Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Balsamic Brown Butter

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Balsamic Brown Butter

Before I discuss this recipe, I must begin by thanking you for your patience with my extended absence while I moved. Two Saturday afternoons of some friends transfering my furniture and weekdays moving all the other items makes for one very streesed out Foodie Stuntman. Well, I'm back and pumpkin recipes are all over the food blogs as of late, so I thought I'd prepare one to break in my new kitchen.

I guess the inspiration for this dish derived from the pumpkin pie episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown sarcastically notes, No, we're not gonna open a can! In fact, readers of my old website might remember about a year ago, I profiled a pumpkin risotto that I served as a first course at a dinner party. What I failed to note at the time was that I did not properly roast the pumpkin before I pureéd it because I was so caught up with my first attempt at preparing fresh pasta from scratch, not to mention the Bolognese that needed to simmer for 3+ hours. I needed to return to a pumpkin pureé to demonstrate it but also correct previous errors.

This also presented a great opportunity to use an item I won in a giveaway a couple of months ago hosted by Donna and Chad of The Slow Roasted Italian with a sauce I came across in doing some research for another project.

The Challenge

Successfuly demonstrate how to properly pureé fresh pumpkin and use it in a savory dish, so the canned version can be avoided.

The Source

My food blogger friend, Willow of Will Cook For Friends, was happy to allow me to duplicate her fresh pumpkin pureé method in addition to her pumpkin gnocchi recipe which she adapted from Heidi of Foodie Crush. I also took some elements of Alton Brown's pureé method from the episode I referred to above.

I used some of the balsamic vinegar I won from Fresina's Italian Specialties in my adaptation of Giada's Balsamic Brown Butter sauce I found on foodnetwork.com.


1 2 to 3 pound sugar pumpkin
kosher salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 large egg yolk
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped (for garnish)


1. Make your pumpkin pureé: Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Cut off the top of the pumpkin to remove the stem. Cut the pumpkin in half, then in quarters and scoop out the guts with an ice cream scoop. Save the seeds for another use. Place the pumpkin quarters on a parchment-lined baking sheet, skin side down and season with kosher salt to draw out moisture. Roast until fork tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool for 1 hour. Peel the skin from the flesh and transfer the pumpkin to a food processor and process until smooth.

3. Make the gnocchi: In a medium saucepan, reduce the pureé over medium low heat to thicken. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter until melted and remove from heat and let it cool. Add the flour, egg yolk, and nutmeg. Then season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Knead the dough until it's tacky, but not sticky adding in more flour 1 tablespoon at at time if needed. Divide the dough into 4 balls and roll each ball into the shape of a cylinder about a 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. Cut each rope crosswise into pieces 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch long. If desired, roll each piece (gnocco) against the tines of a fork to create ridges. (It holds the sauce to the gnocchi.)

3. Prepare the sauce and finish the dish: Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the gnocchi until they float to the top and swell, about a minute or two after they float to the top. Transfer the gnocchi with a slotted spoon or a colander to a warm bowl. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the remaining 7 tablespoons butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After the foam subsides and the butter begins to turn a golden brown (about 3 minutes), turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and walnuts, then season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the gnocchi to the sauce and garnish with Parmesan and parsley. Serve immediately.


These gnocchi are very similar to the russet potato version. With potato gnocchi, the most helpful demonstration I have found is one by Chef Anne Burrell which can be seen on YouTube here. I used some of her hints in this recipe. For example, before I made the gnocchi dough, I refrigerated the pureé to keep my flour additions to a minimum. In fact, Willow demonstrates a second method to pureé pumpkin but I decided against it because the excess moisture will absorb more flour.

Also, bear in mind that these gnocchi are perishable due to the addition of the egg yolk, so they need to be cooked or freezed immediately. I recommend freezing the gnocchi to keep the individual gnocchi separate. (Roll the gnocchi in flour and freeze them on a sheet pan for several hours then transfer them to a resealable bag once frozen.)

One of the factors I considered when I decided to pair my gnocchi with this sauce was my consultation with The Flavor Bible, which noted balsamic vinegar paired well with pumpkin. It was one of the most well-balanced dishes I've composed-sweet and savory, plus soft yet crunchy. Going in, I was a little skeptical that the Fresina's vinegar would be significantly different than the store-bought brands that cost one-quarter of the price but I am now convinced. The aged vinegar was still sour but it didn't have the sharp bite I expected from my experience with the supermarket brands. It was so good, I will prepare this dish again in the future. So, please use fresh pureé in your pumpkin recipes this fall.

Lastly, if you're not familiar with Willow, you should be. In addition to her website, she can be found on facebook and twitter. Heidi can also be found on twitter, facebook, pinterest, and g+.


  1. Looks incredible! And you're right, balsamic is the perfect pairing with pumpkin... I'll definitely have to give this a go sometime! :)

  2. looks delicious! the balsamic brown butter sauce sounds amazing-I am going to have to use that sauce in the future. I had no idea that pumpkin and balsamic go together, but I will remember that for the future.

  3. Great pumpkin recipe ... Never had balsamic with pumpkin but I've got to try this one :-)

  4. I love that you even guide us through the process of properly pureeing the sugar pumpkin! I learned the hard way that larger carving pumpkins produce an icky texture when they were giving away free pumpkins post-Halloween a few years back.

  5. These are gorgeous! I looooove pumpkin pasta. I like that you used balsamic as well.

  6. nice recipe, but the font is super hard to read


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