Why Not Shape Your Gnocchi Into Wee Pumpkins?

Photo:  Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

In a sea of pumpkin-flavored foods, there simply aren’t enough pumpkin-shaped foods (actual pumpkins don’t count). In order to maximize our food’s festivity, let’s start making pumpkin-flavored dishes that also look like the cute calabasa. A handful of whole cloves and some dental floss is all you need to transform standard potato dumplings into precious pumpkin gnocchi.

Shaping these miniature pumpkin dumplings is surprisingly simple, so don’t overthink it. Start with any gnocchi recipe that you like, or use mine at the bottom of this post; there is a wide range of pumpkin gnocchi recipes, and it’s really a matter of preference. My only advice is that the thicker the dough, the nicer the pumpkin shape will be. When making gnocchi, it can be difficult to reach a balance between too much flour and not enough. If you’re making a classic, rolled gnocchi, for example, you can forgo extra flour in favor of a lighter texture. For these l’il guys, however, you’ll want the additional flour to ensure a smoother shape. Less flour in your recipe will leave them looking a little wrinkly (but some pumpkins also look wrinkly, so who are we to judge?)

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Photo:  Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Once you’ve decided on a recipe and assembled your gnocchi dough, dust your counter or work surface with all-purpose flour. Scoop out a tablespoon of dough and shape it into a ball. You can do this with your hands if the dough is not too sticky, or you can use two spoons. Drop the ball of dough onto the floured surface. The dough will be soft. Roll it in the flour until all sides are covered, and place the ball on a parchment lined baking sheet. Make as many balls as your dough allows.

Photo:  Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Use a piece of unflavored floss or a piece of baker’s string to make the pumpkin’s signature indentations. Most recipes detail using baker’s string, but I found that the indents were too wide, especially if you’re making smaller gnocchi. Floss makes a sharper mark in the dumpling, which can allow you to make more indentations without losing the rounded shape.

Hold the floss tightly between the pointer and thumb of each hand and press it down the center and across the outer sides of the pumpkin until the indentation is about ⅛-inch into the gnocchi. Pull the floss off, rotate the gnocchi a quarter turn and do it again across the first line. Rotate the gnocchi again to do two more marks in between the first ones, like you’ve marked out the eight slices of a pizza. Do this with all of your pumpkins. If the bottoms become squared-off from pressing, simply tilt one side up and the opposing side’s bottom will round again. Do this to all sides of the pumpkin to round off the bottom edge.

Photo:  Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Drop the gnocchi into lightly salted, boiling water for six to seven minutes. The gnocchi will sink at first, so make sure to release them from the bottom of the pot before they get stuck. After about six minutes, the gnocchi will start to float. Remove them from the water and place on a lightly oiled sheet tray. Poke a whole clove into the center of each pumpkin gnocchi as a “stem.”

The gnocchi are finished! You can sit them on a dish of creamy pumpkin sauce, or serve with a side of chicken or salad. To really show off your gourds, fry them in some salted browned butter with sage, as in my recipe below.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces pumpkin purée (about ½ can)

  • 1 egg

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons parmesan, grated

  • ⅛ teaspoon garam masala spice

  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

  • 7 ounces flour (about 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons flour)

  • 3 or 4 sage leaves

  • 1 tablespoon of salted butter

  • As many whole cloves as gnocchi (about 15)

Set a medium pot of water to boil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix the pumpkin and egg together until combined. Add the parmesan, and spices to the mixture and stir. Mix in the flour until a thick dough forms.

Dust the counter or work surface with flour. Scoop tablespoon sized balls from the dough and drop onto the floured surface. Roll the dough balls in the flour to thinly coat the outside and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all of the dough is used.

Using unflavored floss, press the string across the center of a dumpling. Rotate the dumpling and go across that indentation. Keep pressing in lines until you have about eight wedges or you’re happy with the pumpkin’s look. Repeat this with all gnocchi.

Add a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water. Drop the gnocchi gently into the boiling water. Boil for 5-7 minutes until the gnocchi start floating. Lift the gnocchi out of the water with a slotted spoon and rest on the baking sheet.

Melt butter in a frying pan until hot and beginning to brown. Add the sage leaves to the hot butter and place half of the gnocchi into the pan. Allow the bottom to brown and crisp, while you spoon some of the browned butter over the tops of the pumpkins. Once the bottoms are toasted, place the gnocchi on a plate and drizzle the sage butter over the top. Press a whole clove into the center of each pumpkin as the “stem” to finish the fall look. Enjoy while warm.


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