Success with Pumpkins

I began to imagine the pumpkin gnocchi experiment might be successful when I got the first whiff of the pumpkin puree straight out of its whirl in the food processor.  The pumpkin smelled something like toast, like the browned outer crust of a good loaf of bread straight from the oven, with little trace of the overripe and cloying sweetness that I simply don’t like in squash.

Off to a good start!

The finished meal only confirmed those first impressions.  Cooked, these pumpkin gnocchi have a delicate flavor, a hint of sweetness nicely highlighted by nutmeg, but balanced with some salty sharpness of a good parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

When preparing them for dinner, don’t mask those subtle contrasts with meaty, tomato-rich, or cream sauces.  Instead, think simple.  I turned to the classic browned butter and sage to dress them, adding a few toasted walnuts to introduce some acidity and astringency to the butter’s one-note richness.  Add a few shavings of extra cheese to finish.  And that’s it.  If you appreciate making something nourishing on a cool day from basic ingredients and your own two hands, if you appreciate eating with the seasons, you won’t find a better fall dish.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Browned Butter and Sage

Preheat oven to 350°.  Toast the walnut pieces to  light golden brown and remove from the oven to cool.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  A silver pan is preferable to a dark steel when browning butter; you will be able to see the change in color.  Bring the butter to foaming and add the sage leaves.  Continue to toast the butter, shaking the pan frequently, until the butter reaches a golden brown.  Golden can quickly turn to dark brown or burned very quickly, so keep your eye on the butter and remove the pan from the heat as soon as you reach the desired color.  Add the walnuts to the pan.

Generously salt the boiling water and add the gnocchi to the pot.  They will sink.  Gently stir and partially cover the pot to maintain water temperature.  Keep the water at a near boil.  Gnocchi are cooked when they float to the surface of the water.  Remove the cover often to stir and to check the gnocchi for doneness.  When all are floating, use a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi to the skillet with the browned butter.  Add a small spoonful of the cooking water if desired and gently fold the gnocchi with the sauce.

Serve immediately with extra shaved or grated cheese.

©2011  Jane A. Ward