Pumpkin Pasta

(yes, you read it right, pumpkin)

The problem with italian food abroad is that it’s almost always wrong. I guess it’s pretty much the same for every other cuisine, but still, it’s quite a pity. Above all, pasta is usually very wrong: the idea non-italians have of it is so limited and incorrect. I’m not talking only of the well-known problem with Fettuccine Alfredo or the many ways Carbonara is ruined worldwide. The bigger problem for me is that the abroad menus are so limited compared to the vast regional diversity of pasta recipes that exist across Italy. One of the limits that I find more troubling is the complete lack of one entire category of pasta recipes, namely the so called “minestra” which is pasta cooked in a soup, as opposed to the other way you would normally cook your pasta: by itself in water before you add the sauce.  Usually very wintery dishes, minestre (plural for minestra) combine pasta with what you might find strange pairings. Things like potatoes, peas, beans, lentils, cauliflower, and yes, you read the title, pumpkin. Minestre can be both very soupy or quite dense, and this can differ a lot even from neighborhood to neighborhood in the same small town. I usually stay on the dense side, as is also the case with this one.

Created with Sketch. 45 minutes Created with Sketch. 2-3 portions


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 350 grof pumpkin (any pumpkin will work)
  • 2 small floury potatoes
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • half a onion
  • parmigiano to taste
  • gorgonzola cheese to taste
  • 300 grof pasta* (see note)


All the most common edible pumpkins will work for the recipe, but my favourite is a butternut squash. Also, Gorgonzola in the end gives the recipe a nice extra touch of fancy flavour, but the recipe works perfectly without.

*about the pasta shape for this recipe: my favourite is casarecce (as in picture), but it’s perfect to use any half-short holed shape, like tubetti, tufoli, ditali or maybe the very good mafaldine (cut in small pieces), or one of my all time favourite pasta mista (mixed pasta, a mix of leftovers). Please don’t make wierd pairings like spaghetti or linguine.

  1. Finely dice the onion and celery, and sauté them with the olive oil for 5-8 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the squash, remove seeds, and chop it into small cubes, about 1 cm. Same thing for the potatoes. Add everything to the pot and stir often so it doesn’t burn. Keep sautéing everything for 5 minutes.
  3. Add some boiling water, just enough to cover the pumpkin, and keep it on medium/high for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally, adding some more boiling water if it evaporates fast. Also add salt and pepper.
  4. After about 20 minutes the pumpkin should start to be nice and tender; use a smasher, or any other tool (a fork should also work). and start smashing the pumpkin and potatoes in a coarse puree. You can of course use an immersion blender, but I prefer when in the final dish there are still some small pieces of soft pumpkin here and there.
  5. Now add the pasta, and here comes the tricky part: add enough water to cook your pasta in. You have to consider that some of the water is going to evaporate, and some is going into the pasta (cooking pasta is basically re-hydraitation), so you have to add enough water to cover all the pasta, but not too much, as this will make the end result too soupy. The best thing, before you’ve gained more experience, is to start with as little water as is needed to cover the pasta, and then keep adding some more if things get too dry. Just keep stirring often and check that you have enough liquid. During this all process, you’ll also have to adjust salt.
  6. When after about 10 minutes the pasta is cooked (and hopefully the pumpkin is nice and creamy and not too liquid), remove from the stove and add parmigiano and, if you fancy it, gorgonzola, and keep stirring until all the cheese has melted.
  7. Serve it with some extra parmigano and finely chopped parsley, or my favorite: rosemary.



(it's pronounced ˈɲɔkki)

When it comes to fresh pasta I have no doubt that the one you make at home is way better than anything you can buy in a store. And despite what most people think, it’s quite an easy thing to do. This is the first of a series of recipes about fresh pasta and we will start with GNOCCHI (potato gnocchi to be precise) which by the way is pronounced [ˈɲɔkki] (here’s a You Tube clip, just in case). Gnocchi are easy to make for a simple “chemical” reason: to make the dough, the flour is not mixed with water, therefore gluten doesn’t form. Now gluten is what makes any flour+water dough become elastic and hard to handle when you knead it, so with gnocchi everything is a lot simpler.

Potato gnocchi are essentially made with potatoes and wheat flour, but this is only the start – one can experiment with all kinds of flours and other ingredients, add eggs or some veggies to do a “colored” version (spinach seems to be very popular). I prefere the simple potatoes+flour version better because I like to feel the potato taste. If for example you would use eggs also, you will have to add a lot more flour to reach a good consistency, and the potato taste would be lost. Sad.

You can really use all kinds of potatoes: yellow, white, firm, floury etc. And the amount of flour needed may vary a lot for a number of reasons: type of potatoes used, for how long they are boiled, even how old they are! So you can see that the recipe is not much of a precise one really, but still it’s very easy and fun to do.

For this particular recipe I’m doing the gnocchi in my favourite way. They’re called Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, as they originate from the beautiful town of Sorrento in Italy, about 45 minutes from my hometown (you’re welcome to visit!).

Special Equipment

  • potato press
  • oven-proof bowls
Created with Sketch. 35 min Created with Sketch. 2 servings


  • 350 gpotatoes
  • 150 gall purpose flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • for the sauce
  • 1 tbsof oliveoil
  • 1 cloveof garlic
  • 300 gtomato puree (passata)
  • 80 ggrated Parmigiano cheese
  • 125 gof mozzarella



  1. Boil the potatoes, skin and all, until they’re fully cooked.
  2. Use the dedicated potato press to smash the boiled potatoes in a big bowl.
  3. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and mix everything together until the dough looks nice and smooth. You can add a bit more flour if you think the dough is not firm enough. The smashed potatoes are able to incorporate a lot of flour, but we don’t want the dough to be neither too loose, nor to firm. I guess it’s both a matter of how you prefere your gnocchi to be, and also of practice; with time you will be able to “feel” when the consistency is correct.
  4. Cut a small piece of dough and roll it down by hand to a ‘worm’ shape about 1,5 cm wide. With a knife cut the ‘worm’ into 1,5 cm pieces and using two fingers (and some extra flour as the dough will still be a bit sticky) press on the little ‘plug’ while at the same time you roll it back towards you. This will give the gnocco (singular for gnocchi, of course) a bit of a cavity where the sauce will sit nicely. Repeat this operation until you run out of dough. While you roll your gnocchi, arrange them nicely on a large flat surface and sprinkle a little flour over them. (I should mention that this is only one of the possible ways to roll gnocchi, but it’s my favourite). Actually, you know what? To make things easier I made a short explanatory how-to video!
  5. Start your oven grill at this point, you’ll need it later. Also put a big pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.
  6. Now for the sauce, it’s really quite simple: add olive oil and a clove of garlic to a sauce pan on medium until the garlic is golden/brown. Add the tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste, and cook it for 10 minutes on  medium/low.
  7. Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water just as if you were cooking pasta (in case you’re not very sure, here‘s our how-to article). But gnocchi cook very quickly! When the water is boiling,  add the gnocchi, put the lid back on the pot and in one or two minutes the water will start boiling again and the gnocchi will come up to the surface: ready! You just have to drain the water and put the gnocchi back in the pot.
  8. Now quickly pour 3/4 of the tomato sauce over the gnocchi, add the parmigiano and half of the mozzarella and gently mix everything.
  9. Put the gnocchi in oven-proof bowls, scoop the remaining sauce on top of them,  add the rest of the mozzarella and throw everything under the oven grill for 5/10 minutes or untill the mozzarella starts to become a bit brown