Thursday, November 19, 2009

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

October 2009 952

I thought I’d be brave and try making gnocchi. I say brave, because they’re a lot of work and the results can sometimes be deadly. If you ask my husband, all gnocchi are to be avoided.  At worst, in his opinion, they’re gummy and leaden and at best they’re heavy and tolerable. But that didn’t stop me from forging ahead.

I wouldn’t say my gnocchi fit either of his descriptions, but they weren’t light as a cloud either. On those rare occasions when they are ethereal, I’d still prefer a nice bowl of home-made pasta. But if you’re curious to try them, take the challenge.

Gnocchi are traditionally made with potatoes, but I wanted to try a different version with the last of my squash harvest. I have to confess that after the gnocchi were cooked, there was little squash flavor, so the next time I get the yen for gnocchi, I might just stay true to the original potato version.

The recipe comes from Carol Field’s comprehensive book on traditional holiday meals throughout Italy called “Celebrating Italy.” In either version, the trick is to eliminate as much water as possible, so the gnocchi don’t absorb heaps of flour. For potato gnocchi, that means baking the potatoes rather than boiling them. For the squash gnocchi, bake the squash as well, then drain it overnight or longer in a sieve lined with cheesecloth.

The next step is to mix the flour and dry ingredients together with the prepared, pureed squash and eggs. If I could have found my ricer, which has been MIA for a while now, I’d have used that instead of pureeing the squash in a food processor.

October 2009 911

You have to keep incorporating more flour until the dough is workable, but not so much that you end up with lead pellets at the end. Ay there’s the rub. Use only as much flour as you need to roll it out into long cylindrical shapes. Then slice off little bits about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch long:

October 2009 912 To shape the gnocchi, use a floured gnocchi paddle or a fork, pressing down and rolling it off the board:

Cook the gnocchi in boiling, salted water for a very short time, then toss them in a saucepan with melted butter and sage:

 October 2009 933 You could serve them from the pan, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, or put them into an ovenproof dish and place under the broiler for a few minutes.

October 2009 941

I thought the time under the broiler toughened them a bit, so I tried them a different way the next time - boiling the gnocchi and tossing them in tomato sauce, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and some parsley. This was our favorite way to eat them. It enhanced the delicate, soft texture of the gnocchi and lent lots of flavor too. 

October 2009 950

This recipe makes tons of gnocchi – close to 200 – enough to freeze for a gathering of family or friends. To freeze, just put the uncooked gnocchi on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Place in the freezer a few hours until hard, then transfer to a plastic bag.


Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Printable Recipe Here

(makes about 200 gnocchi)

Adapted from Carol Field’s “Celebrating Italy”

butternut squash puree (mine weighed about 1 1/4 pounds after cooking)

2 cups or more of flour, as needed

3/4 t. salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

3 egg yolks

3 T. melted butter, cooled slightly

To prepare squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and roast in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or an hour, or until able to pierce without any resistance. Let it cool, scoop out flesh and place in food processor to puree, then drain in a sieve lined with cheesecloth, preferably overnight.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon zest and parmesan. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and put squash in the center along with the egg yolks and 3 T. cooled melted butter. Work dough with your hands until all of the ingredients are moistened and dough holds together. You most likely will have to add more flour than the recipe calls for, but it depends on how much the squash absorbs.

Divide dough into small portions and roll out small pieces into cylinders about 1 inch in diameter. Cut into 3/4-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop gnocchi into the water and cook only about two minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss in a saucepan with melted butter and sage leaves. Serve with parmesan cheese. Alternately, serve with a tomato sauce and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.


  1. This is definitely a labor of love.
    I like the ones under the broiler.
    Would love them for breakfast this a.m. instead of my eggs and toast!

  2. Linda,
    these look great. I love the butter and sage sauce!

  3. Your step by step photos are excellent, Linda. I would like to make them just to say I have done it. I would say that melted butter and sage is the way to go. Oh gosh, they look good.

  4. Gnocchi are tricky, fiddly, and for my family of six, a lot of work!
    I find that the type of potatoe makes all the difference in whether they are light and fluffy or leaden and floury.
    But my family loves them, so if they don't complain, I won't.
    Yours look perfect!

  5. I absolutely love gnocchi but I have never tried the butternut squash version. I need to change that! Looks and sounds scrumptious.

  6. looks amazing Linda... I am loving butternut anything more and more and these look perfect.

  7. Now this is somethng I've been wanting to try, butternut squash gnocci, but you say you don't taste the flavor too much? Hmmm, they look outstanding Linda!

  8. My boyfriend and I have made both butternut squash gnocchi and pumpkin gnocchi this fall...I wonder if our lack of fancy shaping paddle explains some of the texture problems we have. Basically our gnocchi are a bit dense right after we cook them, but "fluff up" after an overnight stay in the fridge...any ideas where we are going wrong?

  9. This after my own heart...My all time favorite is gnocchi. This looks so flavorful and yummy!

  10. Linda they look beautiful!

    I always find the potato based gnocchi a little heavy, but those are my husband's favorite kind.
    The ones made from a ricotta base are more "melt in the mouth" good, but they are so soft when formed that the paddle is useless to shape them.

    I like the recipe you used in that it makes so many! Perfect for a large holiday dinner party.

  11. Woa. Butternut squash gnocchi are one of my favorite thing. Yours look PERFECT! .. and i love the little board you have to give them shape. I have to look for one of those.

  12. the gnocchi looks great. I made potato gnocchi the other night, it is a lot of work! mine weren't nice looking shapes but were light and not gluggy/heavy. I thought the dough was too soft and would fall apart but it stayed!
    I like the grilled ones, looks like something that I could serve to my kids and have them eat.

  13. Wow! I adore gnocchi and yours looks so good!

  14. ive made gnocchi a couple of times. I have NO idea if it was right or wrong cuz I've never had it before. I have made sweet potato gnocchi that I really like (or maybe it was the sauce?) and I really like ricotta cheese gnocchi...fried instead of boiled. mmmm. And I have to say, your gnocchi is beautiful. great demo pics. gives me a much better idea on the correct way to form them.

  15. Sweet and buttery squash is everywhere in the blogosphere these days..I just love it!!

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  17. You're gnocchi look amazing. I've been wanting to try making them with butternut squash; now I will have too. I like the broiler idea!

  18. Questi gnocchi sono favolosi, si vede che hai gran manualita', complimenti.
    Buon fine settimana Daniela.

  19. Ohhh gorgeous! You did such a good job!

  20. I love gnocchi, especially that I can make them at home. I will try butternut squash in the mix...apt for the season.

  21. I've never seen a gnocchi paddle before. So that was interesting. I like the look of that squash gnocchi too. I know you say tere was very little taste of the squash, but it still looks Very comforting and homely.

  22. I just made these, but a recipe without eggs. They were pretty good and flavorful. I put fresh thyme, too.
    It wasn't the gnocchi that were heavy, but the butter sauce. Next time, I will stick to olive oil, and add some nuts to give the dish more texture. I love the professional gnocchi board. Another thing, it makes so many. I have so many gnocchi in the freezer! And they are all mushed!

  23. Mmmm, you are a brave soul. :) Have you ever deep-fried your gnocchi?

  24. My 3.5 yr old refuses to eat veggies cooked the normal way. We have been stuffing them inside chapatis (Indian wheat tortillas) and giving it to her with mixed results. Since she loves pasta, this is another trick I believe we can use to somehow get her to eat more veggies :-). Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

  25. Looks like your bravery paid off in a big way. Looks fabulous.