skip to Main Content
Menu

Pumpkin (or Squash) Sformato

I know Thanksgiving is all about the turkey here in the U.S., but if you serve this squash sformato to your guests, the turkey might develop an inferiority complex. Everyone will want seconds of this intensely flavored dish that just melts in your mouth. It also makes a nice first course for a dinner party too, since you can make practically all of it ahead of time and just reheat in the microwave.

You can make a sformato from nearly any vegetable, including cauliflower, which I posted about here way back in 2009, served with a tomato sauce. But you can make it with carrots, spinach, broccoli, and even ricotta can be used to make this unctuous dish that is almost like eating glamorized baby food.

It’s good all on its own, but if you dress it up with a creamy parmesan sauce and drizzle with balsamic, it’ll take you to Nirvana. Now is the time to bring out that aged balsamic vinegar that’s been saved for special occasions. But even if you don’t want to spring for the expensive stuff, just take some supermarket balsamic and reduce it to a syrupy liquid, or alternatively, buy some balsamic glaze.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more).

Pumpkin (or Squash) Sformato
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 medium size butternut squash (enough to produce about 4 cups cooked squash)
  • 1¾ cup milk or a combination of milk and cream
  • ½ stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing molds
  • ¼ cup flour plus 1 T.
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt, white pepper, to taste
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 2 cups heavy cream, reduced a bit
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • reduced balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze, or aged balsamic vinegar if you want to be indulgent
Instructions
  1. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.
  2. Grease an oven-proof casserole or flat pan and place the squash on it, cut side down.
  3. Roast in the oven for 45 minuttes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
  4. Remove the cooked squash from the skin, then place it in a food processor and puree it until perfectly smooth.
  5. Place the squash into a colander lined with paper towels to absorb any remaining moisture.
  6. You can do this the night before.
  7. Butter eight ¾ cup oven-proof custard cups or flan molds and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Heat the milk in a saucepan until warm and little bubble start to form.
  9. In another saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and stir and cook for a couple of minutes until smooth.
  10. It will start to get “pasty,” but that’s fine.
  11. Add the milk and continue to stir constantly, using either a whisk or wooden spoon, for about five minutes.
  12. Add seasonings and squash puree.
  13. Beat the eggs and add the parmesan cheese to the eggs.
  14. Add the puree mixture to the egg and cheese mixture, starting with a small amount, then increasing the amount a little at a time.
  15. By adding them slowly, you want to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs and cheese.
  16. If you add the pureed squash mixture all at once, you risk curdling the eggs.
  17. When everything is mixed, pour into the buttered molds and put the molds in a bain-marie or hot water bath.
  18. Bake for about 40 minutes.
  19. Remove the molds from the water and let them rest at least 10 minutes before trying to unmold.
  20. If you unmold too soon, they won’t hold their shape.
  21. They actually hold their shape better the next day when you reheat them.
  22. I microwaved them in their molds the next day to reheat, then flipped them out onto individual plates.
  23. Serve as is, or with a simple homemade parmesan cream sauce, as shown.
  24. TO MAKE THE SAUCE:
  25. Place the cream in a sauce pan and reduce a bit (not too much because when you add the cheese it will thicken more)
  26. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, whisking to incorporate and make it smooth.
  27. Pour some of the sauce over the sformato and drizzle with balsamic, then fresh gratings of parmesan cheese.
 

Gnocchi Alla Romana with Butternut Squash

This post contains original content by me and is sponsored by La Cucina Italiana

When most Americans think of gnocchi, they think of those soft little cushions of dough made with flour, potatoes and eggs and served with a tomato or pesto sauce. But there’s an entirely different type of gnocchi made with semolina flour called gnocchi alla Romana.

As you can guess, it’s a Roman dish that is served in a casserole hot from the oven, golden and crunchy on top. Talk about comfort food — these just melt in your mouth. They make a great primo piatto, or first course, but I frequently serve them as a starchy side dish with a roast, or even some meatballs or braciole. I decided to give the traditional gnocchi alla Romana a little twist and added some small cubes of roasted butternut squash. But they’re equally delicious without the squash if you prefer them plain.

Detailed instructions are in the recipe below, but you start by mixing the semolina flour with milk and butter until it’s very stiff. Many people recommend warming the milk first, but in my experience, you’re less likely to get lumps if you start out with cold milk. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn on the bottom, and when it’s thick enough to hold a wooden spoon upright, you’re there.

You need eggs to make the gnocchi “puff up” in the oven, but if you stir the eggs directly into the pan with the hot gnocchi mixture, you’re going to wind up with scrambled eggs. So you need to temper the eggs first. To do this, place the eggs in a measuring cup and whisk them together. Then add a bit of the hot gnocchi mixture to the measuring cup, whisking all the time. Keep adding a few more tablespoons at a time, whisking vigorously each time, until the temperature of the mixture has warmed slightly and become a little thick. Now it’s safe to add this mixture into the large pot with the rest of the semolina gnocchi mixture, stirring all the while to blend everything together well.

Stir in the cooked bits of squash.

Then spread it out on a cookie sheet that you first moisten with a little water. Let it cool in the refrigerator several hours or overnight (covered with plastic wrap if overnight.)

Use a cookie or biscuit cutter (or even the rim of a glass) to cut circles about two to three inches in diameter.
Arrange in a buttered pan.

Generously sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Bake in the oven until golden and crispy on top.

Make extra, because they are always a hit and you’ll want leftovers. They’re easy to reheat in the oven or microwave the next day.

Connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Gnocchi Alla Romana with Butternut Squash
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8 people
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butternut squash, diced into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 9 oz. semolina (1¼ cup)
  • 1½ quarts of milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of white pepper
  • a few gratings of nutmeg
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Peel the butternut squash and dice into small pieces.
  2. Toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. (I use herbed salt that I make from fresh herbs.)
  4. Roast the squash in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, turning once.
  5. Remove squash from oven and set aside.
  6. Place the milk and the semolina in a saucepan.
  7. Many people tell you to heat the milk first, then add the semolina, but I find it gets lumpy that way, so I start with cold milk and add the semolina directly.
  8. Whisk it constantly, adding half the stick of butter (4 tablespoons), the salt, the white pepper and the nutmeg.
  9. After about five minutes, it will thicken quite a bit, and you can switch from stirring with the whisk to a wooden spoon.
  10. Keep stirring another ten minutes until the mixture is very thick.
  11. Remove from the heat and add half the parmesan cheese.
  12. Whisk the eggs in a glass measuring cup or bowl.
  13. Don't add the eggs directly into the hot gnocchi mixture or you might wind up with scrambled eggs.
  14. Instead, add a small amount - maybe a few tablespoons - of the gnocchi mixture to the eggs, stirring quickly with a whisk to incorporate.
  15. Do this a few times until the mixture is thickened and homogenized.
  16. Add the egg mixture back to the gnocchi mixture and stir in the reserved squash.
  17. Wet a cookie sheet (one with raised edges) with a little water.
  18. Spread the gnocchi mixture on the cookie sheet, to an even thickness of about ¾ inch.
  19. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator and let it cool for at least four hours or overnight.
  20. Take a round cookie cutter, or biscuit cutter, or even the edge of a glass, and cut out circles, about two to three inches in diameter.
  21. Grease an oven proof casserole, and place the rounds inside, overlapping slightly.
  22. Make a second layer, but don't completely cover up the first layer around the edges, since you want them to get some browning too.
  23. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gnocchi, then sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup parmesan cheese.
  24. Bake uncovered, at 400 degrees, for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
 

Pumpkin ravioli with walnut cream sauce

Before I begin, let me say this is a project for the patient and the committed. There’s no squirming out midway because you’re tired or your pilates class is starting and you have to run to the gym.
But be not afraid for you shall be rewarded.
After traveling to Bologna together (the pasta heartland where pasta filled with squash is on every menu) my friend Ellen wanted to learn how to make these. So I invited her over to spend time in the kitchen rolling out pasta. It’s a lot more fun and takes a lot less time with someone else helping. We didn’t cook the pasta while she was at my house, since I wanted to freeze mine for later. She was planning to cook hers at home with a simple butter, sage and parmesan cheese sauce. Wonderful.
But sinfully sublime is what I would call the walnut cream sauce. The photo of the finished pasta in sauce is from a pasta party we had at our home a couple of years ago, when we gathered some relatives and friends for an evening of pasta-making and eating. The kitchen was a mess when we were finished, but we had a lot of fun and our tummies were grateful.

To make the pasta you need a pasta machine or you’ll need very strong arms to roll out all the dough. This recipe for pasta and for the filling makes enough for about 110 ravioli.
Pasta dough:
3 cups flour
4 jumbo eggs

If you want to be authentic, you can make a “volcano” of the flour on a wooden board, then crack the eggs into the center and start to incorporate them into the flour until the liquid is all absorbed. Otherwise, put everything into a food processor and blend until it starts to hold together. Pull it out of the food processor and knead it on a floured board until it becomes smooth.
Let it rest under a covered bowl for at least a half hour, which will help the dough to become even more smooth and elastic and easy to work.
Flour your board or counter and cut off a quarter of the pasta. Keep the rest under the bowl. Flatten the piece with your hands, flour it a little then pass it through the thickest setting on your pasta machine. Keep changing the setting until you get to the penultimate one — not the thinnest one. Now you should have a long strip about three to four inches wide. If it’s too long and cumbersome to work with, cut it in half. Lay it on your board and place little spoonfuls of filling all across the strip, leaving a small space in between each spoonful.
Dab a little bit of water between the filling and across the top and bottom of the filling. Take one edge of the long strip of dough and carefully fold it over the filling, pressing down in between each one to take out any air bubbles. Run a decorative crimper along the edges to separate the ravioli. If you don’t have a crimper, a knife will do.

Lay the ravioli on cookie sheets that have been covered with floured, linen dishtowels. Refrigerate if serving that day, or place in the freezer. After a few hours, remove from the cookie sheets and store the ravioli in plastic freezer bags.

For the filling (adapted from “The Splendid Table” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper):

I don’t use the typical Halloween-style pumpkin, since it doesn’t have as much flavor as squash. This recipe gives you the closest approximation to what you’ll find in Italy. Some recipes call for the addition of crushed amaretti cookies, but I find that a little too sweet. The squash itself provides adequate sweetness. I also do this ahead of time and drain the cooked squash in a cheesecloth-lined sieve overnight. Otherwise, you risk having a filling that is too watery.

1 large butternut squash
1 1/2 large sweet potatoes, or two small ones
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
nutmeg, black pepper

Roast the potatoes in a 375 degree oven. Roast the squash at the same time. Cut the squash, remove seeds and place on an oil baking sheet. Roast for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until it is easily pierced with a fork. Remove the flesh from the squash and puree it in a food processor, then place in a sieve that is lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Place a bowl under it to catch the water that is released and put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight, along with the potatoes.
The next day, remove the skin from the potatoes, puree them in a food processor, and put in a bowl. Add the pureed squash, the cheese and a grating of nutmeg and black pepper.

Make and fill the ravioli.

When you are ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the ravioli but do not let the pot to continue at a rolling boil or you may burst the ravioli. Boil for four or five minutes until cooked.

Cover with sauce and parmesan cheese.

Walnut cream sauce
(This is enough sauce for about four dozen ravioli.)

1 1/2 cup walnuts, roasted in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a few grindings of nutmeg
dash salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sweet wine such as vin santo or moscato
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Roast the walnuts in the oven. If you have the patience, remove some of the outer skins of the walnuts. This is easier to do if you put them in a linen dishcloth, fold in half and rub back and forth. Grind the walnuts in a food processor until they are coarse – not fine. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the heavy cream and wine. Cook for a few minutes on high heat until the
sauce reduces and emulsifies. Add the nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg salt, and pepper. Take off the heat and add a generous amount of parmesan – at least 1/2 cup or more. Pour over the ravioli and serve with additional parmesan.

Squash Soup

Happy Halloween everyone! I’m sending you a photo of the jack o’lantern all lit up in front of our house. Last weekend our daughter Christina was home and helped design and cut out our annual Halloween pumpkin. There were those slippery pumpkin seeds to deal with, which we salted and roasted and ate in a flash. There were also substantial bits of flesh that were left from cutting out the design. I hated to throw them out, so I incorporated them into a squash soup I was planning for dinner. I already had some butternut squash in the fridge, so I just peeled the pumpkin remains and added them too. There are tons of recipes for squash soup, and some even spice it up with curry. My favorite way is to let the sweetness of the squash take over, with a little boost from the addition of an apple and a pear. You don’t have to add the cream if you want to keep it healthier, but a little bit goes a long way in creating a silken texture. I have even been known to add skim milk when I lacked for cream, or didn’t want to add the calories. I also cubed some bread and toasted it to make croutons. No butter needed – just toss the cubed bread in a heavy bottomed pan, such as a cast-iron skillet, and watch carefully so the croutons don’t burn. Enjoy a warm bowl as you wait for the trick or treaters to arrive. It’s really delicious — and ghoulishly easy to make.

Squash Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 1 cup of this was my pumpkin leftovers)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large pear, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large potato, cut into chunks
5 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 tsps. salt
1/2 cup cream

Heat the olive oil and add the onions. Cook until softened and slightly browned. Add the squash (and pumpkin leftovers if you have any) and saute for a few minutes. Toss in the apple, pear, and potato. Add the chicken broth and salt. Put a lid on the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables and fruit are soft and cooked through. Put into a blender, or use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Add cream and top with croutons.