Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Butternut squash is quite the embraced autumnal ingredient, but it lends itself well to the following season and its wintry meals. Roasted squash incorporated into pasta dough makes for a delicious kind of gnocchi. No sauce is ladled over plates of this pasta to allow that squash flavor to come into focus, and so only some butter and a mixture of walnuts, kale, and parmesan along with a good crack of fresh pepper accompanies it all. My preferred method of toasting the gnocchi in the butter after boiling gives it a caramelized outer crust that adds a lovely textural layer.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
1 large butternut squash
Approximately 6 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Salt* and pepper, to taste
Garnishes: chopped walnuts, thinly sliced kale, and grated parmesan
*No salt is added in this recipe to the pasta dough to account for salted cooking water. Be sure that the water you cook the pasta in has plenty of salt in it, as this will flavor the pasta from the inside out while cooking. If you taste the gnocchi after cooking and the water wasn’t salted enough, simply add a bit of flakey salt on top.
To make the pasta:
Preheat the oven to 420 degrees. Slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub with a bit of olive oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes or until very soft. Scoop out the butternut squash from the skin and measure out four cups, discarding or saving for another use any remaining squash. Allow to cool completely.
Using a mixer, blend together the squash and eggs until there are no lumps in the squash and the eggs are completely incorporated. Add the nutmeg and ground cloves. Switch from the mixer to a spoon and begin adding the flour one cup at a time. You will need approximately six cups of flour to make the dough not overly sticky - do not add more than needed or knead the dough or else the gnocchi will be tough and rubbery. Cut the dough into eight equal pieces, rolling each piece into a log about one inch in diameter. Cut into bite sized pieces.
Using a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork, roll each piece for a shell-like design. Otherwise, continue with the cut pieces - they will be just as delicious!
Note: This recipe makes a large amount of gnocchi, enough to fill a gallon sized ziplock bag. I like to make this pasta in advance, spreading the pasta on a few trays in the freezer, chilling until no longer soft, and moving all of it into a freezer safe bag or container. This way, you can make as much or as little gnocchi as you like at any given time. The pasta will only take a minute or two longer to cook if frozen.
To cook the pasta:
Bring a large pot to a boil and heat a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place two tablespoons unsalted butter into the skillet, adding a tablespoon more for each batch. Cook the gnocchi in batches; when they float to the top, they’re finished cooking. Transfer each batch to the hot skillet with the melted butter, shaking the pan a time or two to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking to the bottom. Toast until the gnocchi is slightly crispy on the bottom and beginning to brown and transfer to a serving plate. Do this for the rest of the pasta.
Garnish or toss with chopped walnuts, thinly sliced kale, and parmesan. Add freshly cracked pepper and serve warm.