During my whole January Freezer Month challenge (read how that went during weeks one, two, three, and four) I had used half of a decorative butternut squash to make butternut squash macaroni & cheese. This is one of my favorite fall & winter time meals, because it has all the creamy comfort of mac n cheese with an added boost of vitamins and fiber. It totally counts as a serving of vegetables!
But what I had discovered was that even a deceptively small-looking squash can create a ton of pulp!
This giant bowl of squash was half! Yes indeed. So, being the frugal epicurean chef I am, I decided this was not to go to waste. After searching the interwebs for inspiration, I had seen several options that were contenders, but in the end the winner was butternut squash gnocchi. It’s the sauce that sealed the deal, which I will tell you about in just a second.
For those who don’t know what gnocchi is or have never had them, go find your nearest authentic Italian restaurant and re-evaluate your life choices. Just kidding. Make this recipe instead!
Gnocchi are typically thick, soft dumplings that may be made from semolina, wheat flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, or similar ingredients. You basically make a thick pasta dough, and create chewy pillows from it. The most classic gnocchi shape is the oval with ridges, created in our grandmother’s day using fork tines. (Did you know the things that make a fork a fork are called tines? Now you know.)
Growing up in Youngstown Ohio, a city with some serious mafia ties (seriously, go read about it), we have some crazy good Italian restaurants. Thus I am well-versed in gnocchi. I’ve even taken a foray into gnocchi making previously, with acorn squash and potatoes. So I was fairly confident that this project would turn out well. And boy did it ever!
The process does take a little bit of time, I think it was just over an hour start-to-finish, and I had already-cooked squash to work with. So be sure you have about 2 hours prior to tackling this. But trust me, it is well worth it! My fiancee, who is allergic to vegetables, told me this was delicious and amazing and asked for seconds. He didn’t even believe me when I said there was squash in it.
The sauce is much easier, I just whipped it all up in my amazing Ninja blender (a Christmas gift from said fiancee) and simmered it on the stove to brown the butter. But I am convinced that the two flavors and textures are the magic that elevates this from “weeknight pasta” to “so good this could be Valentine’s Day dinner at a 5-star restaurant”. But at home.
But hey, I’m not gonna tell you what to top your gnocchi with. If you like marinara, go for it. If Alfredo is your thing, rock on. Shoot, if you want to eat your gnocchi naked, that’s fine with me. Just make sure the blinds are closed. 😉
- 3 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash
- 4 1/2 cups flour plus extra
- 2 tbsp Italian seasonings
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- Sprinkle of ground pepper and salt
Step 1: If you haven’t cooked your squash, do that first. Go ahead I’ll wait. Bake it, microwave it, steam it, whatever. Then mash it up.
Step 2: Mix your cooked, mashed squash in a large bowl with the other ingredients. Add seasoning to taste, so if you want it heavy on the spices, do it, or go nuts and add cinnamon. Get your hands all up in that squishy dough mess and mix it up nice. Add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time as needed, until the dough just barely still sticks to your hand.
Step 3: Separate out about 3 cups of dough, and turn out onto a floured surface. Pinch off a good handful, and roll it into a log. Cut the log into 1/2 – 1 inch squares. Each individual piece will be one noodle/dumpling/gnocchi. If you’re feeling fancy, go ahead and roll each gnocchi over the tines of a fork to create ridges. (I recommend this step mostly because the ridges create a nice place for the sauce to stick to!)
Step 4: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. (Here’s a secret tip: I actually used chicken broth to boil the noodles, for extra flavor and because I like bone broth). Boil the gnocchi for about 10 minutes, until they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Step 5: Top your gnocchi with sauce or topping of choice, and then watch whoever is eating this oooh and ahhh. Including yourself. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back too, that’s step 6.
And if you are just dying for the sauce recipe I used, don’t worry I won’t tease you and leave you waiting. Oh wait. Yup, you have to wait until Thursday’s post. It will be worth it I promise.
Oh, and did I mention this makes a crap ton? This recipe made me about 7 dozen gnocchi total, so I ended up freezing about half. Just lay them out in one layer in the fridge for 1 hour to overnight, then pop in a freezer bag or container and they will keep for about 6 months. So one day’s hard work equals one amazing meal now, and another amazing meal sometime later. Jackpot.