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Author Notes: What can be more fall than pumpkin? And spiced pumpkin at that. Once the temperature begins to drop, hearty dishes just need to come out, front and center. The sprouts adds color and flavor diversity to the pumpkin rush, the pancetta and sage a salty and savory touch. And the chestnuts, a flavor and texture break. The ricotta gnocchi recipe is an adaptation from my Sicilian Nonna. Using roasted pumpkin keeps the moisture content lower than using pumpkin from a can (plus it's sweeter) thus needing less flour to bind it. The trick of removing moisture from the ricotta using paper towels comes from a Serious Eats recipe. I find the ricotta gives the gnocchi a softer and less dense texture than potato gnocchi, thus they're somewhat lower on the gut bomb scale ... unless you eat twice as much. The mascarpone adds a little cheesy tang (you can skip the mascapone and substitute parmegiano cheese). The trick with gnocchi is to knead the dough as little as possible, just until the ingredients come together. It'll be a little sticky, just keep your hands floured. and keep your work surface generously floured. Sorry, but this gets a little complicated because of the various steps of prep work. The gnocchi can be made while the pumpkin is roasting. And while the gnocchi firm up in the fridge, braise the sprouts (and get some water boiling). Once the sprouts are braised, the gnocchi cook in a minute or slightly more, so the final steps go quickly. Alternately, you can make the gnocchi ahead of time and freeze them. You can drop the frozen gnocchi straight into the boiling water, they don't take much longer to cook than do refrigerated gnocchi. You'll probably have extra gnocchi and pumpkin. Save for a quick meal of gnocchi in brown butter and sage sauce with the pumpkin. Or make a pumpkin cream sauce for the gnocchi. —Pete
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or your own favorite blend of pie spice)
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 12 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 small cooking pumpkin, about 3 lbs.
- 3/4 cup ricotta (whole milk - room temperature)
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
- 1/4 cup grated parmagiano reggiano cheese
- 1 large egg yolk
- ground black pepper
- 1 cup flour plus more for dusting
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced into 1/4" chunks
- tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bunch sage (1 tbsp chopped)
- 20 ounces brussel sprouts; washed, trimmed, and halved
- 1 - 2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
- 1 cup chestnuts (from a jar; halved)
- Roast the pumpkin: Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Cut the pumpkin into 8 wedges. Cut each wedge into three chunks. Place the pumpkin on a foil lined baking pan, skin side down. Using 3 tbsp butter, place a small pat on each chunk. Using 3 tbsp of brown sugar, place equal amounts onto the butter. Sprinkle liberally with spice mix and sprinkle a pinch of salt on each chunk. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes or until pumpkin is tender and browning on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, cut the pumpkin flesh from the skins. Using a fork, mash enough of the pumpkin to obtain 3/4 cup. Cut the remaining pumpkin into 1" cubes. Keep warm.
- While the pumpkin is roasting, make the gnocchi: Spread the ricotta on triple layered paper towel. Cover with another triple layered paper towel. Press and let sit for a few minutes. Scrape the ricotta into a bowl using a spatula. Combine ricotta, mascapone (use additional 1/4 cup parmagiano if not using the mascarpone) 3/4 cup mashed, roasted pumpkin, parmagiano, yolk and salt in large bowl. Mix well. Sprinkle 3/4 of the flour on the mixture, gently turn with spatula a few times to incorporate. Sprinkle remaining flour on top of the mixture and incorporate with the spatula. Generously flour a clean, smooth surface and dump the dough onto the flour. Flour your hands and gently knead with your fingertips, just bringing together the mixture and rolling in the dough on the surface as needed until flour is incorporated through. This only should take a minute or two. Any longer and you will be over-kneading. The dough will still be a bit sticky.
- Dust a clean, dry surface with a generous sprinkling of flour. Divide dough into 5 parts. Flour your hands as well to keep dough from sticking. Take one part and roll into a 1″ diameter log (begin from center and work your way out to the ends). Cut each gnoccho into 1 1/2″ pieces (a bench cutter seems to work best for me). Make an indentation into each gnoccho with the tip of your finger. (Alternately, a traditional method is to press the tines of fork into the gnoccho to create ridges.). Place parchment or wax paper on a baking sheet, dust the cut gnocchi with a little flour and place the gnocchi onto the sheet. Refrigerate them while you braise the brussel sprouts, or you can freeze the gnocchi and place them in a freezer bag for use at a later time.
- Braise the sprouts: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt with about 3 tbsp kosher salt.
- In a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat, render the diced pancetta until browned. Remove to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium low and melt 2 tbsp butter and fry 8 sage leaves in butter until crispy. Remove leaves and reserve. Raise heat to medium, add another 1/2 tbsp butter and melt. Add sprouts to the pan, cut side down and saute for 4 minutes or until sprouts begin to brown on bottom (Don't crowd the sprouts, you may need to do this in two batches. If cooked in one batch, you may need to add additional butter to the pan). Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup chicken stock (depending on size of pan), ensuring the sprouts are surrounded by liquid. Shake the pan to distribute evenly, cover and cook for another 10 minutes (for fresh sprouts, shorter if using frozen sprouts). Remove the cover and continue to cook until all stock is evaporated and the sprouts are tender and bottoms are nicely caramelized. (Add a few splashes of stock if pan is too dry and sprouts haven’t fully cooked yet). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the sprouts to a bowl and keep warm. Deglaze the pan with a small amount of chicken stock and remove from heat.
- Put it all together: Remove the gnocchi from the freezer. (Note, a typical serving size for this dish is about 15 gnocchi per person). In the same pan you cooked the Brussel sprouts in, heat 2 tbsp butter over medium low heat. As the butter cooks, add about 15 gnocchi at a time to the pot of boiling water. Cook for about 1 – 2 minutes until gnocchi float to the surface. Don’t overcook or the gnocchi will begin to fall apart. Using a wire basket or slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi as they float to the surface and place them into the pan with the browning butter. Keep heat at medium low. Lightly brown the gnocchi, use a spatula to flip. Add another serving size of gnocchi in the same manner as you brown the first batch. Add more butter to the pan as needed. Once the first half of the gnocchi are cooked, add 1 1/2 tsp chopped sage, half of the Brussel sprouts, 1 1/2 cups reserved roasted pumpkin chunks, and half the chestnuts, some additional butter if desired and a splash of stock and continue to cook until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide equally into two serving bowls. Keep warm. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi, sprouts, pumpkin and chestnuts. Top each serving with pancetta and fried sage leaf.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Savory (Winter) Squash Recipe