salt
2 pinches fresh ground black pepper
3 cups all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. earth balance or butter
1 extra Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted pepitas

In a medium sized bowl combine the ricotta, pumpkin (oops I mean butternut squash), maple syrup, sage, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper, and blend together.

Put the flour in a separate bowl, create a well in the center, and fill it with the liquid mixture.  Fold together until a dough is formed - if slightly sticky add a bit more flour.

Take an amount of dough about the size of a tennis ball and using both hands roll the ball out into a cylinder shape about 3/4" in diameter.  With a sharp knife but the cylinder into 1" pieces, imprint 1 side with the back of a fork, set aside the finished gnocchi, and repeat with the remaining dough.  Stage the gnocchi on a parchment lined baking sheet lightly dusted with flour and keep covered until ready for cooking.

Fill a large pot with water, add a pinch or 2 of salt, and bring to a boil.  Add 15-20 gnocchi into the water and remove after the gnocchi float to the top.  Remove them from the boiling water and repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked. 

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saute pan, adding the additional fresh sage, then enough gnocchi to fill the pan.  Saute until the gnocchi are lightly browned, season with additional s&p, divide onto plates, sprinkle with the Parmesan and pepitas, and serve.


  1. What a delicious sounding recipe, with your special touches of maple syrup and pepitas added to Italian flavors. I just bought 6 small butternut squashes, so this is very interesting for me.
    Does the recipe make a lot, with 3 cups flour? About how many batches of 15-20 did you cook? What kind of ricotta did you use - whole-milk or low-fat? Are you freezing any extra and do you have any reheating tips?

  2. Yes, the recipe makes a lot. I only made 1 batch and froze the rest, about another 3 batches. I used whole milk ricotta because it was on sale (of course) but don't imagine it makes much difference. The gnocchi I froze were uncooked, so I'll just throw them into boiling water and let them rise to the top, then saute per the recipe or possibly make another sauce.

  3. Great idea! They sound so delicious! I really like your technique photo with the cylinder of dough and the shaped gnocchi.
    Where do you buy white whole wheat flour?

  4. Not positive but I think I bought the flour at Ralph's.

  5. Nancy Rose, The gnocchi looks amazing! Mmm - I bet it smells as good as it tastes.
    And I have got to make it to that pumpkin festival one year...