Sunday, December 5, 2010

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

I've never had gnocchi, but I have made pasta before and this sounded good. There ended up being a lot of dishes to wash and it probably took longer than it had to. I wasn't paying attention to Bon Appetit's suggestion that it would take 4 hours, and should be made early in the day and reheated. I also didn't make the sauce they offered as an accompaniment, opting instead for a sun-dried tomato alfredo.

I'm fond of butternut squash, just not of cutting it open. Get out your sharpest knife for this one. Another specialty item mentioned in the recipe is a potato ricer. I don't own one, and found that the back of a fork worked just as well. You want to break up the potato in a way which does not mash it. A pastry cutter would probably do the job, too.

As for shaping the pasta, the pieces got bigger as I went along. I tried to blame it on my complete lack of a sense of size. That's what measuring cups, spoons, and scoops are for. Finally, I settled on the top joint of my thumb as a guide, and they came out much more even. I didn't give up on the part where you run the tines of a fork over each piece to make ridges, but I decided to do it before cutting the individual gnocchi, while they were still in rope form. Some of the ridges stayed better than others.

1 1-lb butternut squash (the smallest one you can find)
1 Tb olive oil
1 12 to 14-oz russet potato, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 C finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1-3/4 C flour, plus dusting

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Cut squash lengthwise in half; discard seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on baking sheet and brush with oil. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced, about 1-1/2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, boil potato in lightly salted water until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. While potato is warm, press through potato ricer and allow to cool.

3. When squash is cooked, allow to sit until cool enough to handle. Scoop out flesh and run through food processor. If purée is moist, cook out juices in saucepan, about 5 minutes.

4. Measure 1 C packed squash purée, 2 C loosely packed riced potato, Parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and salt into large bowl or stand mixer with paddle attachment. Mix until combined. Gradually add 1-3/4 flour, either by kneading by hand or with the hook attachment. (You could also use the kneading blade on the food processor, but that may not mix it evenly.) The dough is ready when it holds together and is almost smooth.

5. Divide dough into manageable portions. Roll each into a rope 1/2" in diameter. Lightly flour cookie sheets. Cut out 3/4" gnocchi from the ropes. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along back of floured fork tines, making ridges on 1 side. Transfer pieces to baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 6 hours.

6. Cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water. Do not crowd the pieces; you may have to work in 2 batches. Cook until very tender, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi back to cookie sheets to cool slightly, or they'll stick together later.

7. Reheat in chosen sauce before serving.

Serves 6

Difficulty rating  $@%!

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