Butternut squash gnocchi

Don’t knock-it till you’ve tried gnocchi

Originally appeared in the November 17, 2011 edition of the Southside Times.

You might say that for something as simple as dumplings, it’s a contradiction for gnocchi (particularly this recipe) to be so labor intensive.  But to many cooks, culinarians, and pastry purists, part of the pay-off is the process.  Consider the labor-of-love involved in making tamales—think about the low-key technique of braising.  Moral of the story: the time invested is worth it.  Read more after the jump:Translated from Italian, gnocchi (pronounced knock-key) means “lumps”; so while I’ll place some emphasis on consistency, don’t work your fingers to the bone seeking geometric perfection.  Like all rustic dumplings, these silky-and-savory bites should suggest something homemade—or “fatto in casa.”  Typically, gnocchi is a mixture of potato, flour, and cheese (often Parmesan, but ricotta is popular).

This is one of those recipes that you can start around brunch time, in anticipation of a cozy lunch.  But another advantage is par-poaching the gnocchi ahead of time, and then refrigerating or freezing the dumplings.  And gnocchi is a nice addition to a clear soup; or, like pasta, you can toss the little lumps with tomato sauce or Alfredo.  In short, these dumplings are fun and versatile.  So don’t knock-it till you’ve tried gnocchi.

Butternut squash gnocchi

Serves 6 – 8

  • 1, one-pound butternut squash
  • As needed, olive oil
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • To taste, kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 cups (or more), all-purpose flour
  • As needed, unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1.  Preheat oven to 400° F.  Cut squash lengthwise; discard seeds.  Oil flesh and place skin-side down on a baking sheet.  Roast squash until fork-tender (about 1 hour).  Afterwards, allow to cool and scrape flesh from skin (discard skin).  Using a food processor or blender, puree squash until smooth.  Heat pulp in a saucepan until juices evaporate and puree thickens.  Measure 1 cup of puree (reserve remaining squash for another use).

2.  Cook potato in a saucepan of boiling, salted water, until potato is fork-tender.  Drain and allow to cool.  Using a ricer or food mill, puree potato until lumps have been eliminated.  In a bowl, combine smooth potato, squash puree, ½ cup grated Parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.  Gradually add in flour, kneading the mixture until dough forms workable mass (if dough is too sticky, just add a bit more flour).  Knead dough on a flour surface.  Divide into eight pieces.

3.  Work dough into ½-inch ropes, cutting segments and placing them on a floured sheetpan or plate.  In a large pot of boiling water, cook the dumplings until they float to the surface.  Drain and reserve in a bowl with a bit of oil.  When ready to sauté, heat some of the butter until it browns.  Add gnocchi, stirring to coat; add sage and Parmesan.  Season to taste before garnishing with extra Parm and serving.

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