I love carefree summer days at the beach, but when autumn rolls around, and some of my favorite foods are at their peak — like butternut squash — I enjoy spending more time in the kitchen. Pumpkins and squash are so redolent of crisp fall days, of Halloween, heartier cooking and family time. Unfortunately, Covid has severely limited family time, although we were all tested recently so we could gather for my granddaughter’s second birthday – YEA!!! I decided to make gnocchi for the occasion, one of my husband’s all-time favorite meals, and I knew it would be equally welcomed by my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. The recipe is included below, but if you want a photographic step-by-step tutorial on making potato gnocchi, click here. If you haven’t got a gnocchi paddle, a little wooden implement that makes these ridged impressions, you can easily use a fork to roll them, as my mom always did when I was growing up — or even the rough edges of a cheese grater.
Getting the right consistency is the key to successful gnocchi, and it helps to have a “feel” that comes after you’ve made them a number of times. Too much flour and they’re leaden. Too little flour and they disintegrate in the water. So after you’ve mixed the dough, make a few gnocchi and test them out by boiling them in water. You’ll know right away if you need to add more flour. It’s so much easier to add more flour, but if you’ve already added too much, then you’ve got a problem. You can make these ahead of time, but refrigerate them on floured dishcloths if you’re making them the day before you serve them. You can freeze them too, but in my experience, they sometimes attract too much water from the freezer and fall apart when later boiled in water. Instead, I boil them to start with, drain them on paper towels or dishcloths, then lay them on cookie sheets and put the cookie sheets in the freezer. After the gnocchi have individually frozen, you can pull them off the paper towels or dishcloths, and pop them in plastic bags, ready to be reboiled again whenever you want to serve them. They seem to retain their consistency better, at least for me.
I wanted to showcase some fall flavors with the gnocchi, so I cut up some butternut squash (I’ve used honeynut squash too, which I love) and some mushrooms. Roast at high temperature after you’ve drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. You can do this ahead of time too, even the day before, and just set it all aside in the refrigerator until you need it.
Fry up some sage leaves in olive oil, drain on a paper towel, and sprinkle with salt. They’re hard to resist as a crunchy snack, so make a bunch if you have enough sage to spare.
Melt the butter in a large pan, add some fresh sage leaves and let the butter absorb the sage flavor for a couple of minutes. Then add the roasted squash and mushrooms, and scoop the cooked gnocchi directly from the boiling water into the pan with the butter and vegetables. Don’t worry if some water comes along with it. In fact, reserve a bit of water to add in order to get a little more “sauce.” Toss everything gently, and remove the sage leaves, which have become soggy. Serve with grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, and some crispy sage leaves on the side.
It’s a family favorite, as you can see from my little granddaughter. They was worth making just to see her sweet little smile.
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- FOR THE GNOCCHI:
- 5 large brown-skinned baking potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- 1 t. salt
- ¼ t. white pepper
- pinch of grated nutmeg
- ½ c. parmesan cheese
- 2 cups flour (or more if needed)
- FOR THE ROASTED SQUASH AND MUSHROOMS:
- 1½ cups honeynut or butternut squash
- a handful of mushrooms (cremini, baby portobello or button mushrooms)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- seasoned salt, pepper to taste
- FOR THE SAUCE:
- 8-12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- a dozen sage leaves
- some water from boiling the gnocchi
- grated parmesan cheese
- FOR THE CRISPY SAGE LEAVES:
- olive oil
- sage leaves
- FOR THE SQUASH AND MUSHROOMS:
- Cut the squash into small pieces, cut the mushrooms into halves, or quarters if large, and toss with the olive oil and seasonings.
- Roast in a 475 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the pieces are tender.
- FOR THE CRISPY SAGE LEAVES:
- Place a little olive oil in a shallow saucepan and when it's hot, add the sage leaves.
- Fry for a minute or two and flip, removing to a paper lined plate.
- Sprinkle salt on them immediately and set aside.
- FOR THE GNOCCHI:
- Bake the potatoes uncovered in a 375 degree oven for about an hour or until done.
- Remove from oven and when you can handle them, peel them.
- Put chunks of the potato through a ricer and spread on a cookie sheet.
- Let it cool completely, then mix with the eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cheese.
- Add flour, ¼ cup at a time.
- You may not need all 2 cups flour, or you may need more.
- Just add enough until the dough comes together and you can easily roll it into a big “log.”
- Cut the log into four or five pieces, then take each piece and roll it out like a snake, about ½ inch to ¾ inch thick.
- Using a knife, cut off some pieces of the roll, maybe about ½" each.
- Take each ½" gnocco and make an imprint on it, using either a fork or a gnocchi paddle.
- At this point, you can refrigerate if not using immediately -- even overnight.
- Bring water to a rolling boil, add salt and the gnocchi and let simmer gently until they rise to the top.
- The recipe makes about 225 gnocchi so freeze half if you like.
- If I'm planning to freeze some, I actually cook them all in the water, then drain them on paper towels, place half on a cookie sheet and put those in the freezer. When they have frozen hard, I move them to a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until I need them.)
- FOR THE SAUCE AND TO ASSEMBLE:
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the sage leaves, letting them simmer a few minutes to impart their flavor.
- Then using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the water and place them directly into the pan with the melted butter and sage leaves.
- Don't worry if a little water comes along when you ladle out the gnocchi, in fact, it's good to add a little of the water to the sauce.
- Add the roasted squash and mushroom pieces, and gently stir everything together.
- Place everything into a serving bowl, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and scatter the crispy sage leaves on top.