Several years ago, we were cleaning out our garage and I came across some butternut squash seeds that my mother had given to me. They were pretty old and I wasn’t sure they would produce anything so I just chucked them in a pile of dirt by our driveway in a “discard pile” that was going to be excavated that fall.
Well, I’m not quite sure what exactly was in that pile of dirt, but whatever it was made those butternut squash grow like crazy! It was like the magic beans from Jack and The Beanstalk and before we knew it, we had butternut squash growing EVERYWHERE!
Before the seed tossing episode (as we now refer to it as) we never ate much butternut squash. Now that we had an abundance of it, we were on the search for some new and interesting recipes.
We roasted it with other veggies, made soups and stews and froze some for later use. Still, we had sooooooo much. Then I remembered, my husband’s aunt once made pumpkin gnocchi in her Italian restaurant. Since squash and pumpkins are basically the same thing, I figured I would give it a try. After all, we are BIG gnocchi lovers in this family!
This recipe is an adaptation of my Italian mother-in-law’s recipe for traditional potato gnocchi (thanks Rose!) You’ll notice that it does not contain exact measurements of ingredients. Why is that you ask? Well, that’s how the Italians cook. They don’t follow “recipes.” They simply keep adding the ingredients to a dish until the spirits of their ancestors whisper, “that’s enough my child.”
All joking aside, that is how I learned to cook from my mother-in-law. This recipe relies more on feeling than it does exact measurements of ingredients. One time I asked my mother-in-law, “well how do you know how much you need.” Her response (in a very thick Italian accent) “Kristen, you just know.”
Keep in mind, this recipe takes quite a bit of time to prepare so make sure you have blocked out enough time in your day. Trust me, the final product is totally worth the time and effort it takes!
- 1 large butternut squash
- 1 egg yolk
Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Peel and slice the squash in half. Remove the seeds.
Cut up the squash into small pieces and place on a baking sheet. Toss with a Tbsp of olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden brown.
When the squash has cooled, put it into a stand mixer or a large bowl if you don’t have a mixer. Use the mixer (or your hands) to blend the squash into a mashed potato type consistency.
Now this is the part where you have to rely on feeling. If you prefer your gnocchi to be a bit on the firm side, you are going to add the rest of the ingredients while the squash is still a little warm. If you prefer a softer more chewy gnocchi, you will need to put the squash in the refrigerator for several hours until it is cold.
The warmer the dough, the more flour it will hold. Colder dough takes less flour. It just boils down to basic Italian chemistry.
Once you have decided on how you’d like your gnocchi, you are going to dump the squash straight onto a clean counter top. Why not mix all the ingredients in a bowl you ask? Well, because Rose said so that’s why. And when it comes to cooking the Italian way, you always, ALWAYS listen to Rose.
Add the egg yolk to the squash and mix in about 1/2 tsp of salt. Then you are slowly going to start adding the flour. Doubling the dough over and adding flour as you go. Keep kneading and folding the dough with your hands while continuously adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
Once the dough is at the consistency you want, cut the dough into several smaller pieces and roll out. For a more firm consistency, the dough should feel similar to play-dough. For softer gnocchi, it should feel a touch softer than play-dough but not as soft as cookie dough.
Step 6: Cut the rolled out dough into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces.
After the dough is cut into pieces, you can use the bottom of a basket or the backside of a folk to made the design on the gnocchi. This little fancy schmancy contraption is a small gnocchi roller my mother-in-law gave to me but you can use whatever works best for you.
If you plan on cooking all of the gnocchi the same day you prepare it, you can skip this next step. However, this recipe does make quite a bit so you may want to freeze it.
To freeze, take individual gnocchi and place them on a baking sheet, close together but not touching, in a single layer. Put them in the freezer for 1-2 hours. Once frozen, you can then scrape them off of the cookie sheet using a spatula and store them in a freezer bag in the freezer.
To cook, bring a pot of water with added salt to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the gnocchi. When they begin to float, they are ready. Easy peasy. Strain the gnocchi and set aside.
Now if these were traditional potato gnocchi, I would add some tomato sauce to them and BAM you have yourself a tasty pasta meal. However with these gnocchi, we like to prepare them in a sage butter sauce and serve them as a side dish.
While your gnocchi are straining, add 1 1/2 Tbsp of butter to a frying pan. Once the butter has melted add the gnocchi and sprinkle with salt and pepper and ground sage. Cook until the gnocchi is just beginning to brown on the sides. It’s the perfect combo of crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside.
For this meal, my husband cooked up some nice pieces of steak filet with a red wine mushroom sauce, the butternut squash gnocchi, and a fresh organic salad right from our garden. Top it with a nice glass of Merlot and Buon Appetito! Happy cooking my friends!