Pan-fried Pumpkin Gnocchi with Brown Herb Butter and Kale and Almond Pesto

Elly Pear's sumptuous pumpkin gnocchi can be made in advance and cooked from frozen for a quick vegetarian midweek meal.

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Introduction

I can’t get on with gnocchi unless it’s fried. I’m sorry. Simply boiled, I find gnocchi slimy. Fry them in butter and oil, however, and suddenly I can’t get enough of the little doughy morsels. Funny that. I’ve broken down the gnocchi-making process into four stages: make, freeze, boil, fry. You can also make, chill, boil, fry. I like to use Ironbark or Sweet Delica pumpkin for these gnocchi as both varieties have a rich orange, dry flesh with great flavour. However, they can be hard to find, so butternut squash makes a good substitite.

This serving suggestion with a herb brown butter and pesto is a super easy and quick version if you’ve already got the pesto ready to go in the fridge. You can speed things up even more by using a good shop-bought pesto but the chunkiness of the kale and almond version here works particularly well.

Ingredients

For the gnocchi base (makes 4 portions of approx. 10 pieces):
250g roasted pumpkin flesh
1 egg
50g Italian-style hard cheese
a good grating of nutmeg
200g Tipo 00 flour, plus more for dusting
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Kale and Almond Pesto (makes 4-6 portions):
65g kale, stalks removed, roughly chopped
20g coriander, leaves and stalks
120ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
juice of 1 lemon
50g whole almonds, toasted in a dry pan
a few sprigs each of fresh rosemary and sage
For the herb butter and pesto serving suggestion (per person):
a large knob of butter
olive oil, for frying
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 portion of pumpkin gnocchi base
grated Italian-style hard cheese, to serve
1 portion of Kale and Almond Kale Pesto

Instructions

To make the pumpkin gnocchi base (makes 4 portions, 10 pieces each, can be made ahead and frozen as per the below instructions. If not freezing, skip straight to boiling):

Mix all the gnocchi ingredients together in a large bowl until they form a sticky ball. Tip the ball out of the bowl onto a well-floured surface (use 00 flour) and knead it gently until you have a smooth dough.

Roll the dough into a flattened ball, cut it into 4 pieces and then, on a floured surface, roll each quarter out into a long sausage until 30cm long. Cut each long sausage into about 10 rectangular pieces.

You’ve probably seen gnocchi in restaurants (and for sale in delis) with various ridges and grooves on their surface. Made using either a special tool or the tines of a fork, these marks help sauce grip to the gnocchi. It’s totally OK to keep them plain, though. Just roll the dough into a long sausage and chop it up. That’s one less job.

Freezing guidelines: Lay the gnocchi, in a single layer, on lightly floured trays, cover and then put the trays into the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the gnocchi to ziploc bags or airtight containers and keep frozen until needed. They will keep fine for up to 3 months.

Reheating guidelines: Yes! You can cook the gnocchi straight from frozen! They’ll only take a few moments longer to cook than when fresh. When you’re ready to serve, bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi straight from frozen in small batches (6–10 at a time) for about 1 minute until they float to the surface.

Lift the gnocchi out of the pan using a slotted spoon and spread them out on a large lightly oiled plate or tray to dry, drizzle with a little more olive oil and use your hands to coat each piece. This can be done in advance, up to 2 hours before you want to eat. Just keep the oiled gnocchi covered at room temperature until you’re ready to continue.

To make the Kale and Almond Pesto (makes 4-6 portions):

Pulse the kale, coriander, olive oil, ¼ tsp sea salt, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. Add the almonds and pulse again until just about smooth. Season to taste.

When you are ready to pan-fry the gnocchi:

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan and add the fresh herbs. Fry over a medium heat until the herbs are crispy and the butter/oil is fragrant.

Remove the herbs from the pan and set aside. Add the Pumpkin Gnocchi to the fragrant brown butter, in batches if necessary, and fry until crispy and golden on both sides.

Serve the pan-fried gnocchi with the brown butter from the pan, some of the crispy herbs, plenty of grated cheese and the pesto, if using.

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