I can now check another item off the list of things I've never made before...Gnocchi! Last week, at the Farmers' Market, I scored a small bushel of butternut squash.
I don't have one of those cute little gnocchi boards to roll gnocchi (since I've never made them before) but it's on my wish list now. I found this wonderful You Tube video on how to make traditional gnocchi. It was very helpful to me on how to mix, roll and shape the gnocchi. Since I used butternut squash instead of potatoes, however, I found these gnocchi a little soft because of the higher water content of the squash. Leaving them in the classic pillow shape was just right.
I actually baked the squash two days before and mixed, formed and boiled the gnocchi the day before I served it. This helped me strain any excess moisture out of the squash and made the last minute prep a breeze. The gnocchi was simply sauteed in browned butter to reheat it before serving with the freshly-made spinach sauce.
Edit: Last night I forgot to add a photo of my favorite way to grate fresh nutmeg which is used in this recipe. I use a microplane grater. If you've never had freshly grated nutmeg you are missing out on a real treat!
Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Spinach Sauce & Beurre Noisette
Adapted from The Pasta Bible by Christian Teubner, Silvio Rizzi and Tan Lee Leng
*My recipe includes directions for preparing the butternut squash two days ahead and the gnocchi one day ahead. You can do everything the same day, if desired.
For the gnocchi you will need:
1 small butternut squash, about 1 to 1-1/2 pounds
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper (about 1 rounded tsp and 1/2 tsp respectively)
For the spinach sauce you will need:
1/2 pound fresh spinach
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup white wine (I actually substituted Pom Juice since I didn't have a bottle of wine open. It worked great!)
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon cream (I used half & half)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg
To serve you will need:
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons butter, melted and lightly browned (beurre noisette)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the squash on a baking sheet and pierce with a sharp knife in several places. Bake for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until a knife can be inserted easily. Allow the squash to cool until easy to handle and cut it in half. Remove the seeds and fiber and scoop out the flesh with a large spoon and force it through a potato ricer. You will need about 1 packed cup of riced squash. Alternately, you can place the flesh in a food processor until lightly pureed. You just don't want any lumps. *At this point, I placed the squash in a fine-meshed strainer over a bowl, covered and refrigerated it and allowed the excess moisture to drain out overnight.
To make the gnocchi:
Mix the riced or pureed and strained squash with the egg, flour, Parmesan, salt and pepper and work into a smooth dough. If the dough is still sticky, add a little more flour. Taking plum-sized pieces of dough, roll into a rope about 1/2 thick on a floured surface. With a knife, cut the rope into pieces about 1 inch wide. They will resemble a pillow. Dust with more flour, if necessary, to keep them from sticking together. Repeat with the rest of the dough. I left the gnocchi in the pillow shape because they were a little too soft to roll into traditional gnocchi shapes on a gnocchi board or over a fork. I'm sure this is a result of the squash having more water content than gnocchi made with potatoes.
Have a large bowl of ice water ready near your cooking area. Cook the gnocchi in batches in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes or until the gnocchi rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi when they are done and place in the bowl full of ice water to stop the cooking. (Or, instead of putting them in ice water, you can serve immediately). When all the gnocchi are cooked and chilled in the ice bath, drain and place in a bowl. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the gnocchi overnight.*
To make the spinach sauce:
Wash and trim the spinach. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Sauté the onion until softened. Add the spinach, toss and cook until wilted. Puree the spinach mixture in a food processor. Combine the pomegranate juice and meat stock in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to about 1/2 cup. Add the spinach puree and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and the cream. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly and keep warm.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the 6 tablespoons of butter (I used less) and allow it to brown lightly. Drain most of the butter into a pyrex dish leaving enough in the pan to saute the gnocchi. Add the already-cooled gnocchi and saute until heated through, adding more browned butter, if needed.
Place the spinach sauce on a serving plate, add the sauteed gnocchi and drizzle the rest of the browned butter over the top. Add grated Parmesan and serve.
*Notes: The squash can be baked, riced and allowed to drain two days before serving and the gnocchi can be prepared the day before serving.