The Knobby Pumpkins of Chioggia
Have you noticed there's a slight change in the air now that September is here. Fall is about to arrive and we've got pumpkins on our mind. Specifically those from the fishing village of Chioggia at the southern tip of Venice. The Marina di Chioggia, also known as the sea pumpkin, is one of the most beautiful and unique of all squash. With a large turban-shape and a knobby, blue-green color it cuts to reveal a deep yellow-orange and a rich sweet flesh.
Delicious alone, sliced, grilled and drenched in extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, and sage; made into gnocchi or risotto or as a filling for a Venetian tortellini, made into pies or tarts or used as a delicious nutty sauce. In the U.S., it may be difficult to find this variety, like Venice and its surrounding regions, this pumpkin is magical.
Pumpkin Gnocchi with Butter and Sage Sauce
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 cups prepared pumpkin ( Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pumpkin chunks on a lightly oiled baking sheet until tender, 30–45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin. Transfer pumpkin pulp to a mixing bowl, mash with a fork).
or 1 - 15 oz can prepared pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix). If using canned pumpkin, spread the pumpkin on a paper towel and let sit for 10 min to absorb any extra liquid.
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
1/4 tsp salt
On a clean work surface place the 2 cups of flour. Using your hands, make a well in the center of the flour.
Add in the egg and blend lightly with your hand or a fork. Do not overwork dough or you will develop the flour's gluten too much, resulting in hard, gummy gnocchi.
Add in the ricotta, pumpkin (mashed or run through a ricer if using fresh), cheese and salt.
Slowly incorporate all of the ingredients together kneading lightly to completely combine, adding additional flour if too sticky.
Working with a small amount at a time and floured hands, roll out a long rope approximately 3/4 inches wide. Cut into squares.
Using a gnocchi board or the back of a fork (as did our Nonna) slowly roll each piece of gnocchi with your finger. If gnocchi are sticking to the board or the fork, dust both the surfaces and gnocchi lightly with flour.
Place the gnocchi on a tray covered with a kitchen towel as you finish making the rest of the dough.
For soft, fluffy gnocchi you should cook them immediately**. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add in the gnocchi, making sure to not overcrowd the pot. Stir so that the gnocchi do not sink to the bottom of the pan. When they are ready the gnocchi will float up to the surface of the water.
Butter and Sage Sauce
3/4 stick unsalted butter
6-10 sage leaves
Coarse sea salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste
Add the butter to a skillet and melt over a medium flame. Cook the butter until it turns a light brown color, approx. 5-6 min. Add the sage leaves and sauté. Add the cooked gnocchi into the butter and sage sauce. Toss to combine. Season with salt if needed. Garnish with cheese and sprinkle with pepper.
*you can substitute butternut squash in this recipe if you cannot find good pumpkin
**Gnocchi should not be stored in a refrigerator. You can freeze them until they harden then portion is small freezer bags to be thawed just before tossing them into boiling water.