You haven’t heard of gnudi? We hadn’t, either, until we read about them in Pasta, by Gianni Scappin, Alberto Vanoli, and Francesco Tonelli, which provided us with a recipe for Ricotta and Spinach Gnudi, on which this recipe is based. Gnudi are simply small dumplings, somewhat like gnocchi, but easier to make. Easy is good. So, with a pumpkin from our CSA share, we went about making up a batch of dumplings.
Every year around Hallowe’en, we get a pumpkin (or two) in our CSA share. Most years, we simply roast it, scrape out the flesh, and freeze it to use through the year, primarily in pumpkin bread. This year, we figured that we might try something different, and make a gnudi. We really liked the idea of using pumpkin in dumplings, and, while you could drop them in soup, you can also use them as you’d use pasta; just simmer them longer.
Obviously, you can use any winter squash. We used pumpkin because that’s what we had, and it fits the season. Pecorino Romano cheese is a sharp, salty cheese made from sheep’s milk. Substitute Grana Padano or Parmesan-Reggiano. Your egg does come from hens that live like hens, right? Good life = good eggs. We suggest using white whole-wheat flour because it’s a little coarser — we used Sonora white-wheat flour, a local heirloom variety.
Procedure in detail:
Roast pumpkin. We’ll go over this quickly, because we think that most people starting with a raw pumpkin probably know what to do. Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice pumpkin in half and remove the seeds (we save them for Maple Coated Squash Seeds). Rub the cut sides with olive oil and place on an oiled baking sheet with a rim — pumpkins release a lot of liquid; you want a rimmed baking sheet, or you’ll have a mess in the oven. Bake until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Let cool.
Squeeze dry. Scrape the flesh from the skins and place in the center of a piece of clean muslin or other sturdy, clean, lint-free cloth. Pull up the sides and corners of the cloth and twist to squeeze out the liquid. Continue twisting and squeezing until the pumpkin seems quite dry. Measure out pumpkin, place it in a medium bowl, and break apart.
Toast walnuts. It’s always tempting to skip this step and use raw walnuts, but, really, to bring out a nice nutty flavor, get into the habit of toasting. Simply place the nuts in a small, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring or shaking often, so the nuts won’t burn, until they seem golden and toasted. It takes us about 10 minutes. Once toasted, remove from the pan immediately so they won’t go from toasted to burned, and chop roughly.
Mix. With the pumpkin in a bowl, add the nuts, flour, and cheese, and stir to combine. Feel free to taste and add salt and pepper as needed. This mixture will be thick.
Add egg and nutmeg. Add the egg and a pinch of nutmeg to the mixture and stir in completely.
Refrigerate. Cover and refrigerate the gnudi dough. Leave it in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This will make it easier to handle. It’ll still be a bit messy, and it really helps to have a helper for the next step, but you can clean up afterwards.
Shape and dredge. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Scoop up a bit of dough and roll into a ball about the size of a walnut and place in the breadcrumbs to coat. If you have a helper, one person can shape the dumplings and the other can dredge them in breadcrumbs. As you work through the dough, place the finished gnudi on a baking sheet.
Refrigerate. Place the gnudi in the refrigerator for about an hour. This gives time for moisture to migrate out of the dumpling into the coating, and for the coating to dry just a bit, making it less likely to come off when you boil them. If you have a lot of gnudi, after the trip to the refrigerator, you can place them in the freezer for an hour, then transfer to freezer bags for later. They can be cooked directly from the freezer.
Simmer. To cook, bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil, add the gnudi, about a dozen at a time, and simmer until they float and are cooked through. For gnudi that we’d frozen solid, this was about 15 minutes total. Once cooked, serve with your favorite sauce.
We had our gnudi with a simple tomato sauce and thought they were quite good; though, to be honest, they were slightly gummy in texture. We think we should have cooked ours for just a bit longer, or perhaps simmered them in the sauce for a while. Regardless, they’re a great way to use up some of that winter squash that’s showing up now. Four stars.