This past Saturday I picked up a butternut squash from Victory Farms and knew exactly what I wanted to make...warm, fluffy pillows of gnocchi, full of flavor and perfect for a rainy Fall night. This recipe requires a little prep time but is worth it in the end. Even though there is flour in the recipe, it's especially great for those craving pasta but watching the flour intake since the bulk of the gnocchi is made up of ricotta cheese and butternut squash. Here's the fix:
1 butternut squash, cubed
1 16 oz. tub of part skim ricotta cheese
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg (plus more for roasting the squash)
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1/2 - 1 cup and more for rolling gnocchi
salt & pepper
Start by roasting the squash. For those of you that haven't worked with it before, I like to peel it first and then cut it in 1/2 lengthwise. It has seeds just like a pumpkin that need to come out so you can either spoon them out or cut around them. Cut into equal size cubes, sprinkle with a touch of nutmeg, S & P and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast in the oven at 425° for about 15 minutes, flipping once or twice to help get the caramel color on all sides. You'll want it a little brown on the edges for great flavor so go longer if necessary.
Once out of the oven, transfer to paper towels to soak out some of the oil. The squash should be as dry as possible before adding to the dough. After drying, transfer to a food processor or use a potato masher to blend the squash until smooth. Place the mixture in the fridge to allow to cool before beginning on dough.
The ricotta will also need to be prepped which can be done the night before by wrapping in a cheesecloth and suspending over a bowl to properly drain or, if you are like me, the 'super-quick because don't always think ahead' way - wrapped in a clean, thin kitchen towel and squeezed with your hands until every last drop of liquid runs out. The ricotta needs to be as dry as possible to form a dough that will hold its shape.
In a large mixing bowl, add the 'dried' ricotta, egg, parm, nutmeg and blend together until smooth. Next add about 3/4 cup of the roasted squash mixture and fold into dough. Add salt & pepper for proper seasoning. This will loosen it up considerably but the flour will help to bind the dough together again. Start with 1/4 cup mixed in and slowly add more until the dough can hold it's shape.
At this point, the dough should be refrigerated for about an hour. Prep a baking sheet with a healthy amount of flour distributed over the pan and a separate pan lined with parchment paper. Once the dough comes out of the refrigerator, form into dough balls by rolling in your hands or roll into a small tube from which to pinch off about one inch sized pieces in the form of traditional gnocchi. Either shape will then need to be 'rolled' in the flour, sifted of any excess by tossing back and forth in hands and then transferred to the baking sheet lined with paper. Once formed, the gnocchi will then go back into the refrigerator for at least another hour or longer.
To cook, bring up a pot of salted boiling water and carefully drop the individual pieces into the water. They will cook for approximately 3-5 minutes and are done when they float to the top. The gnocchi should be scooped out with a mesh strainer and transferred to a paper towel before plating with sauce.
Speaking of sauce...this one goes beautifully with the butternut squash: 1/2 stick unsalted butter browned (over low-medium heat) in a sauté pan with ribbons of sage leaves and a small dice of a cured meat like Pancetta (season with salt and pepper to taste). Watch the edge of the pan for browning and promptly remove from heat. Spoon over gnocchi and top with grated Parmesan.
Would love to show you a picture of the finished product but our eyes and stomachs were focused in on the feast and there was no stopping 'em!