As we noted earlier this week, fall really isn’t quite here yet. But we already jumped the gun with the Applejack Rabbit cocktail, so why not move directly to the heart of the colder seasons and work with butternut squash? And while butternut squash is a “winter” squash, that just means you can store it over the winter. It is perfectly good to eat in the fall (or even late summer). And we do like our butternut squash, it is sweet and savory and a great ingredient in all sorts of dishes. And if you use butternut squash in pasta with some brown butter and maybe some sage…well, then you start inching towards culinary nirvana.
And while we like to make pasta at home (frankly, with mixed results) we do know we can make gnocchi, and it will be good. And if we use butternut squash, it can be very good. And this gnocchi is easy to make, but it does take a little time- time well spent. And this is a frugal dish as well. Butternut squash, flour and butter won’t break the bank. And they are pretty good for you, too…you get the idea.
If you are unfamiliar with gnocchi, it is simply a small dumpling that usually combines a cooked starchy vegetable like potatoes or squash (although you can also use ricotta cheese- but that is for another post) with flour and seasoning . The dumplings are boiled and then served, or cooked a second time (usually browned in butter). What you get is a remarkably light-textured, but very hearty dumpling that pleases a crowd (and sticks to their ribs). Basically, if you want to feed a bunch of kids after they play sports, gnocchi is a good choice.
Making butternut squash gnocchi is easy, but as we noted before, takes a bit of time. First quarter the squash and microwave it for 15- 25 minutes (you can also cook in the oven if you like). Let the squash cool and then scoop out the flesh and combine with the seasonings and flour. Knead the dough, turn it out, and then roll the dough into a long cylinders and cut small pieces to form the dumplings (use a lot of flour to prevent sticking). Boil the gnocchi for four and a half minutes and serve.
And how do we serve the butternut squash gnocchi? You can start simply with just some butter, parmesan, salt and pepper- and it will be tasty. But we suggest you take the time to brown the butter and add a little sage and thyme. And if you want to add some crunch with some crispy bacon or chopped hazelnuts, you might be even happier. And finally if you serve these sweet, rich and hearty dumplings with a salad of slightly bitter greens like arugula…well then you suddenly have a restaurant-quality meal.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
(Loosely adapted from a Sunset Magazine recipe)
Notes Before You Start:
- You can cook the squash in the oven, if you prefer. Quarter and seed the squash and place cut side down in a shallow dish with 1/2 inch of water of water. Cook at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the squash is soft.
- Microwaves vary in power. Adjust the first long cooking time for the squash as needed.
What You Get: A tasty, and relatively easy homemade gnocchi.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? At least an hour and a bit more time if this is your first time making the dish. It takes time to roll and cut the dough. Usually a weekend dish, but you can make this on weekdays with some planning.
- 1 medium butternut squash, 2-3 pounds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pinch white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan and/or pecorino romano
- Salt and fresh black pepper
- 6 sage leaves (optional)
- 1 sprig thyme (optional)
- 1/2 cup diced, browned bacon (optional)
- 1/4 cup crushed hazelnuts (optional)
- Quarter and seed the squash and place in a microwave safe plate or dish with 1/2 cup of water. Cover with a paper towel and microwave on high for 15 minutes. Check for doneness (you should be able to easily insert a knife into any part of the squash) and cook in 2-3 minute increments until fully cooked. Set aside to cool.
- Scoop out 2 cups of the squash into a large bowl. Mash thoroughly with a fork. Add the salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, and mix with the squash. Slowly add the 3rd cup of flour until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. You do not have to use all of the flour.
- Turn out the dough on a well-floured surface. Knead the dough 10-12 times. Then separate the dough into halves (cover one half with plastic wrap). Roll the dough into a long cylinder, 3/4 of an inch wide. Then cut the cylinder into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the pieces on a floured baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Place the gnocchi in the pot and cook for 4 and a half minutes (or until they all float). Remove the gnocchi from the pot with a slotted spoon and place into a large bowl. Add the butter and cheese, season and serve…OR..
- Optionally, while the squash cool, brown the bacon and crush the hazelnuts. Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until the solids foam and the butter begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Then slice the sage and pull the thyme from the sprig and add to the brown butter. The herbs will sizzle for a minute of two and start to brown. Remove the pan from the heat and keep warm until service. When the gnocchi are ready add the brown butter sauce and half of the cheese. Then season and serve the gnocchi and garnish with the bacon, hazelnuts and remaining cheese.
- Fall Recipes: Butternut Squash, Apple and Sage Soup (pinecountryfeed.wordpress.com)
- Gnocchi, butternut squash, sage and shitake mushrooms (sallysrecipebook.wordpress.com)
- Gnocchi with creamed butternut squash and sage (sallysrecipebook.wordpress.com)
- Caramelized Onion & Butternut Squash Lasagna Pie (thesmartcookiecook.com)