Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry-Port Sauce and Pumpkin Gnocchi

Right here, right now, we're in the middle of fall with Thanksgiving upon us in less than two weeks.

Here, in Northern California, the weather has been beautiful, some days almost too warm to even contemplate it being fall. But, the leaves are changing and falling, the mornings bright and the sun sets as I leave for work, which is always a treat. 

In October, I took a half day from work to relax and spend the time cooking a meal that I wouldn't normally spend the time to make during the week. And, I also decided to try making gnocchi again. Several years ago, I attempted gnocchi (of the good ol' potato variety) and much to my disappointment, it fell apart when boiled. Ever since then, I have been weary of making gnocchi again and handling the generally pretty sticky dough even though wetter doughs often result in more moist cooked counterparts. Oh, the dilemma. But, I sucked it in and made the gnocchi anyways with the help of Kristen.

Traditionally, gnocchi has ridges that make it thinner in the middle and thus able to hold more sauce. But, if you're running out of time, or that seems like way too much time, they can do without. 

As for the pork, it's like turkey's fatty counterpart even though pork tenderloins are being used in this recipe. It pairs just as well with cranberry sauce as turkey does on Thanksgiving, making this meal appropriate for fall without clashing with the third Thursday of November too much. The port in the sauce really does compliment the cranberries so I would recommend that you leave it in. And the pork is seared on the outside and finished in the oven resulting in a meat more juicy than the juiciest turkey can hope to aspire to be. 

Plate it all together and this dinner pretty much screams fall. All it needs is vegetables of some sort but, I don't think that ever happened when eating this meal.

You can also be super hip and eat the Pork Tenderloin and Cranberry-Port Sauce on a waffle. 

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry-Port Sauce and Pumpkin Gnocchi

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Port Sauce from here and Pumpkin Gnocchi from here 

Yields: 10 servings 


Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry-Port Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1½ teaspoons dried sage leaves
  • 5½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups canned chicken broth
  • 1½ cups cranberry juice cocktail
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen (unthawed) cranberries (about 8 ounces)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup tawny Port
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1½  teaspoons salt
  • 1½  teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 1½ -pound pork tenderloins, excess fat trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Pumpkin Gnocchi

  • 1 cup of puréed cooked pumpkin or winter squash (canned or homemade)
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ cup parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry-Port Sauce

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, 3 teaspoons orange peel, sage, and 1 teaspoon thyme; stir 1 minute. Add broth and cranberry juice; simmer until mixture is reduced to 2½ cups, about 8 minutes. Add cranberries and sugar; boil just until berries pop, about 5 minutes. Mix Port and cornstarch in small bowl to blend. Add to sauce; boil until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Cranberry sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Mix remaining 4½  teaspoons thyme, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1½  teaspoons pepper in small bowl. Place pork in large baking dish. Pat dry with paper towel. Brush with 2 tablespoons oil. Rub thyme mixture over pork. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add pork and cook until brown, turning frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of pork registers 150°F, about 20 minutes. Transfer pork to platter; cover to keep warm. 

Cut pork into ½-inch-thick diagonal slices. Drizzle sauce over and serve.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Mix the pumpkin puree, ricotta, parmesan, eggs and salt together in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix well with your hands. The dough should be very sticky, impossible to work.

Add another half cup of flour and mix that in—the dough should still be pretty sticky, but pliable enough to shape into a large log. If it's not, keep adding a little flour at a time until you can get a soft dough that will be rollable. It should never require more than 4 cups of flour. Cover the dough with a damp towel.

To make the gnocchi, spread some flour on a large work surface and have more flour ready. Cut the dough log into four equal pieces. Take one piece and cut it in half. Roll the piece of dough into a snake about ½-inch thick, then cut it into pieces about the width of a fork.

Use the back of a fork to create indentations in the gnocchi. Dust the gnocchi with a little flour, then use one finger to push the dumpling up onto the tines of a fork. Let the gnocchi drop back to the work surface.

Continue with the rest of the dough. Place on a floured baking sheet until ready to boil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add enough salt to it so that the water tastes salty. Gently pick up a few gnocchi at a time and drop them into the water. Boil these gnocchi until they float, then remove them with a slotted spoon or spider skimmer. Lay the cooked gnocchi on a baking sheet and toss with a little olive oil so they don't stick together.

Gnocchi can be frozen and reboiled. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet until frozen solid. Then, remove, and store in a plastic Ziploc bag.