kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto + cheesecake challenge invite

by Heguiberto on July 11, 2011

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Kabocha is one of my favorite types of pumpkin. It has a nutty, sweet flavor with an intense, beautiful yellow color. It is perfect served as a side dish. The classic Brazilian way to prepare it is one of the simplest: sautéed with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of water, until tender. We enjoy kabocha that way at home very often. I’ve made it in risotto, too, which is another fabulous savory pumpkin dish.

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto with a side of mache salad

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto with a side of mache salad

Americans don’t seem to be very in-the-know about kabocha. I wonder if that’s because the exterior is so gnarled and dark green to brown? It is a bit ugly, really. Kabocha isn’t anything like those cheery but flavorless orange monsters that make wonderful jack-o-lanterns but nothing else. Acorn and butternut squash are the cooking favorites here as far as I can tell, and I’ve no complaints about them, but to me, kabocha remains the unsung queen of the pumpkin patch.

vibrant orange interior of kabocha pumpkin

vibrant orange interior of kabocha pumpkin

I saw a gorgeous recipe for pumpkin gnocchi in this book, The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. Normally, I like gnocchi with loads of cheese, but this recipe challenged all that with its no-animal-products stance. A complete vegan dish, how exciting… It turned out really good, despite being healthy. And since it was a bit messy to make, we had a lot of fun both in the kitchen and at table.

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto

For the gnocchi:

4 small russet potatoes, ~ 1¼ lbs, peeled and halved
1 lb kabocha pumpkin, seeds and stringy parts removed; cut into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2+ cups of flour

For the walnut pesto:

¾ cup walnuts
1½ cups Italian parsley
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp sundried tomato packed in oil, drained
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

steaming kabocha and potatoes

steaming kabocha and potatoes

Steam potato and kabocha until fully cooked and tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a colander and let them cool down slightly.

Meanwhile place pesto ingredients in the food processor and whiz until turned into a smooth thick paste. Transfer to a small bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Set aside.

Pre heat oven to 350F.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add a teaspoon of olive oil.

Remove kabocha rinds and discard. Place steamed pumpkin and potatoes in a large bowl. Add olive oil, nutmeg, salt then mash with a fork until relatively smooth and combined. Add flour and mix to incorporate. Place dough on a floured surface and knead it for about 4 minutes. Add more flour if too sticky.

Shape the dough into a rectangle. Using a knife, cut it into 6 segments. Cut each segment in half. With floured hands and surfaces, roll each piece into about a ¾ inch-thick tube. Cut each tube in ½ inch wide pillows. Using your thumb and the tines of a fork, gently press each little pillow to flatten them a bit while at the same time making indentations in one side.

shaping the gnocchi

shaping the gnocchi

Cook in batches to prevent sticking. To cook, add a batch of fresh gnocchi to the boiling water. Wait for them to rise to the surface. Turn temperature to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes. Don’t be tempted to remove the gnocchi earlier, it will taste bad! Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a colander. Let drain for a minute or so. Meanwhile, bring water back to a full boil and repeat process with remaining batches. Reserve 2+ cups of cooking water.

Add one tablespoon olive oil to a large glass baking dish. Spread gnocchi in a single layer in the dish (use a second baking dish if needed). Add enough reserved water to walnut pesto to thin it into a somewhat runny sauce. Pour over gnocchi and bake for about 12 minutes to warm through.

We served this with a simple mache salad in vinaigrette. It was a feast! And it is so healthy that you won’t feel a bit of remorse having two slices of cheesecake.

Cheesecake challenge: The glamorous Heavenly from donuts to delirium and we at weirdcombos want to invite any interested food blogging folk to join us in a cheesecake cooking challenge. All you have to do is contact us for the basic recipe, come up with a creative version of your own, and publish it with links to all the other participants for the challenge on Monday August 8, 2011. This was incredibly fun when we did the chocolate truffle challenge in May and the tagliatelle challenge in March. So get your thinking caps on and your sweet… teeth(?) ready for some delicious fun in August!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Heavenly Housewife July 11, 2011 at 12:35 am

You made pasta??? I’ve never made gnocci. Was it as gruelling as the pasta we made?The sound of the accompanying pesto is simply delish. I bet it complimented the kaboch flavour beautifully. Did you know that Kabocha is the indian word for “pumpkin” (sometimes used in slang to refer to boobies LOL).
*kisses* HH
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tinytearoom July 11, 2011 at 5:07 am

this is a fantastic combination. If I made this my partner would think we were eating at a restaurant. I love the idea of a cheesecake challenge. The caramel macadamia cheesecake I recently made was my first attempt at one. the results were fantastic and I am looking forward to other flavour combos.
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Anna July 11, 2011 at 10:53 am

oh my goodness! gnocchi is like my favorite thing in the world. i canNOT wait to try this!!!!!!
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Krista July 11, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I’ve never cooked this sort of pumpkin before, but will have to try it. In Australia they use big BLUE pumpkins and roast them with their traditional Sunday roast. Mmm, mmm. :-) Love your walnut pesto. Mmm.
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Faith July 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I am so impressed that you made your own gnocchi! I’ve been wanting to try my hand at it for too long. I’ve been looking for kabocha for a couple years now but haven’t been able to find it in my area! I’ll keep looking though, since I’ve heard very good things about it.
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tasteofbeirut July 12, 2011 at 5:17 am

Wow! I LOVE kabocha and buy it at the Asian supermarket near my house; it is so sweet, it fills the house with an aroma that is hard to resist. I made kabocha-stuffed raviolis, but never gnocchi, so this will be my next challenge. the pesto sounds wonderful with it too! What a feast!!!
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Su July 13, 2011 at 1:55 am

I really am going to try these gnocci, because this version with the pumpkin sounds wonderfull.
And you can count me in for the cheesecake challenge ;)

tigerfish July 15, 2011 at 9:04 am

I usually cook with kabocha and butternut squash. Kabochas taste more like the queen indeed :) ..but butternut squash is easier to slice up during food prep.

Heguiberto July 15, 2011 at 9:39 am

Yes, kabocha is the queen. I agree peeling it difficult. Sometimes I just cook it with the skin on. It adds texture to the dish :)

Sara July 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

Have made sweet potato gnocchi per Mark Bittman which I loved–saw he has a recipe for parsnip gnocchi too. Why not kabocha? I don’t always like squash, sometimes it’s too soggy, but other times I am crazy for it–I like this way of using it. Sounds great! I should do it more often; it’s actually quite quick and easy but mentally it seems like a lot of effort.
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Nina July 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Wow, I’m so impressed you made gnocchi! It is on my list and what a wonderful combo you chose! Yum….need to get my gnocchi game on!
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