"Reclaiming Homemade in a Small Space"

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Study in Gnocchi

My heritage is decidedly English/Scottish.  Type in any of the surnames of my ancestors and you will find they come from the British Isles.  There really is no deviation from that on either side of my family, but please don't ask me to prepare a Yorkshire pudding or haggis.  I have NO idea (though it might be a fun experience).  The cuisine of my ancestors is not my food.  If you ask me what cultural cuisine I identify with (besides Southern American), it is Italian. 

I grew up eating the Italian/American fare of lasagna and spaghetti.  I know of at least two birthdays in my teens spent at Italian/American restaurant chains.  Now, growing up in the South, authenticity wasn't found at those places, but the love for the food grew out of those experiences.  As I got older, I found myself trying to find authentic Italian food.  (My husband bought me a cookbook one year for Christmas that was devoted to authenticity in the recipes. )  I discovered things you'd never find at Olive Garden.  Risotto was one, polenta was another and then there was gnocchi. 
pumpkin gnocchi

Gnocchi, the Italian dumpling, was something that I would just have to try.  I discovered some use potatoes, some ricotta, some have different flavorings but they all use flour and eggs.  I was pouring through the cookbook that Matt got me and found a recipe for butternut gnocchi.  I LOVE dumplings so I though I would give it a try.  My first attempt was a miserable failure.  I didn't give up though and tried again.  Today's blog will contrast two different recipes for pumpkin gnocchi.

I found numerous sources, I thought I'd begin with Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Pumpkin Gnocchi .  I first tried this recipe back in October.  Over all, I found the recipe easy to follow, but it was the more time consuming of the two.  You boil potatoes first, let them cool, peel them and run them through a ricer.  I didn't have a ricer so I used a food mill on the largest setting.  It did the job well.  When I rolled out the dough, I found it very, very sticky.  I added more flour and found that after the gnocchi were boiled, they were fairly gummy.  I'm going to chalk this up to inexperience.  After the boil in salted water, they were fried in butter and sage.  Despite the texture, the pumpkin flavor came through and they tasted delicious.  I think the biggest flaw was the sage/butter sauce....there was WAY too much butter.  It was superfluous.  Next time, I will cut the butter in half and there will still be plenty of butter for the dish. 

The next recipe I tried was one from Simply Recipes.  It used a cup of pumpkin and a cup of ricotta.

Convinced that the gummy texture in my previous attempt was from too much moisture, I mixed the pumpkin and ricotta together and let them drain in a colander.  That removed about 1 T. of liquid.  This was the only step that I added to the excellent directions and pictures on this recipe's site.   (Oh...and I did use 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour...I just can't leave recipes alone.)  The gnocchi rolled out better and cooked better as well.  I found these were light and pillowy and delicious.  I didn't find the pumpkin flavor as strong as Emeril's but they were fabulous otherwise.  The texture was such a bonus that I didn't care. 

Gnocchi are time consuming.  I would say they take at least an hour of dedicated work.  It is a process that I can't leave once started, but the effort is worth it.  Plain gnocchi can be used like pasta or polenta with a sauce poured over them.  My family likes the pumpkin gnocchi as a side dish to pork or chicken.  Take some time soon to make these, you will be so glad you did.