One of the things I love doing, which inevitably involves eating, is recreating a meal that knocked my socks off at a restaurant. My most recent foray happened after visiting Parish Foods and Goods in Atlanta. That night, I decided to go for the butternut squash gnocchi. I love butternut squash, but I never had it in the form of gnocchi. The butternut squash gnocchi was served with pork meatballs, kale and brown butter sauce, garnished with toasted butternut squash seeds. What was not to like about that whole combination?!
The last time I made gnocchi, I was 10 and I made potato gnocchi. I had just watched and jotted down the recipe I had seen on my favorite TV cooking show “Día a Día con María Rosa”. Let’s say we ended up eating mashed potatoes for dinner that evening. But this mushy experience was not going to intimidate me this time around. I am older and wiser after all. And I also have more patience, which I think is key. Gnocchi is an art, and as with everything practice makes perfect.
This recipe makes A LOT of gnocchi; this is what happens when you are creating as you go. I had 4 pounds of butternut squash. Yeah… So, get a friend or more and making the gnocchi will take no time. The great thing about this is that you can freeze these little guys for up to a month. All you do when you’re ready to use is drop them in boiling water – just like pasta – and cook for a few minutes until done. How do you know if they’re done? The gnocchis will float to the top.
This posting will focus on the gnocchi making process. The second posting will be the recreation of this delicious meal, so stay tuned. Now let’s get the dough rollin’…
Start by peeling a couple of butternut squashes; I had around 4 pounds of butternut squash.
Seed the squashes and cut them in smaller pieces; we will be roasting these. Save the seeds as we will use them for garnish of our meal.
Lay them in one single layer on a baking sheet. Coat the pieces with olive oil and sprinkle some salt to season. Bake in a 400F degree oven for about 20-30 minutes until the squash is soft. Rotate the pan and flip over the squash half way through the cooking time. Once done, let the squash cool off a few minutes.
Place the roasted butternut squash in a food processor and puree. You may have to do this in batches. You want a smooth puree; no lumps! Transfer the puree to a bowl and season with the following:
A generous pinch of salt,
Some ground pepper,
Add 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese,
And a couple of whole eggs. Mix all the ingredients.
We need flour to make the dough and hold it together. For the 4 pounds of squash, I used 4.5+ cups of all purpose flour. Add the flour 1 cup at a time and mix with a spatula. You are going to end up with a soft, sticky dough. After the fourth cup, add 1/2 cup of flour and check the consistency of the dough.
Cover the dough with plastic and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
mess fun begins. Sprinkle some flour on the counter. Flour both palms of your hands – very important! Now, grab a portion of the dough and place it on the counter and sprinkle more flour over it. Knead it for a couple of minutes,
And then begin to roll it out into a long, skinny snake. I found that because this dough is so soft and sticky, it was difficult to roll it out consistently. What I did was stretch out the dough lengthwise with my fingers until I had a skinny snake-like shape. Start from the middle of the roll and move outwards.
With a dough cutter (which I don’t have yet), or a knife – floured on both sides, begin cutting 1/2 inch pieces. These pieces will resemble little pillows. If needed, sprinkle the dough as you go with flour so that the knife doesn’t stick to the dough as you cut it.
Place the little pillows on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and place them in the fridge for another 30 minutes to dry up the dough a bit.
Sprinkling some flour on the pieces of dough, begin rolling each piece on the back of a fork to form the ridges the gnocchis are known for. You are probably not going to get them in the first time around, but listen – you have A LOT of butternut squash dough, so you’ll get there. Trust me.
After you roll them, squeeze both ends of the gnocchi slightly to hold the ridges and maintain the shape of the gnocchis. The theory behind these ridges is that they create the crevices for the sauce to settle.
Now, you can either cook them right away or freeze them.
To freeze: Place the rolled gnocchis on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and place it in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes until frozen. Transfer them into a freezer bag or container and store in the freezer for up to a month.
To cook: In a large pot, bring water, oil and a generous amount of salt to a boil. You are going to cook the gnocchi the same way you cook pasta. The water has to taste like sea water; this is the only chance you’ll get for your pasta to be seasoned properly.
Once boiling, place 10-12 gnocchis at a time in the water, stir once to ensure they are not sticking to the bottom of the pot, and cook for 3-4 minutes until the gnocchis float to the top. This is the way they tell you, “Yo, we’re done. Get us OUT!”
And there you have them: butternut squash gnocchis!
- 4 lbs (2 units) butternut squashes peeled, seeded and cut in large chunks
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 1/2+ cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Place chunked butternut squash on a baking sheet in single layer form. Coat the pieces with olive oil and season with salt.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until the butternut squash is soft. Remove from the oven and cool off for a few minutes.
- Place the roasted butternut squash in a food processor and puree until smooth. This process may be worked in batches.
- Pour the puree in a large bowl and season with the nutmeg, pepper and salt.
- Add the cheese and the eggs. Mix with a spatula until all the ingredients are incorporated.
- Add the flour one cup at a time, mixing with a spatula after every cup. After the fourth cup, check the consistency of the dough and add 1/2 more if necessary. The dough will be soft and sticky.
- Cover the dough with plastic and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle the countertop with flour; flour both palms of your hands.
- Grab a handful of dough and place it on the floured counter. Knead for a few minutes.
- Roll out the dough in a long tube shape using the palms your hands. If rolling proves challenging, form the tube by stretch out the dough beginning in the middle and working your way outwards.
- With a floured dough cutter or knife, cut the dough into small 1/2 inch pieces.
- Place the pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to dry out the dough slightly.
- Grab one piece of dough, sprinkle slightly with flour and roll it against the back of a fork to form the ridges on the gnocchi. Squeeze the piece slightly by the ends to maintain the shape of the gnocchi.
- To freeze: place the gnocchis on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for about 15-20 minutes until hardened. Store gnocchis in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container for up to a month.
- To cook immediately: Fill a large pot with abundant water, and add a drizzle of oil and a generous amount of salt. This water should be as salty as sea water. Bring this to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the gnocchis, 10-12 at a time and cook for about 3-4 minutes until they float to the top.
- Serve with your favorite pasta sauce.
- Use the same cooking method if cooking frozen gnocchi.