One of my favourite things about fall is zucca (ZOOK•kah). Zucca can mean pumpkin or squash and I love them both. Risotto di zucca, zuppa di zucca, roasted zucca…..yum! It always makes me sad to throw out my carved hallowe’en pumpkin, so this year, I used a small battery operated candle and ‘recycled’ my zucca into another one of my favourite things- gnocchi! Gnocchi (NYOK•kee) are usually made with potatoes, but they can also be made with ricotta, zucca, or a combination. I made mine with no potato- just zucca as they are lighter and have a more intense zucca flavour. A large hallowe’en zucca makes a lot of gnocchi, but you don’t have to use all of the polpa di zucca (pumpkin flesh) at once. It can keep in the fridge for 3 days until you have time to make more gnocchi. All of the measurements in this recipe are very approximate, as it depends on the water content of the zucca.
Gnocchi di Zucca
500-600 grams mashed roasted zucca (pumpkin) with excess water removed (2 cups)
1 small egg, beaten
160g 00 flour (about 1¼ cup) + extra for dusting
60g (¼cup) grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano if you don’t have Pecorino)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of salt
- Cut zucca into pieces, wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 180⁰C (350⁰F) for 50 minutes
- Scoop out the flesh and mash by hand with a potato masher or a fork, or use a potato ricer. Unless you plan to make zuppa di zucca (pumpkin soup) do NOT use a food processor or immersion blender!
- Remove as much water as possible, or the gnocchi will absorb too much flour and become dense and rubbery. Do this by straining the mashed zucca through a tea towel. A lot of water will come out! If this is too messy for you, return the mashed zucca to the oven, uncovered for half an hour to remove moisture. The tea towel method works better.
- Stir in the egg and mix well, then salt, nutmeg and Pecorino.
- Add half of the flour and mix well
- Add more flour as needed-only a little at a time. Use as little flour as possible-only enough to make the dough hold together
- On a floured surface, cut off sections of dough and hand roll into 1.5 cm (½ inch) ropes
- Cut rope into 2-2.5 cm (1 inch) lengths and roll each gnocco with your thumb against the the back tines of a forchetta (fork) or over a rigagnocchi. Rigagnocchi literally means ‘gnocchi line-maker’. It is a small wooden paddle with lines carved into it, as seen in the photos. I used a forchetta to roll my gnocco over the rigagnocchi.
- Place finished gnocchi on a floured tray or surface and sprinkle with more flour to prevent sticking. To freeze the gnocchi, place on a floured tea towel on a tray or baking sheet and freeze for half an hour, then put the frozen gnocchi into zip-loc® bags or containers and refreeze.
- To cook gnocchi, drop them into a large pot of boiling, salted water. They only need about 3 minutes to cook, then lift them out with a slotted spoon. If cooking frozen gnocchi, do not thaw them. Take them directly from the freezer into the boiling water. Frozen gnocchi hold their shape well, but not if they have been defrosted. They will take about 4 minutes to cook.
- Gnocchi di zucca should be served with a simple sauce, so as not to overpower the delicate taste. I like to heat some extra virgin olive oil and add finely chopped garlic and whole sage leaves, then toss this over my gnocchi. I sprinkled on freshly grated cacioricotta from Orsara di Puglia. If you aren’t lucky enough to have cacioricotta, use freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano.Buon Appetito!