A well-worn menu was placed in front of me and a glass of red wine was clasped in my hand. My husband and I were drawn into this particular seaside kitchen off the coast of Italy by the aroma spilling into the ancient streets and the crate of fresh fish being carried into its doors. I had received a wonderful piece of advice early on in my culinary adventures through Italy: always seek out the special – it is almost always seasonal & magical. On this fated sunset-drenched eve, I sought out a chalkboard to see what spells the kitchen was casting. It said Marina Di Chioggia. At the same time, a waiter pointed at a nearby table being served gorgeous slices of gold squash drenched in olive oil, rosemary, and sage. Hence my love affair with the Italian pumpkin.
The Marina Di Chioggia is thought to be originally from the fishing village of Chioggia at the southern tip of Venice. Once the salt marshes were drained and cultivated, they became a major source of vegetables. With its rich, dense texture, winter squash, such as Chioggia, became a staple for the winter months and for those who couldn’t afford meat. This beauty of a squash is still served on the canals of Venice, grilled with olive oil by the bargemen and served as a whole wedge.
- 2 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin such as Marina di Chioggia
- 3/4 teaspoon dried powdered thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- pinch of black pepper
- 2 cups flour plus a bit extra for dusting
- Topping of choice such as Parmesan and oil brown butter and sage, or red sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 Cut pumpkin in half. Scrape out seeds and place pumpkin cut side up in a roasting pan. Fill pan with hot water to 1-inch. Cover with foil and roast 90 minutes or until tender. Cool.
- Scoop out pumpkin pulp and press through a ricer, sieve, or hand mash to achieve a smooth consistency.
- Place 2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree in a mixing bowl. Add thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and mix well. Add flour, mixing until all the flour is absorbed and a sticky dough is formed.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough for about 2 minutes or until the dough comes to a smooth consistency and color, using extra flour as needed. Do not overwork the dough or your gnocchi will be chewy.
- Divide dough into quarters. Roll each quarter into a 3/4-inch diameter cylinder. Cut the cylinder into 1/2-inch pieces. One by one, take each piece and roll off the back of a fork