Sometimes, I just like to get something quick and nutritious on the table in 30 minutes or less and call it a good thing that we sat down to dinner together at all. Other times, as with this recipe, I like to get a little more elaborate and spend some time wandering through a process such as gnocchi making.

I’ll start the pumpkin a few hours beforehand on a day when I want the house warm from the heat of the oven. Then I’ll wander back into the kitchen an hour or two later to work on the gnocchi, put some jazz through the speakers, and work my way through from dough to dumplings.

This is one of those meals that you are meant to enjoy making as much as eating. It’s about the process.

If that’s not your idea of fun, this recipe is easily turned into a quickie by purchasing potato gnocchi and pork prosciutto — presto, you’ve got a weeknight meal with some nice reading on the side about how to make gnocchi and duck prosciutto. Or go halfway and buy the canned pumpkin to make the gnocchi yourself.

I include the recipe for duck prosciutto here because the process is actually fairly easy and it’s interesting — not because I expect hoards of you to hang your meat for several weeks, but because it’s always enlightening to understand food from its inception.


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound leeks, about 1 large or 2 small, 4 cups sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

2 half breasts of duck prosciutto, sliced thinly (see recipe below) or 4 ounces pork prosciutto, thinly sliced

1 recipe pumpkin gnocchi (see recipe below) or store-bought gnocchi

1 cup grated pecorino cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to receive the gnocchi. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the leeks, salt and pepper, and saute until the leeks begin to soften and then brown on the edges. Add the duck and saute for another 5 minutes or until the fat in the skin releases and coats the leeks.

Once the gnocchi is rolled out and cut, transfer to the boiling water, stir well, cook for 3 minutes once they float, and remove. Gently combine with the leeks and duck prosciutto, and serve immediately with the grated pecorino on the side to sprinkle on top.


The amount of flour you use will depend on how moist the flesh of the pumpkin is. I used a drier South Paw pumpkin, but every variety will be different given its nature and the vagaries of what happened during the growing season.

Drier is better in the case of gnocchi, as the more moisture in the pumpkin, the heavier the hand with the flour and therefore the denser the gnocchi. If you are leaning toward substituting canned pumpkin, give yourself time to let it drain in either a fine strainer or cheese cloth for 1 hour before using.

To extract pumpkin flesh with the least effort, cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Turn them over insides facing down on a baking sheet with sides. Add 1/2 inch of water to baking sheet and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 1 hour. Again, the moisture and size of the pumpkin will cause it to take more or less time to cook.

It’s done when you can gently poke the skin and can feel the flesh give underneath.

Let it cool for a little bit and then scoop out the flesh. Discard the skin. Mash it well, and drain the flesh in a strainer or cheesecloth.

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg yolk

1 egg

13/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

About 1/2 cup semolina flour, plus more as needed

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and combine the pumpkin, oil, salt and eggs. Whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes or until the batter is just combined.

Mound the all-purpose flour onto the counter and scoop the pumpkin mixture out of the bowl and onto the flour. Using a bench scraper, fold the flour into the pumpkin and use a cutting motion. Alternate back and forth with folding and cutting. Mix until just combined. (Too much mixing will cause the gnocchi to be tough. It shouldn’t stick to your fingers; if it does, add a little more flour, and knead until just combined.) The dough is ready when it springs back a little when you poke it.

To test for structure and to make sure the dough will stay together, lightly dust the counter with some semolina flour. Take a small piece of the dough and roll out into a small log, 1/2 inch in diameter.

Cut into 1/2-inch pieces and place in the boiling water. Once the pieces have floated to the surface, boil for another 3 minutes and remove from the water with a slotted spoon. Taste for salt and texture. If they fall apart, add another 1/2 beaten egg to the dough.

If the dough is fine, dust the counter again with semolina and cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll into long logs 1/2 inch in diameter. Dust with semolina again and cut with either the bench scraper or a pizza cutter. At this point, the gnocchi could be frozen by arranging them in one layer on a baking sheet dusted with semolina. Once frozen, remove from the baking sheet and store in an airtight container.

To cook, follow the same instructions as for testing the dough. Place in the boiling water, stir well, cook for 3 minutes once they float, and remove.

Serves four to six.


When I made this for the first time, it was with the breasts of 8 ducks that we processed from start to finish. You can do this process with as little as 2 half breasts or as many as you’d like. Neal Foley from Claddah Farm in Montville and Kate Hill of Camont Cooking School in France were kind enough to share it with me.

2 half breasts, skin on

Course ground sea salt

Coarsely ground fresh black pepper

Kitchen string


To hang meat safely, you need to have a space that stays consistently between 30 and 50 degrees. For me, this is in our barn, where the slab doesn’t freeze and the light coming in from the windows keeps things from getting too cold. A basement or an attic will also work nicely this time of year.

Trim the fat connected to the breast so that it just touches the edges of the meat rather than extending past the meat. Rub the flesh of the breasts with salt. (Not too liberally.)

Place the breasts flesh-side up in a strainer with a plate underneath, and refrigerate uncovered overnight or for a day or two. Remove from refrigerator and pat dry if necessary. Rub the flesh with the pepper and hang in a cool, dry place such as a basement, garage or shed.

To hang, rig a broom handle or other dowel (I used a sapling branch) so that it is suspended from the ceiling, but reachable.

Cut the kitchen string about 1 foot long and with either a kitchen needle, skewer or awl, poke a hole in the thick part of the breast and send the string through both breasts. You want the breasts to end up skin to skin, not flesh to flesh.

Tie a knot in the string and hang over the broomstick or dowel, making sure there is a little air space between the two breasts. Drape the breasts with cheesecloth unless you have a clean, dust-free space.

Let hang for 3 weeks or until the flesh has dried some but is still flexible and pliable. Either use immediately, continue to hang or freeze.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at: [email protected]