Makes:2 to 4 servings
This recipe skips the potato and uses ricotta cheese and pumpkin purée for gnocchi with a dense (but not heavy) texture rather than a pillowy-light one. Once the dough is rolled out, the gnocchi are cut and ready to be cooked. Just boil them, then give them a quick sauté in butter and fresh sage. To finish, take the gnocchi out of the pan, turn down the heat, and make a quick creamy sauce with crème fraîche and Parmesan cheese, then pour it over the gnocchi and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts. Serve as a first course for an autumn dinner party for four, or as a main dish for two hungry people.
Game plan: The uncooked gnocchi can be frozen uncovered on the baking sheet until solid, then transferred to a resealable bag and kept frozen for up to 2 weeks. To cook, drop the frozen gnocchi directly into salted boiling water and boil until they float and are cooked all the way through, about 3 minutes.
1/4 cup roasted, salted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust it with flour; set aside. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. (Do not heat the water if you plan to freeze the gnocchi.)
Place the ricotta in a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to smash and push the ricotta through the strainer (this will take a little effort), making sure to scrape the underside of the strainer. Add the pumpkin, egg yolks, measured salt, brown sugar, and nutmeg, season with a few pinches of white pepper, and stir to combine. Add the measured flour and mix until the dough just comes together. (It will be very soft and slightly sticky, but don’t overwork it or the dough will become tough and heavy.)
Generously flour a work surface and turn out the dough. Pat it into a rough rectangle and cut it into 4 equal pieces. Gently roll 1 piece into an even rope about 3/4 inch in diameter, flouring the surface as needed. (Remember to be gentle or the gnocchi will turn out tough.) Cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces. (As an optional step, you can form ridges on each gnocchi: Lightly flour your forefinger, your thumb, and the tines of a salad fork. Using your thumb, lightly press the cut side of the gnocchi into the back of the fork tines, then sort of roll/flick it off with your forefinger; your thumb will leave a concave impression in the gnocchi that’s handy for holding sauce. Check out this CHOW video to see what we’re talking about.) Place the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting the remaining 3 dough pieces.
Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Add a third of the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float, about 2 to 3 minutes, then let them cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute more so they’re just cooked through (test by cutting 1 in half). Remove with a slotted spoon, blotting excess water from the bottom of the spoon with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, and transfer to the second prepared baking sheet. Repeat cooking the remaining gnocchi in 2 more batches. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set it aside. Set aside a large bowl.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add 1 teaspoon of the sage and half of the gnocchi and cook, shaking the pan often, until the gnocchi are browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the reserved large bowl. Repeat with the remaining butter, sage, and gnocchi.
Reduce the heat to medium low, add the reserved gnocchi cooking water and the crème fraîche and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper, add the browned gnocchi and Parmesan, and toss to coat. Transfer the gnocchi to a serving dish or divide among individual plates and top with the hazelnuts. Serve immediately.