Rough Around The Edges Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Unless you're baking butternut squash just to eat baked butternut squash, you almost always end up with more than you need for a given recipe.

And given that I bought myself a 4.5 pound butternut squash for the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup we're making for November's Cookalong, I had four or five times what I needed. And since I was jonesing for gnocchi anyways, I figured I'd make some.

So I set out to make and write this recipe using the food processor as I usually do when I make gnocchi. And then I remembered that there are plenty of great gnocchi recipes out there that involve food processors, or even things like ricers, that may seem like standard kitchen gadget fare for those of us who are truly invested in cooking.

But part of my mission on Earth as I see it, is to get non-cookingobsessed people to try new cooking things and to maximize the potential in their kitchens, however minimal they may be. So unless you consider a potato masher and a whisk fancy kitchen gadgets, this recipe is relatively gadget free. And if you don't have one or both of those things, there's this fork thing that I'm pretty sure you've got laying around somewheres.

Plus it's a pretty safe bet that gnocchi were invented in some gadget-free kitchen in Italy. And if a bunch of Italian people's great great grandnonne could make 'em without gadgets, no reason we can't learn to.

In the interest of even disclosure, gnocchi made with benefit of a food processor, ricer or food mill is obviously going to result in a more delicate and luxurious texture. This method leaves larger pieces of potato and squash in the mix, but if you're ok with rustic butternut squash deliciousness, read on...

Rough Around The Edges Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About an hour to bake the butternut squash up to 3 days and at least 1 day before, another hour or so to make the gnocchi, at least 30 minutes to chill it, then 30 minutes or so to cook it.

Gnocchi isn't difficult to make, but, since it's a little involved, it requires some planning. You'll want to bake the butternut squash at least a day in advance to give it a chance to cool and set thoroughly.

And since we don't have the benefit of gadgetry to finely process the squash and potato in this recipe, you want to make sure that both are so thoroughly cooked that a fork pierces through the thickest part of the squash, and the biggest piece of potato, like a hot knife through butter. If in doubt, err on the side of slightly overcooked.

Lastly, key to pillowy gnocchi is the incorporation of the least amount of flour possible that will bind the dough together and make it workable, and the least amount of dough handling possible to get it to the desired form before cutting, the latter being a general rule for keeping wheat flour based recipes from becoming tough and chewy due to overworked gluten.

- 1 cup thoroughly baked butternut squash
- 1 pound of Russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups mashed)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 to 3 teaspoons sugar, depending on the sweetness of your butternut squash
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour to start plus more if needed
- optional: 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

- olive oil and butter in which to fry the gnocchi, if you so choose

1) At least one day, and up to 3 days in advance, bake your butternut squash, cool, scoop out the flesh, and store in covered container in the refrigerator. My tips on halving a butternut squash HERE.

2) On the day of, boil your potatoes in enough water to cover by 1/2 an inch and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until they're extremely very fork tender as described above. This should take about 25 minutes or so.

3) Thoroughly drain your potatoes and place them in a large mixing bowl. With a potato masher or large fork, mash the potato thoroughly, breaking it down into the smallest pieces possible.

4) Add the cup of baked butternut squash and mash again thoroughly with the masher or fork. If you really want to help yourself out, you can put the squash in the palms of your clean hands, and squeeze, letting the squash sort of ooze out the tight spaces between your fingers. Voila - you are a human food processor.

5) Add the remaining ingredients except for the flour, and whisk until all ingredients are thoroughly combined, and then a little more to further break down the squash and potato.

6) Sift in 1.5 cups flour and stir the mixture just until all of the flour is incorporated. Then, if the dough is still wet enough that it doesn't hold its shape, add flour, sprinkling over the entire surface area of the dough, gradually and minimally stir just until the dough sets and doesn't appear to wilt or melt. Sprinkling the flour over the surface area reduces the need for excess stirring in order to evenly incorporate it, thereby reducing the manipulation of the gluten, which makes the dough tough.

7) Scrape the dough out onto a clean, smooth and lightly floured surface, gathering it gently into a mound then gently folding and kneading only a few times, again as minimally as needed, to get the dough to a texture that you can cut it into individual pieces that won't immediately meld back together again once you've made the cut.

If you're making gnocchi in warmer weather, you may find that lightly dusting the dough with flour, wrapping it with plastic wrap, and chilling in the freezer for 20 minutes or so makes it easier to work with. What you don't want to do is keep adding more flour just to make it easier to handle. That will result in a dense gnocchi, and you don't want to go to all this effort to have dense gnocchi.

At this point, prepare a cookie sheet or sheet pan by drying it thoroughly and lightly dusting it with flour so you have a stick-free place on which to put your cut gnocchi.

8) Cut the dough into 8 equal sized pieces. Gently form each piece into a ball, then roll out with both hands just until you have a mostly evenly shaped tube that's about 3/4-inch in diameter.

9) Cut the tubes of dough into roughly 1-inch long pieces, placing them scattered on the cookie sheet or sheet pan. When you're done, give them all a very light dusting of flour.

If you're not going to use all of the gnocchi, now is the time to set aside the portion you're not going to use, let it freeze on a flat surface for 2 or 3 hours, and then put them in an airtight bag for future use.

Take the remainder that you are going to use, and chill, covered for 20 minutes or so in the freezer or about an hour in the refrigerator.

10) 10 minutes before you're ready to cook them, bring a pot with about 7 inches of water, salted with about a teaspoon of salt, to a boil. Boil the gnocchi in batches, placing just enough gnocchi to sparsely cover the surface area of the pot in at a time. If your gnocchi is merely chilled and not frozen at all, it should be thoroughly cooked as soon as it rises to the top. This should take 5 minutes or so. If it is frozen when you put it in the water, you'll want to give it just a little extra time to cook.

11) Remove the boiled gnocchi with a slotted spoon or straight into a colander that allows for drainage (with something to catch the water beneath it of course :) ).

At this point, you could eat your gnocchi just like that, and it would taste a lot like a really yummy dumpling that you can put in your soup, or toss with your pasta sauce of choice.

My favorite way to eat gnocchi is pan fried in half olive oil half butter, with whatever fresh herbs suit my tastes or menu for the given meal.

And I like my pan sufficiently lubed so I can achieve a nice crisp crust on the outside, and my chopped fresh herbs get this almost deep fried crispness and nuttiness to them.

Last night, we enjoyed our pan fried gnocchi with some of my Stock Rotation Cleanout Italian-Inspired Chicken Stew.

By the way, I happen to like the starchy fluff imparted by a part potato gnocchi, but if you'd like all butternut, you might like to try Lidia Bastianich's Butternut Squash Gnocchi recipe without potato, which is also delicious.

Gnocchi takes a little love and patience, but it definitely gets quicker and easier with practice. Plus it tastes so good and just feels like time well spent in the kitchen.

Hope you enjoy. :)




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