Fall has arrived and so have my cravings for rich, autumnal foods. At the farmer’s market yesterday, it was apparent that the summer’s tomatoes, zucchini, peaches and corn were being taken over by pumpkins, winter squash, and greens. So I picked up a couple butternut squashes.
I was inspired by this recipe for butternut squash gnocchi published in the October 2010 Bon Appétit. I had never made gnocchi before but it is one of my favorite meals, and I love butternut squash! This recipe was labor-intensive but not especially difficult.
The recipe called for roasting the squash for an hour and a half. Although roasting would probably add a nice depth of flavor, I simply did not have time yesterday so I microwaved it. This is the easiest way to cook really any kind of winter squash for a quick weeknight meal.
I just cut it in half, scooped out the seeds with a grapefruit spoon, and microwaved it for about 10 minutes in a dish with about an inch of water.
You can tell when they are done when you are easily able to make indentations by touching the skin. Be careful! They will be very, very hot when you pull them out of the microwave. Let them cool a bit before you work with them.
Once the squash has cooled enough, puree it in a food processor and, according to the original recipe, simmer in a saucepan until water has evaporated and puree is thick. Maybe it is because I microwaved instead of roasted the squash, but I did not need to do this. The squash puree was ready to use for me.
While the squash is cooking, prep the potatoes. This recipe said one 12-14 ounce potato would yield 2 cups for the recipe. I actually needed 2 potatoes. Boil them for 20 minutes as you would for mashed potatoes and then process them through a ricer. This is important to get the proper smooth consistency while keeping them light and fluffy. I used a food mill for this purpose; you can also just shove the potatoes through a strainer with a spoon.
Make the dough
Once the potatoes and squash are sufficiently cooled (you do not want to inadvertently cook the egg), combine 2 cups of the potato, 1 cup squash puree, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 1 beaten egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1.5 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg. A zester with a plastic covering to capture the gratings is perfect for this purpose.
Mix together and then gradually add 1.75 cups flour, kneading with your hands until a smooth, doughy consistency is achieved. Place on a floured surface and knead a bit more, then divide into 8 pieces (note: the next step got a little unwieldy for me; you may want to divide the dough into even smaller pieces).
Make the pasta
Roll the dough into a rope about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut the rope into small half-inch or so pieces. To give the gnocchi the characteristic ridges, supposedly for trapping in the sauce, roll with your finger over the back of a fork. I found this a little tricky and it does take some practice; here is one video demonstration.
Mine were not so perfect looking, but, whatever, call it “rustic.”
Spread the gnocchi on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and chill for about one hour. This recipe made a huge batch of gnocchi, so I froze about half of them on a baking sheet, and then transferred them to a freezer bag. The other half I cooked for dinner!
The BA recipe says to boil for about 15-17 minutes — I found this to be WAY too long. About 10 minutes worked for me
While they are boiling you can prepare the sauce. I halved the recipe since I was only cooking half the pasta. I also added garlic. I used 1/2 stick of butter, heated in a pan for a few minutes, then sauteed some minced garlic until golden. I added about a tablespoon of fresh sage, cooked for a few more minutes, and then tossed in the cooked gnocchi. Finally, add freshly shredded parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.
Served with a glass of wine and some fresh salad, this was a long but rewarding recipe that was perfect to welcome fall. I am looking forward to the next time I enjoy this meal!