Dumplings! We’ve never met one we didn’t love. And gnocchi top our list of faves.
Since it’s autumn, we’re making these plump little pillows of goodness with pumpkin. And we’re pairing that with ricotta cheese (rather than the more traditional potato) to make for a lighter dish.
Because lighter means we can eat more. And when it comes to dumplings, more is always better.
Recipe: Pumpkin and Ricotta Gnocchi
Gnocchi take well to both butter- and tomato-based sauces. We’re serving our gnocchi with a herbal butter sauce, similar to the one we made for our Pumpkin Ravioli. You could also serve it with a Brown Butter Sauce. Or a spicy Marinara Sauce.
Gnocchi most often have cooked potatoes as their base, with flour mixed in to form a dough, plus egg to hold it all together. We’re using ricotta instead of potato. Ricotta gnocchi are lighter and easier to make (potato gnocchi can be a bit dense). But when you use ricotta, it can be harder to form the individual gnocchi because you’ll use less flour – so the dough is stickier and harder to work. We suggest refrigerating the dough for half an hour or so to help it firm up. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to refrigerate, you could just add more flour (the gnocchi will be heavier, but they’ll be easier to shape).
BTW, gnocchi traditionally have grooves, which helps them catch and absorb sauce (you can form these with a fork or a gnocchi paddle). Ricotta gnocchi tend to crumble apart when you try to form grooves, though, so we just shape them into oblongs and forgo the grooves.
Active prep time for this recipe (mixing and shaping the gnocchi) is about 15 minutes. Then we recommend adding 30 minutes of refrigerator time after mixing the dough and before shaping it. You can cook the gnocchi immediately after shaping it (cooking takes 3 minutes or a bit less). Or you can freeze the gnocchi (we always do this) and cook it frozen. Cooking frozen adds another minute or two.
This recipe yields about 6 servings. Gnocchi will keep for about 2 months in the freezer if stored in airtight freezer bags.
- 1 cup ricotta cheese, drained (see Notes)
- 1½ cups canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 egg yolks (see Notes if you prefer to use the whole egg)
- kosher salt to taste (a few pinches for us; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (a half dozen grinds for us)
- ~2 cups flour, divided, plus extra for dusting
- 1 to 2 cups sauce (see headnote) for serving
- a big pot of boiling water for cooking the gnocchi
- additional kosher salt for seasoning the cooking water (a tablespoon or so)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish (optional)
- Add the drained ricotta to a large mixing bowl. Add the pumpkin, Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg yolks, salt, and pepper. Mix together with a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Add 1 cup of flour, then mix to combine. Continue adding flour one tablespoon at a time, mixing in, until the dough just holds together (it will still be a bit sticky; see Notes).
- Spread a dusting of flour on a pastry board, then place the dough on it. Flour your hands, then flatten the dough into a disk. Cut the disk into 6 pieces. Place the pieces on a plate that you’ve dusted with flour. Then cover with a damp towel and refrigerate for ½ hour (or up to one hour).
- Remove the gnocchi from the fridge and return the dough to the pastry board. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (or use a silicone baking mat) and dust it lightly with flour. Roll each piece of dough into a log. Cut each log across the width 8 times or so to form the gnocchi (see Notes). Space the gnocchi out on the sheet pan. When all the gnocchi are formed, place the sheet pan in the freezer (or the refrigerator, if you want to cook them unfrozen). Let the gnocchi freeze solid (this takes about 2 hours). You can then portion the gnocchi into freezer bags. Keep the gnocchi frozen until ready to cook.
- When you’re ready to cook the gnocchi, make a sauce in a large frying pan (see headnote for suggestions) and keep it warm. Place a large pot of water on to boil. When the water boils, add salt to season it. Add the gnocchi and stir. Bring the water back to a simmer. When the gnocchi floats to the surface of the water, it’s done. Remove the gnocchi with a skimmer and add them to the frying pan with the sauce.
- Toss the gnocchi with the sauce. Add the chopped parsley (if using) and plate the gnocchi. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (if using). Serve and enjoy.
- We’re serving our gnocchi with a herbal butter sauce. We use rosemary as the herb (hence the rosemary garnish in the pictures) with a bit of thyme added in.
- You can use any herb you like, although we think fresh herbs work best. Sage is a popular choice for gnocchi.
- You could substitute Pecorino Romano for the Parmigiano-Reggiano if you wish.
- Use good quality ricotta when you make this dish – it’ll make for better gnocchi.
- Ricotta can be a bit watery, so you’ll want to drain it. The traditional way is to place the ricotta in a strainer over a bowl, then refrigerate overnight to let it drain.
- But there’s a quicker method: Press the ricotta into a dish towel or some paper towels, squeezing the water out with your hands. (We’ve tried this, and it works.)
- Have fresh cooked pumpkin (or winter squash) on hand? You could purée that and substitute it for the canned pumpkin.
- We use 2 egg yolks when we make this dish. But you could use whole eggs if you prefer. Whole eggs add more liquid to the mixture, which means you’ll end up using more flour (and will have heavier gnocchi).
- The amount of flour required for this dish depends on how much moisture is in the pumpkin/ricotta mixture (and even on how humid your kitchen is). So you need to adjust the amount of flour by “feel.” You’ll want to use as little flour as possible to make the gnocchi lighter. But definitely add enough flour so you can work the dough (and shape the gnocchi).
- In our opinion, a bit of extra flour doesn’t make the gnocchi too heavy when you’re using ricotta (that’s more of a problem with potato gnocchi). But too little flour? The gnocchi will fall apart in the cooking water.
- Want to make sure you’ve added enough flour? Place a small saucepan of water on the stove and bring it to a boil while you’re mixing the dough (Step 2). Just before you cut the dough into 6 pieces, pinch off a gnocchi-size piece and drop it into the water. If it falls apart, you need to add more flour – you can knead it in while the dough is on the pastry board, then test again. If the test piece stays intact while cooking, you’re good to go.
- Before we cut the gnocchi into pieces, we often flatten the top of the dough logs to form an oblong shape. Since we’re not creating grooves in the gnocchi, we think this shape looks more interesting. But it’s not a typical shape for gnocchi.
- When we make gnocchi, we always mix and shape it ahead of time, then freeze the entire batch. We cook it frozen (which adds only a minute or two of cooking time). Why do this? Because we almost always make more gnocchi than we can use at one time (so we’ll be freezing some anyway). The disadvantage? Well, it adds an additional step.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Mmm, gnocchi!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And the pumpkin adds extra savor.”
“Yup,” I said. “Gourd big or gourd home.”
“I need to squash these puns,” said Mrs K R.
“But you’re glad I patched you into this meal, no?” I said.
“Lucky for you I’m down in the dumplings,” said Mrs K R. “So I probably can’t strike back.”
Gnocchi on wood.
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