Gnocchi are pasta-like dumplings that are usually made with riced potatoes, but which can be made with other vegetables like butternut squash. Eggs, flour, and the vegetable ingredient are mixed with a flour, rolled into a snake and cut into small dumplings which are boiled until they are cooked through and ready to sauce.
I started this recipe with one butternut squash. I'd like to be able to tell you how much flour is in this gnocchi recipe, but I'm not sure I can. I started with 2 cups and the butternut squash just sucked it all in and laughed at me! Then I added some wheat flour, then some white, then some more wheat, then I mixed and mixed and mixed until my arm went dead. Then I mixed in some more wheat flour.
Eventually, I believe these gnocchi took in 3 1/2 - 4 cups of wheat and white flour in 2 parts wheat to 3 parts white proportion. Most recipes I've seen indicate it will take no more than 1 1/2 to 2 cups of flour to get a sticky but useful dough. I'm here to tell you - Don't believe it!
In any case, our squash reserves have dwindled and this is the last of the butternut squash we had in reserve from an early multi-squash purchasing trip. Gnocchi are a great way to use the quash and get a pasta-like dish you can serve with the simplest of sauces - butter and sage leaves.
Any left over gnocchi (and unless you're feeding the Bradys, there WILL be leftover gnocchi) can be cooled, patted dry, and put into freezer bags. When you're ready for a quick dinner later, pop them back into boiling water and a few minutes later you'll have dinner on the table.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
1 butternut squash
2-4 cups flour, mix of wheat and white in 2 parts wheat to 3 parts white proportions.
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
oil to brush the squash before roasting
Sage Butter Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
15-20 fresh sage leaves, left whole
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Halve the butternut squash lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. lightly brush the cut sides of the squash with oil and roast face down on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes to an hour, until the flesh of the squash is very soft, and yields to a spoon.
Turn off the oven, remove the squash, and let it cool. Scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl, descarding the shell of the squash.
Mash the squash in the bowl. If it's still warm, cover and let cool until it reaches room temperature.
Beat two eggs lightly. Mash the squash with a potato masher or blend it in a blender until any chunks are broken up and you have a relatively smooth puree. Add the eggs to the mashed squash and mix well.
Set out a sheet of aluminum foil on a side work surface, and put a large pot of water on to boil. You may salt the water if you like. Flour your main work surface lightly.
Add one cup of white flour to the squash and eggs and mix well. If the mix is still very loose or extremely sticky, add 2/3 cup wheat flour and mix it in. Add a little white flour then a little wheat flour until you have something like a slightly sticky dough. This may take much more flour than you think it should. I was personally very surprised, but I guess mashed butternut squash is somewhat moister than mashed potatoes.
Take a golf ball sized chunk of dough and roll it out into a snake. The snake should be a little larger around than your thumb (or about the size of my thumb). Use a butter knife (so you get a little "mashing" on the ends of the pieces) and cut 1" long gnocchi from the snake. Place them on the aluminum foil separated so they don't clump together. If you wish, you can roll the gnocchi against a fork to get the traditional marks on them, that helps them hold onto the sauce. After you've done a couple of snakes, start to cook the gnocchi while you finish forming the rest.
Once the water is boiling, toss the gnocchi into the pot. They should sink to the bottom. Give the pot one stir to keep the gnocchi from sticking together or to the bottom and wait. When the gnocchi are done, they should float up to the top where you can take them out with a slotted spoon.
Repeat with the rest of the dough until all the gnocchi are cooked.
Separate out the portion you'll eat tonight, and pat dry the rest. Lay the to-be-stored gnocchi out so they can cool. Once cooled, place them in meal-sized groups in plastic bags, and freeze for later. They should keep three to six months in the freezer, though I doubt they'll last that long.
To make the butter-sage "sauce", melt the butter in a small skillet. Once the butter starts to foam, add the sage leaves and fry them lightly until they start to crisp up. Add the gnocchi into the sauce and toss. Cook until the gnocchi are well coated and heated through and serve.
Goes well with a crisp white wine.
VARIATION: Add curry spices (tumeric, cinnamon, cumin, etc...) to the squash mix before mixing in the flour. You could alternatively add sugar and spices to make sweet gnocchi for dessert in a sweet cream and cinnamon/nutmeg sauce.