When you’ve made something more than once with a friend, there’s no two ways around it, you’ve started a tradition. Last week, I was invited to Lou’s to make pumpkin gnocchi. Lou had been upset that a batch of roasted pumpkin puree went rancid, one of the lesser yet still frustrating casualties of Hurricane Sandy. So, to appease his disappointment and prevent him from having to use canned pumpkin, I roasted a sugar pumpkin just for him, and delivered two cups of fresh pumpkin puree.
Lou was more than touched with my gift, insisting that I join him in making pumpkin gnocchi, the soon-to-be first course at his Thanksgiving feast. In exchange for my company and assistance, I was promised a bag full for myself.
Our cooking date started in the dark, since the power unexpectedly went off. Still shell shocked from a powerless nine days, I was grouchy since I couldn’t use my computer to get some necessary work done. But my moodiness dissipated once settled in at Lou’s house and saw the dough laid out on the counter top waiting to be transformed into gnocchi. Lou said he didn’t need lights, just my presence. How could I not smile?
So, there I was, disposition softening as I gently nudged the baby soft dough back and forth with the hand carved wooden gnocchi paddle. There was the usual heckling, as Lou teased me about my larger- than-he-would-have preferred gnocchi “monsters.” But as Lou cut the dough into chunks and I formed them, we got into a rhythm, efficiently filling three trays in less than half an hour. Our productivity was noted by Lou more than once as he said how much better it is for two people, not one, to make gnocchi.
A time spent cooking with Lou wouldn’t be complete without a tasting. And what a treat that was. We each got eight pieces of gnocchi, cooked perfectly and tossed in some butter, olive oil, fresh sage and grated cheese. Since it was only 10:30 in the morning, this qualified as a mid-morning snack.
I left smiling, thinking about the pleasant time shared with a friend. We agreed we were partners, agreeing to cook together on a more regular basis. The only question – – what to cook next. . . . .
Roasted Sugar Pumpkin Gnocchi
Serves 6 people
1 cup fresh pumpkin
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
½ cup pecorino grated Romano cheese
4 cups all-purpose flour
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix egg with a fork. Add the cheeses, pumpkin, salt and pepper. Add the flour gradually and mix with the beating attachment until a soft, smooth consistency forms.
Shape the dough into an oblong shape that resembles a small loaf of bread. Let the dough rest for a bit. Cut chunks as if you would a slice of bread. Roll each slice into a log approximately 4-6 inches long and an inch thick. Shape the pieces (or pillows) into gnocchi by pinching the dough together and rolling onto a gnocchi board with ridges or using a fork to create the grooves.
Place the gnocchi on a cookie sheet generously dusted with semolina (or other) flour. Continue until all of the dough has been used. To freeze, place the cookie sheet uncovered and freeze for a few hours. Transfer to a freezer bags, making sure to remove excess air from the bags.
To cook, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Let gnocchi rise to the surface and cook for approximately 6 minutes. In another small skillet, heat two tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of olive oil and a bit of fresh sage. Drain the gnocchi and immediately add to the butter sage mixture, seasoning with salt, pepper and freshly grated cheese.