On my most recent trip to Italy I was explaining to friends what Thanksgiving is - it’s obviously not a holiday in Italy. And then I further explained what “Italian Thanksgiving” is! Where my family, like many other Italian-Americans took an entire traditional Thanksgiving meal, and dropped smack in the middle of an even larger traditional Italian meal! We literally eat from about 2pm until 8pm! Like most of my friends - they thought that was pretty funny.
The thing that seems to stand out the most to people here (who aren’t Italian) is that we usually have a pasta (or risotto, or soup, depends on the year) course with our Thanksgiving dinner! We’ve made mushroom or sweet potato ravioli, but this year I took a swing at pumpkin gnocchi - and there is no turning back!
Gnocchi are one of my favorite pastas in general. They were my great-grandmother’s masterpiece. No one can, or ever will, make them the way she did! But these aren’t her recipe. I consulted with a chef friend of mine to put this one together and after lots of testing, this is what we came up with! Grab your friends and some forks because these come together pretty easily with a bit of help and make the PERFECT first course for Thanksgiving - or serve them alone for a great Fall meal! Happy Thanksgiving!
Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a 1st course
1 15oz. can pumpkin puree
1 medium Russet potato
3 C. flour + extra for work surfaces
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. honey
2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter
12 fresh sage leaves
1/4 C. grated parmesan cheese
Spoon the pumpkin puree into a fine mesh sieve and set over a bowl to drain for at least 30 minutes.
Bake the potato. Peel it and put it through a ricer (like this one).
Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour onto a sturdy work surface and create a wide well that still has a coating of flour on the bottom. Add the egg to the well. Use a fork to gently beat the egg and start incorporating some of the flour from the sides of the well. Be careful not to go all the way down to the work surface, or break the sides so your liquid starts flowing out.
Once the egg becomes thick with flour, add the honey, pumpkin puree and riced potato to the center of the well (it may run over the edge a bit, that’s ok). Using well floured hands, start to bring the edges of the well, the flour, up and over the wet ingredients. Push down to begin incorporating everything together. Continue with this motion until a smooth dough has formed. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper dusted with flour. As well as a floured work area. Use a sharp knife to cut off a small slice of the dough. Roll the dough into a snake, about the thickness of your thumb. Use the knife to cut the snake into small squares, about 1 inch long. Roll each square off the front of a fork to create the traditional gnocchi shape. Set the gnocchi onto the prepared cookie sheet.
*At this point, you can place the cookie sheet in the freezer to freeze the gnocchi. Once they’re solid, put them in a baggie and save for later use.*
To cook the gnocchi, heat a large pot of salted water over high heat to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi and as soon as they float (about 3 minutes) they are cooked.
In a separate pan, melt the butter. Add the sage leaves. Keep the heat on low.
Use a slotted spoon to pull the gnocchi from the hot water and drop them into the pan with the butter. Stir gently to make sure they are all coated. Top with a handful of parmesan cheese.
Want to make this dish even more decadent? Dice 1/2 lb. of pancetta and brown it in a pan. Remove from the pan and then combine butter with pancetta fat. Return the pancetta to the pan. Add sage leaves, gnocchi and parm as stated above. Divine!