Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Thyme Brown Butter Sauce
Lately, in this In Season/Meatless Monday series, we're taking a look at what I take home from Crooked Sky Farms each week and see what I've done with my CSA share, or part share. This week I'm using butternut squash but you could use another squash or even sweet potatoes, too.
I'm still on my cook-a-bunch-of-vegetables-at-the-beginning-of-the-week kick. I'm making leftovers -- on purpose and it still hurts a little. I worry about not eating it all -- you know? But I guess that's what freezers are for.
I've been wanting to make vegetable-laced pastas lately but I don't have a pasta machine and I'm just not willing to give up any of my counter/storage space to get one. I know, I should just find some space and do it because making pasta dough is so simple, it's silly. You could go super local with some of the Hayden Flour Mill "OO" flour but this recipe for gnocchi inspired by this one with just regular old all purpose flour is a really nice and pretty midweek meal. If you don't have any leftover cooked squash or sweet potatoes, you could plan ahead or cut them small and microwave for a speedy alternative.
I decided to fry a few eggs in the leftover butter and with a few teaspoons of butter yet in the pan after that...I pulled out some of my leftover steamed beet greens to add something green. Yes, this whole meal was cooked in butter and it was fantastic. If you are anti-butter for any reason, you could easily sub in olive oil and give the plate a heavy handed grating of very good parmesan cheese and not miss a thing.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Thyme Brown Butter Sauce 2 cups of cooked butternut squash (nuke, roast or steam - whatever your preference - I like to roast mine if I have the time) 1 cup of ricotta cheese, whole or part-skim ½ cup of grated good parmesan cheese 1 tablespoons brown sugar or maple syrup 1 teaspoon kosher salt ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg 1 ⅓ cup all purpose flour 1 stick of unsalted butter 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme or sage (omit if you don't have any fresh herbs -- the recipe won't suffer without it but might not be as good with dried)
If you haven't already, cook the butternut squash (or sweet potatoes). To roast, just cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds (and save them for toasting). Rub all over with olive oil and roast in a hot oven on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes or until it's soft when you stab it with a knife. Let cool and then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Puree or mash with a potato masher so it's fairly smooth.
Place cooked and cooled squash, ricotta, parmesan, brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg into a large bowl. Mix to combine completely. Add the flour a little bit at a time just until a dough forms and no more -- adding a little less or a little more flour if you need.
Put a big pot of water on to boil and salt it until it tastes salty and delicious. You might be adding a lot of salt but don't freak out, it'll make the pasta taste just right.
While the pot heats up, prepare a floured work surface. I usually like to do this on a big cutting board for easy clean up. Take about a third of the dough and gently roll the dough into a rope shape. I'm sure you've done this before with play dough.
Make a rope that's about an inch thick.
Cut the rope into 1 inch pieces.
Roll each cut piece of gnocchi over the tines of the back of a fork so that when you finish the recipe, the sauce will stick. But we're cooking this in butter, the butter will coat the gnocchi just fine. So, skip the rolling over a fork if you feel like it.
You need to boil the gnocchi in batches. Once the water is at a rolling boil, drop the gnocchi in batches so that you don't crowd them -- maybe one rope's worth at a time. Give them room to swim around without sticking to each otehr. Once they float to the top, they're cooked. It's only about 3-5 minutes. Fish them out with a spider or slotted spoon and place on a platter to hang out. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, you can work on the sauce.
Melt your stick of butter in a wide pan that's at least a few inches deep. You can just melt the butter and throw the herbs in to steep for a minute or two or you can make it really special by browning the butter. You will know when the butter is happily browned. It will smell good and look like toasted butter. It takes about 8 minutes on medium low.
Don't let it burn, though, that would be a disaster. If that happens, smartly dispose of the butter (like in a old can and put in the trash and not down the sink), wash the pan and try again.
Rewarm (and maybe even brown a bit ) the reserved gnocchi in the butter. You will probably have to do this again in batches since they have a tendency to stick and set in a dish in a warm oven to wait until it's time to eat.
If you want to do what I did and crack a few eggs in the butter to fry, that would be delicious. Also, if you have any leftover greens or a handful of spinach or something -- heat that up once the eggs are out of the pan.
Home cookin' at it's finest. I loved this meal.
If you're vegan, you can probably sub additional squash for the ricotta (tofu would just give it an off taste I think) and add a bit more salt to taste to replace the salty parmesan cheese. Use Earth Balance instead of butter and in lieu of an egg, I would toast up some nuts. That would be a fantastic dish, too.
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