Better hurry up. Spring is sneaking up on us and soon the very sight of a butternut squash will look passé, an anachronism, winter in the middle of spring: “what are YOU doing here?”
But the supermarket still has ’em and I’m still buying them and still relishing in butternut squash gnocchi. We just made some in class last week. Once we sat down to eat…after all the cooking and prepping and bustle in the kitchen, a newly poured glass of wine dosido-ing with the dinner plate, ready to play…I stuck my fork into one of those pillowy gnocchi and took a bite. Ah, yes. Wasn’t that little dance in the kitchen so worth it? Ah, yes. Yes, yes, yes.
They are not hard to make. Just one little tricky part. You never know how moist your cooked butternut squash will be. So the flour amounts in the recipe can change. This should be no problem. Just try to add as little flour as you need, but as much to get a nice soft dough, not too sticky, but a little tacky is okay.
I trim my squash of top stem and a sliver from the bottom. Cut the squash in half at the point where it just begins to widen. Be careful cutting this odd-shaped beauty. It’s pretty dense with no straight sides. Cut each half in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds from the bottom quarters. Lay the pieces cut side down on a sheet pan with about a 1/2 inch of water. Roast until tender, let cool, then scrape out your squash.
We paired the gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce flavored with sun-dried tomatoes, sage, and butter. If you try it, let me know how it goes!
Fresh Butternut Squash Gnocchi in Sage-Sun-Dried Tomato Butter Sauce
For the Gnocchi:
2 cups cooked butternut squash, mashed smooth
½ cup ricotta
¼ cup grated parmigiano cheese
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon hot pepper
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups flour
For the Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, minced
2-3 sage sprigs, leaves minced, stems discarded
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
Make the Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, sun-dried tomatoes, sage and sauté until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth. Let sizzle and almost evaporate. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes or more.
Make the gnocchi: In a large bowl, mix together the squash, ricotta, grated cheese, nutmeg, hot pepper and salt & pepper. Add 1 cup of flour and gentle mix in with a large spoon making sure the mixture is smooth and any small chucks of squash are mashed. Add more flour until you have a dough consistency. Knead until combined. It may be a little sticky – that’s okay.
Break off a small handful of dough and roll into a log about a ½-inch thick. (Coat with more flour if too sticky to handle.) Cut log into ¼-inch pieces. Press each piece lightly against a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork. Toss with flour on a flour-dusted baking sheet. Try not to let them touch to keep them from sticking to each other. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Finish dish: Bring a pasta pot full of water to a boil. Season with salt. Drop in gnocchi. Cook until they float to the surface, about 2-3 minutes, then let cook for about one minute more. Remove with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Gently coat with sauce.