Sunday, March 6, 2011

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Walnut Butter Sauce

I think I might have been Italian in a former life.

While I do adore all things French (today I'm really into these cupcake liners from Meri Meri), I'll totally shove a plate of pasta in my face any day.

And let's not forget gnocchi. Cause it is definitely not off limits.

Remember that Basil Gnocchi that I made a while ago? Well, I've been meaning to make another batch of gnocchi since then. When I saw Closet Cooking's recipe for Pumpkin Gnocchi, I knew that I needed to make this. And of course I needed to modify the recipe slightly. Instead of pumpkin, I decided I would use butternut squash. You know, cause I have a slight obsession with butternut squash.

I had been thinking of making the Brown Butter and Sage sauce that was on the Closet Cooking website, but that very same week I received the latest Food Network magazine. And it was all about Italian food. How perfect, right? I flipped through the pages as I usually do when i first get the latest issue. And one of my flips landed me on a page displaying a variety of pasta sauces. The one that caught my eye was the Sage Walnut Butter sauce. And I knew I needed it in my life right now.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
adapted from Closet Cooking's Pumpkin Gnocchi
  • 2 cups butternut squash puree (see below)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
Make the puree:
  • 1 medium butternut squash

1) Cut the butternut squash in half.

2) Remove the seeds and pulp from the butternut squash halves.

3) Roast the squash in the oven at 400 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until softened. (I don't think it matters whether or not you roast the squash cut side up or cut side down. I roasted mine cut side down and it was fine.)

4) Once the squash is cool, scoop out the squash meat and mash into a pulp with a fork.

Note: You can make the puree a day ahead if you want to save some time.

Make the gnocchi:
(makes 8 servings)
  • 2 cups butternut squash puree (recipe above)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
1) If your puree is really wet, simmer it in a sauce pan to dry it out a bit and then let it cool down.

2) Add the egg yolk to the butternut squash puree and mix gently.

3) Add the salt and nutmeg to the flour and stir to incorporate.

4) Add enough of the flour into the pumpkin puree to form a soft dough that is not too sticky to work with.

5) Knead the dough for a minute and then roll it out into long thin rolls, which are about 1/2 inch thick.

6) Cut the rolls into 1/2 inch pieces, then roll the pieces in flour, lightly shaking off any excess.

7) You can give the pieces ridges by rolling them over a fork (or gnocchi board, if you're fancy). This step is optional, so I skipped it.

8) Cook the gnocchi in salted, boiling water in small batches until they float to the surface, about 2-3 minutes.

9) Remove and set aside to drain.

10) Toss with Sage Walnut Butter (recipe below).

Sage Walnut Butter
slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup water (preferably the starchy water in which the gnocchi was boiled, but regular water works fine as well)

1) Combine the vinegar, honey, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper in a small pot and boil over medium-high heat until syrupy, 4 to 5 minutes. Set this sauce aside. Cover to keep warm.

2) Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat.

3) Add the sage and walnuts and saute until the nuts are toasted, about 3 minutes.

4) Turn the heat to high and ladle in 1 cup of water.
5) Cook until the sauce is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes.

6) Toss with gnocchi to incorporate.
7) Drizzle the balsamic syrup over the gnocchi.

I love gnocchi, but I will admit that I didn't absolutely love this dish. However, I believe this is mostly due to user error.

Yeah, it was probably me.

The gnocchi was more of a "firm pillow" instead of "light as a feather", but I think it might have had something to do with me kneading the heck out of it instead of using a gentler touch. I mean, I came up with pillows of fluffy Basil Gnocchi before, so I guess this just means I need more practice. Which also means it's going to be time to make more gnocchi in the future.

But. This doesn't mean that the gnocchi didn't have a great flavor. Cause it did. The butternut squash was present in each bite and the sage walnut butter provided a warm, nutty coating for it all. The balsamic drizzle at the end finished the dish off with a nice tang.

So I definitely need to perfect my technique here. But since I spent all day playing with dough, I think I'll need a little rest period before I go at it again!

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