Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Creamy Gorgonzola and Sage

Well, it's my favorite time of year again, Autumn!  Crisp winds scatter fallen leaves across the yard, bringing the feeling of Winter just around the corner.  I happen to love Autumn, as it always feels like a magical time of year.  Not only that, I love being in the kitchen in Autumn, the perfect time for preparing roasted root veggies, using pumpkins and sweet potatoes, and stirring large pots of simmering stews and soups.  There is just something so satisfying about creating a hearty recipe for the family to enjoy on a cool evening.  So today I am posting my latest Autumn recipe, a delightful Pumpkin Gnocchi, with an intensely flavorful Gorgonzola Sage sauce. We have been eating quite a bit of homemade gnocchi lately, although I have been making it with Sweet Potatoes.  So I decided to try a new twist (for us anyway), and went with Pumpkin this time instead!
The best way for simple, delicious and flavorful cooked pumpkin?  Use one of the small "sugar" or "Pie" pumpkins (about 5-6 inch pumpkins), and place in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and 15 minutes.  The skin will darken, and the pumpkin will be soft to the touch when baked.  Then simply cut off the top (around the stem), use a spoon to scoop the pulp and seeds out, and then use the spoon to remove all of the deliciously baked flesh of the pumpkin.  Each small pumpkin provides about 2 cups of mashed baked pumpkin, just perfect for a recipe, whether it's Grandma's pumpkin pie, Pumpkin bread, or this recipe for delicious Pumpkin Gnocchi! I like to buy 5 or 6 pumpkins at a time, bake them, and store the mashed pumpkin in the freezer (in freezer storage bags, 2 cups per bag), completely eliminating the need for canned pumpkin. I find canned pumpkin to be so flavorless, or to just taste like the "can", and have realized that I just love the flavor of the freshly baked pumpkin so much more!  I hope you'll also make your own pumpkin to use, ensuring that you have rich and flavorful pumpkin with no preservatives or lack of flavor(or poor quality)!

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Creamy Gorgonzola and Sage:
Serves: about 6
Prep Time: about 30 minutes
Cook Time: about 30 minute all together

For the Gnocchi:
2 cups pumpkin mash, (baked, mashed pumpkin)
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon peppercorn medley, freshly ground (mine includes black, red, green and white pepper, coriander, and allspice), or to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
additional white flour for rolling out the gnocchi
salted water, for boiling the gnocchi

For the Creamy Gorgonzola and Sage sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup finely minced sage leaves, fresh
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 Tablespoons milk (or cream if you desire)
freshly ground peppercorn medley, to taste

To prepare:

In a medium size bowl, combine the mashed pumpkin, the egg yolks, sea salt, pepper, and nutmeg, stirring well to fully combine.  Add in the white and whole wheat flour, and stir with a fork, just till combined, being careful not to over stir.  The dough will be sticky, and soft.
Place a large pot filled two-thirds with water over high heat, making sure to salt the water (this will be used for boiling the gnocchi). While the water is coming to a boil, form the gnocchi:
Liberally dust a board with white flour, as well as your hands.  Use a spoon to scoop out a golf ball size ball of dough, and place on the floured board. Very gently roll the ball of dough into a "snake" about 1 inch thick.  Use a sharp knife to cut the snake into about 1 inch pieces.  Be careful not to overwork the dough, as this could cause your gnocchi to become tough.  Using a fork dipped in flour, gently press the tines onto the top of each gnocchi, creating ridges (these are what help hold onto the sauce for the best flavor!). You can form the gnocchi all at once, or I like to just roll out 2 snakes at a time, form the gnocchi, and then boil just that amount at one time, so that I don't over crowd the pot (and it's the perfect amount of time to form more gnocchi while the first batch cooks!).  To boil the Gnocchi: Gently slip the formed gnocchi into the boiling water, and then carefully stir once (to prevent the gnocchi from sticking). Allow to boil until they float to the surface (about 4-5 minutes), and then use a large slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi to a strainer. Repeat with remaining gnocchi until all are cooked.
Once the gnocchi are all formed and boiled, you can freeze some for later if you don't need it all (just place in a single layer on a baking sheet, place in the freezer until frozen, then place the frozen gnocchi into a freezer bag, ready to prepare with sauce after they are thawed). Or, use all the Gnocchi with the Creamy Gorgonzola and Sage sauce below!
To create the sauce: Place the butter in a very large skillet (12 inch or larger) and place over medium heat.  Allow the butter to melt, then add in the minced sage.  Allow the butter to slightly brown while the sage infuses it's flavor, being careful to either swirl the pan or stir continuously, to prevent burning. Add in the cooked gnocchi, stirring well to evenly coat the gnocchi.  Add in the crumbled Gorgonzola, continuing to stir until the cheese is completely melted.  Add in the milk (or cream), and the ground pepper (to taste), and stir until the sauce is creamy and fully coats the gnocchi.  You may add salt if you desire, but I found the Gorgonzola to be salty enough for my taste.
This dish makes about 6- 1 cup servings, and as it is so rich and flavorful a little goes a long way!  Serve on a plate and garnish with additional minced sage, if desired.  Enjoy!!

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