Quick and easy to make, kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with creamy sauce – vegan and gluten-free!
Kabocha pumpkin is a type of squash grown and eaten largely in Japan. Unlike other types of squash, it is sweet and very meaty. It doesn’t disintegrate or get liquidy when baked or cooked in broth/soup. While kabocha pumpkin is now known to be a Japanese vegetable, it is actually not indigenous to Japan and is believed to have been brought to Japan by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Because it was said that the pumpkin was from “Cambodia,” the name of the vegetable became “kabocha” (see the sound similarity??).
There are largely two types of kabocha in Japan, Nihon or “Japanese” kabocha and Seiyo or “Western” kabocha. They are both originally from Central and South America, but Nihon or “Japanese” kabocha came to Japan first and Seiyo or “Western” kabocha came later. Seiyo kabocha is sweeter and meatier than Nihon kabocha, and is the kind that you would most likely find at a supermarket in Japan.
There are so many different dishes you can make with kabocha pumpkin from savory to sweet and Japanese to Western, but today’s recipe is quick and easy gluten-free gnocchi:)
First step is to prepare the kabocha pumpkin by cutting in easy-to-mash-size pieces and steaming them. A word of caution here: kabocha pumpkin is very hard and cutting it with a knife can be a “dangerous” task. A lot of people injure themselves when trying to cut kabocha pumpkin because they would stab the pumpkin with the knife then the knife gets stuck in the middle and they try to yank the knife out, ending up cutting a finger or two… Don’t let this happen to you! All you need to do is, wrap the kabocha in plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1 min. It will get soft enough to be cut very easily.
For steaming, I also like to use the microwave because it’s so super easy. Put the kabocha pieces in a microwave-safe container and microwave for 4-5 min on high. That’s it!
If you want, you can remove the skin (green part) at this stage (if you want to create perfectly-yellow gnocchi), but I like to keep it on because it contains a lot of good nutrients. Add some salt and use the mashing method of your choice to mash the pumpkin.
Add rice flour (or wheat flour if you don’t need it to be gluten-free) and knead into a dough that’s easy to work with.
After making strings of dough, cut them in bite size pieces. If you don’t have a gnocchi mold (I don’t!), you can use a fork to put the “gnocchi” patterns on:)
Put the gnocchi pieces in boiling water and scoop them out when they come floating. Set aside.
For the sauce, I decided to match my gnocchi with creamy vegan white sauce. It would also be delicious with an oil-based sauce or tomato sauce though!
Sautée shimeji mushrooms (or regular button mushrooms) with olive oil and garlic on low heat then add soy milk that is mixed with some starch. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until the sauce thickens.
This creamy white vegan sauce is sooooo easy to make that I don’t know why I was going all the trouble to make the regular white sauce (with butter, flour and cow milk) before I became vegetarian…
Stop the heat (else the sauce will thicken too much and become crumbly!!) and add the cooked gnocchi in. Mix and serve!
I only added mushrooms to the sauce this time, but you could add any vegetable of you choice like spinach, boiled broccoli, grilled zucchini etc. etc.
What I love about this dish is that, it’s super easy to make but looks like I put in a lot of effort in making it!! So it would be a great dish to serve at a home party with some big salad and vegetable side dishes;)