butternut squash gnocchi with sage brown butter and toasted walnuts

I love carbs.

There, I said it. If I could eat rice, bread and pasta all day and smother it in butter and cheese (and bacon), I would be a happy, happy girl.  Keeping this in mind, I savour each encounter with these beautiful dishes and do my best to ensure that when I do indulge, each bite should send me into satiated bliss.

My hands down pasta favourite is gnocchi; with it’s soft, pillowy goodness, when done right it is always satisfying and the perfect fall comfort dish. Ahhh yes, Fall… when indulging in our guilty pleasures seems more acceptable than in the spring and summer where salads rule the day .

 

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Fall in Cayman

The fact that I live in the Caribbean where “fall” is really more of a cool breeze and the sun rising later and setting earlier than anything else is irrelevant.

Moving on.

 

The first time I can recall ordering gnocchi from a restaurant would have been almost 20 years ago and it was also the very first time I ate at Edoardo’s .   I spent the entire meal dissecting each bite of these delicate, fluffy potato dumplings on my plate, soaking in an impossibly rich and addictive cream sauce. I was smitten.

As wonderful as those first dumplings were, I would soon learn that gnocchi could be even more horrendous when done poorly. Lumpy, chewy, tough, greasy and served in copious amounts of oily sauces and congealed cheeses, I was horrified at the widely varying qualities of the gnocchi I would find on menus and I soon grew wary of ordering. Even the vacuum sealed versions in the supermarket didn’t do it for me, they were dense and rubbery, entirely unappealing.

Finally I decided to roll up my sleeves and brave what had to be a difficult, complicated process to yield my greatly desired gnocchi. Spoiler alert: it’s so easy you might think you did it wrong. 

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Naturally with it being fall, butternut squash was my first choice. Feel free to sub with pumpkin, acorn squash or even sub the regular potato for sweet potato. The great thing with this recipe is how flexible it is and how easily you can make it yours.

Ingredients
For the Gnocchi:

1 large baking potato
1 large butternut squash
1 large egg, beaten
few sprigs fresh thyme
1 head garlic, roasted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups AP flour, more for rolling
healthy pinch ground nutmeg
1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

For the Sage Brown Butter:

1 stick unsalted butter
small handful fresh sage ,finely chopped
1 tablespoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees; pierce squash with fork and wrap with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 6-8 minutes until tender, depending on the size of your squash. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven on a lined baking sheet until very tender all the way through and slightly browned.
Scoop squash into blender or food processor, add roasted garlic to taste and puree until smooth. Place into a pan over medium heat, stirring continuously until as much liquid as possible has cooked out. Allow to cool.
Wash and peel the potato, cut into 2 inch pieces and boil in salted water until cooked all the way through and, falling apart tender. Drain and while still warm, crush into small, rice sized pieces. You can use a ricer for this but I just used my fingers.
Place the stick of butter in small saucepan over medium heat, until light brown (4-6 minutes), stirring frequently. Add most of the sage and brown for 2-3 minutes more. Salt to taste & set the brown butter aside.
Combine potato, squash, (you want about a 2:1 ratio – potato to squash ), egg, most of the Parmesan,  nutmeg, thyme leaves and salt. Once fully mixed, gradually add flour using your hands until a dough is able to from. If sticky add flour a little at a time until dough can gently knead on a floured surface until smooth.
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Great opportunity to involve the kids in rolling out the dough
Divide dough into equal pieces about the size of large golf balls. Roll each ball into ropes about 1/2 an inch thick. Using a butter knife, cut each rope into equal sized pieces about 1 inch in length and transfer to a lightly floured, parchment lined baking sheet. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, can be overnight.
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Gently rolling the cut gnocchi pieces onto the back of a fork will create ridges in the gnocchi that hold your sauce plus make your dumplings pretty.
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Drop gnocchi into boiling salted water in batches, being careful to not overload the pot. Gnocchi is done when they float to the top, between 8-12 minutes. Drain with slotted spoon and return to baking sheet to rest and cool slightly.
Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat with the brown butter and add the walnuts, gnocchi (again in batches, do not crowd the pan) and reserved sage. Allow the walnuts to toast in the butter and the gnocchi to brown slightly to bring out the sweetness of the squash and give the dumplings a little texture. Garnish with the remaining Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

I would love to provide you with the photo of the finished dish, but it disappeared before I could get a shot…oh well, guess I’ll have to make it again.

Enjoy!

 

 

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