Thanksgiving Italian Style: Pumpkin Gnocchi – Gnocchi di Zucca

HISTORY OF GNOCCHI

Gnocchi are popular throughout Italy as they are quick and easy to prepare, and are made with different ingredients from potatoes to polenta and pumpkin.

Gnocchi most likely was the first form of handmade pasta. Stir a little of flour (millet, spelt, wheat) with little water, make balls and throw into boiling water.

The word Gnocco is a longobard term (knohha, meaning knot) of medieval times, defining any round-shaped dough.
In past centuries and even today in some areas, the word gnocco is synonymous with macaroni. In the 14th century. Boccaccio, in the Decameron, speaks of “macaroni rolling down a mountain of grated cheese”, probably alluding to a kind of “gnocchi”.

The first gnocchi were made with semolina flour, and gnocchi with potatoes or corn were used only towards the end of the 18th century. Gnocchi are also of different size depending on the sauce and are called differently: canederli in Trentino, knodeln in South Tyrol, steamed gnocchi in Friuli Venezia Giulia, potato gnocchi in Veneto, bava gnocchi in Piedmont, gnocchi alla Lariana in Como, maccheroni in Romagna, gnocchi alla romana in Lazio.

This pumpkin gnocchi recipe is typical of the Northern Italian cuisine and is consumed mainly in Autumn, when pumpkins are in season.

This fall dish is dedicated to Papa’ Gnoco, Tomaso Da Vico, the most celebrated patron of the Carnival of Verona. His mask is that of an old man, benevolent and bearded, holding a large golden fork with a potato gnocco on the end. This tradition in Verona dates back to the terrible famine that struck the city in 1531. Hungry citizens poured into the streets to attack the ovens and the revolt was averted by the intervention of Tomaso Da Vico who had distributed, at his own expense, bread, butter, flour and cheese on the last Friday of Carnival. Every year, this event is reenacted during the Carnival of Verona.

 

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Pumpkin Gnocchi - Gnocchi di Zucca

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 4
Author italiadolcevita

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 lbs Pumpkin - butternut squash
  • 5 oz Italian "00" flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • nutmeg to taste
  • 2 oz butter
  • 8 sage leaves
  • grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Begin by preparing the pumpkin. Cut it in half, without removing the peel, and place in a baking dish lined with coarse salt. Cover the pumpkin with aluminum foil and cook at 350°F oven for about an hour.

    Once the pumpkin is tender, remove it from the oven and let cool: then peel and pass through a potato masher, a mill or food processor.. 

  2. To make the dough for the pumpkin gnocchi, place the mashed pumpkin on a flat work surface. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix together with the egg and flour.

    Check the consistency of the dough: it should be soft and light and not stick to your fingertips. 

  3. Begin to shape the gnocchi.

    Dust the work surface with a little flour and cut off a small amount of the gnocchi dough. Roll this into a log and cut into small cylindrical pieces.

    Once all the gnocchi are made, throw them in a large pot of boiling salted water.

    When the Gnocchi rise to the surface they are ready. Remove with a slotted spoon. And carefully toss them in the skillet with the melted butter and sage sauce  

  4. Finish with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. 

Recipe Notes

Pumpkin is a common fall ingredient in Italy and can be used for different preparations, both sweet and savory. However, it is important to pay attention on the moisture content of the pumpkin you are using. If it is too moist add more flour - little by little until you get the right consistency.

Wine Pairing

White Wine Pairing: Full bodied white wine with freshness and softness like  or Fiano or as perfect sparkling metodo classico like Franciacorta.

Red Wine Pairing: Sorbara Lambrusco, slightly acidic fresh wine – this is the perfect wine for this dish! 

Spring in Italy

Celebrating Easter (Pasqua) or Passover (Pesach)  in Italy is one of the most joyous occasions of the year! It is end of winter and nature’s rebirth. For everyone  it is a time to enjoy the banquet of flowers  popping up everywhere, the Primizie ( first delicious vegetables and fruits) sprouting and the sun shining  longer and brighter. 

Pasqua is considered the most important religious event of the year.  During Holy Week, from the northern regions to the southern tip of Italy more than 3,000 symbolic enactments are staged with countless  rite, processions, feasts, traditions and sacred performances. On Venerdì Santo (Holy Friday) the inhabitants of hundreds villages slowly make their way along ancient roads—sometimes on bare feet—carrying torches to commemorate the Passion.  Then, on Pasqua Sunday the tables of the Italians are vibrant with early spring vivacious colors of fresh flowers, peach tree stems, and beautiful colorful eggs.  

Pasquetta (“Little Easter”)  is the Monday immediately after Easter and also a national holiday, The usual custom used to be a  “fuori-porta” (beyond the gate) short trip  off on a family picnic day.

A popular Italian saying: “Natale con i tuoi. Pasqua con chi vuoi.” “Christmas with your family,  Easter with whomever you like” have nowadays changed the traditions and most Italians spend Easter holiday on a mini-vacation visiting the museums opened in major cities, filling up restaurants, or bearing the driving hours on highway to be at a nearby beach  or a hilltop .

The season’s freshest vegetables all play a part in the feast:

  • Artichokes (carciofi)
  • Asparagus  (asparagi)
  • Chard
  • Fava Beans
  • Young green beans
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce

April Recipe: Carciofi alla Giudia (Roman-Jewish Style Artichokes)

Pairing wines with Artichokes

 

Legends of the Dolomites & The Forest of Violins

Legend of the Scenic Dolomite Mountains & Stradivarius Violin forest

These magic mountains range in the northern Italian Alps covering an area that is shared by the provinces of Belluno, Bolzano, Trento, Udine, and Pordenone and owe their name to Déodat de Dolomieu, a French naturalist who first studied and discovered the particular composition that forms their bedrock (double calcium carbonate), unique in the whole Alpine range.

The Dolomites are also known as “Monti Pallidi” in Italian; ‘Pale Mountains’, as their white rocks glow with golden, pink and purple hues at dawn and dusk…here the tale of the magical colors.

Legend of the Prince

Once upon a time in the Dolomites there was a prince to whom a princess appeared in a dream, but she lived on the moon. The two fell in love, but the dark gloomy mountains made the princess sad. She missed the radiant light of the moon. The Prince worried about his love falling ill, so one night wandering the woods he met a dwarf king. The king told him the dwarfs had been chased away, and the prince told the king his troubles. The King of the Dwarfs suggested he could use his powers to cure the princess melancholy on condition he would always live in in the mountains. The prince immediately agreed. The very next night hundreds of dwarfs descended on the dark mountains in the light of the moon and wrapped every peak and every rock with little shiny white threads from the moon until it began to shine pale white so the Dolomites, unlike other mountains, have this characteristic pale color.

Myths and legends aside, the Dolomites enchanting shapes and colors are renowned throughout the world, and in the middle of this  stunning  Dolomite mountain range, there is a real “Forest of Violins”.

“The Forest of Violins” –  The Paneveggio forest, in the middle of the stunning Dolomite mountain range, holds a precious resource. The Norway spruce trees have been producing quality resonance wood for cellos, violins and pianos for centuries. Violin makers have praised the wood’s compact and uniform density, and flawlessness. These trees grow in optimal conditions producing very narrow growth rings which make the wood ideal for transmitting pure, harmonious sound waves. Just as Stradivari, musicians and instrument makers still visit the forest to select their trees which takes ability and great knowledge.

Every year, in the Sounds of the Dolomites summer music festival, the community dedicates trees to imminent musicians. The ‘Woods that Play’ project underscores the link and music and between the resonance wood trees and the genius of musicians and composers.

The first musician to select ‘his’ tree was violinist Uto Ughi. Walking through the forest and playing his Stradivari violin, he listened to the notes vibrate in a nearby tree and exclaimed ”This is the one!”.  A sign was placed next to the tree: ”The trees in this forest vibrated to his magical notes. Thank you, Maestro Ughi”.

The same happened few years later to Veneto violoncellist Mario Brunello. He let  be guided by the sounds of the forest. After the concert “Sunrise on the Dolomites” he placed his cello at the base and began to play. The plaque reads “Nature created us, the genius of man discovered our musical vitality, and its class transforms the sound in strong emotions”.

Recipe of the Dolomites: Canederli allo Speck

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