I love, love, love gnocchi. But, I almost never make them, primarily because the idea of a big bowl of carbs just seems like a bad idea. This weekend, as I stared down the items in the freezer, it occurred to me that if I added something less starchy to the gnocchi mixture, I may be able to lighten it up a bit. And right in front of me was the perfect answer – pumpkin.
Last fall, I decided to roast the non-carved pumpkins I’d used to decorate the front step. It was very easy, exactly like roasting a squash, but on a larger scale. Here are the basics:
– Cut pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and discard (or save for something else)
– Place open side down on a baking sheet, bake at 350 degrees F until the flesh is tender. Set aside to cool.
– When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place in baggies to freeze. I froze mine in 2 c. portions so that I wouldn’t have to measure later, and could easily thaw enough to use in most recipes.
– When ready to use, set at room temperature to thaw.
Roasted pumpkin is different from canned pumpkin (not flavored pumpkin pie filling, just the canned pureed pumpkin) in two big ways – texture, and moisture content. To use the pumpkin in this recipe, I removed a LOT of water before it was ready for the gnocchi. When I set the pumpkin to thaw, a bunch of water came out right away. But when I gave it a squeeze, I could tell that there was still quite a bit of moisture in the pumpkin. To remove even more liquid, I put the pumpkin into the potato ricer and used it like a press. It isn’t important to get the pumpkin to come out of the ricer, it is simply a way to press out a ton of liquid. When I was done, the pumpkin had reduced almost in half, but was nice and dry. Still sort of chunky, I decided to chop it finely on the cutting board. This left me with slightly stringy pumpkin mush, which turned out to be perfect in texture for the gnocchi.
For most recipes, I am a big supporter of substitutions. In this recipe, there is one substitution you CANNOT MAKE – you must have a potato ricer. If you don’t have a potato ricer, you’re definitely going to want to get one if you’re going to give gnocchi a good try. In order for gnocchi to be light and awesome, all of the ingredients need to be mixed and handled gently. Otherwise, you run the risk of having super heavy gnocchi, which while they still taste fine, serve as an anchor for your gut. Using anything other than a potato ricer to prep the potatoes will result in heavy gnocchi – mashers and mixers that usually work fine on potatoes for other recipes, just will not do for gnocchi. Trust me on this one – the ricer is totally useful, not very expensive, and essential for light gnocchi.
The combination of the gnocchi (now slightly healthier due to the pumpkin), tomato sauce, and chicken was delicious. A flavorful and hearty dish, 2 out of 3 of us LOVED the dish. At my house, this is considered wildly successful. I’ll definitely make this again, probably when the other 1/3 is off doing something else.
3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 t. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c. spaghetti sauce (Barilla Tomato & Basil recommended)
12 oz. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 c.)
12 oz. roasted pumpkin chunks (about 2 c.)
1-1/2 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 450° F. Spray an oven-safe dish with cooking spray. Coat hands with 1 t. olive oil and rub over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place chicken in dish skin side up and cook for 30-40 minutes or until chicken reaches 165° F. Remove from oven, set aside for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. When chicken has cooled, remove the skin and bones and discard. With hands or fork, shred chicken into bit-sized pieces. In a medium-sized pan over low heat, combine the sauce and chicken and keep warm.
While chicken is roasting, fill a large pot with water over high heat to bring to a boil.
In a microwave-safe dish, add potatoes and cover with water. Microwave on high for 7-8 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from water, rinse and set in a strainer to remove as much water as possible. When slightly cooled, pass the potatoes through a potato ricer, and add to a large bowl. Using the potato ricer, press as much liquid out of the pumpkin as possible. After the liquid has been removed, place on cutting board and chop finely. Add pumpkin to the potato, and mix well, trying to keep it as light as possible. Add flour, eggs, and salt and stir gently. Using hands, bring together until a dough forms and is pliable.
Lightly flour a work surface. Pull a piece of dough about the size of a racquetball. Gently roll into a tube that is about 3/4″ thick. Using a knife, cut into one inch pieces. Place the gnocchi on a baking sheet covered in wax paper. Gently press with finger to create indent. Repeat until all the gnocchi have been formed.
In several batches, drop the gnocchi into boiling water. When they float to the top, about 2-3 minutes, remove with strainer and add to the warm sauce. Stir well to combine, then serve.
Estimated calories: 297 cal/serving
– Feel free to make some substitutions with the chicken – chicken breast would be fine or leftover rotisserie chicken would be awesome. If you prefer to have a meat-free dish, cannellini beans would be wonderful in this dish in place of the chicken.
– You can use any tomato sauce you like – home made or from a jar. This time I used Barilla’s Tomato and Basil sauce, it is light, flavorful, and saved me a bit of time.
– I used pumpkin in this recipe, but really anything in the squash family would be just fine.
– If you’re like me, and love to make parts of the meal ahead of time, then this recipe should work well for you. When I made this, I roasted the chicken in the morning and added to the sauce, then simply reheated when I put the water on to boil. I also made the gnocchi in the morning, covered, and placed the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until I was ready to drop them into the boiling water.