Not bad for a first try.
Gnocchi has intimidated me ever since I visited friends in Italy and returned from a day of sight seeing to find my hosts and their entire kitchen covered in flour. While I was touring the colosseum in Verona, they’d spent the afternoon making enough gnocchi to feed a Roman legion. They served me bowls heaped with melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi and watched me eat it. At no other time did anyone watch for my reaction so intently. And this happened not once, but twice. By the time I left Italy I was under the distinct impression gnocchi was a labour of love. And I wasn’t sure I had that kind of amoré in me.
Turns out I do. See…
I was going to attempt the classic potato gnocchi but had so much butternut squash left over from yesterday’s risotto I decided to give this autumn vegetable another go. It wasn’t as hard or as messy as I feared, but the rolling took a bit of practice. I simply rolled the pieces down the back of a floured fork like my Italian hosts did. You can buy ridged gnocchi paddles but the fork worked just fine. The trick was to follow through with the roll, otherwise the dough squishes.
The main stumbling block was the sauce. I tried the classic butter and herb sauce. I tried it with sage. I tried it with sage and garlic. I tried melted butter. I tried browned butter. Each time I sampled with or without Parmesan. They were all pleasant but missing that “something.” Then I got the bright ideas to look over Joyce Goldstein’s risotto recipe again. She mentioned the option of lightening the dish with a classic gremolata — a mixture of lemon zest, parsley and garlic. Presto! The dish needed lemon!
Butternut Gnocchi with Lemon Sage Butter
Serves 4 to 6 (as a side dish)
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced into large chunks
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
- black pepper to taste, freshly ground
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup whole fresh sage leaves
- zest of 1 large lemon, grated
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
- Cook squash in boiling water until tender.
- Gently puree squash by pressing through a sieve or gently mashing with a potato masher.
- Put puree into a large sauce pan with 2 tbsp butter. Cook gently, stirring until the squash has dried a bit. Then remove from heat.
- Add the flour, yolk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix until combined and the dough forms a soft ball. You might need to add more flour if it’s sticky.
- Knead a few times on a floured board and let rest 10 minutes or so.
- Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/2″ thick. Cut the gnocchi in strips about as wide as your index finger. Roll the strip in flour to coat. Cut each strip into a bite-sized piece.
- Roll the piece down a fork, pressing lightly with your finger.
- Put a large pot of water onto boil.
- As the water heats, make the sauce by melting the butter in a small sauce pan along with the sage. Simmer for a minute. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest.
- Cook the gnocchi in boiling water, adding only a few at a time so the water doesn’t cool.
- When the gnocchi is done, it rises to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan.