Episode 2: Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Butternut squash gnocchi are a very traditional dish in the region of Friuli. But they're not at all what you'd expect when you think of potato gnocchi... in fact, they're a lot easier to make. It's a soft, wet dough made from roasted, mashed butternut squash that you pipe from a pastry bag into your cooking water. In this episode, you'll learn how to make the dough, cook the dumplings, and serve them in their simple sauce of sage butter and smoked mozzarella, a perfect balance against the sweet squash gnocchi.
We learned this recipe at Perusini, an agritourismo in Friuli, up in the northeast corner of Italy near Slovenia and Austria. The owner, Teresa Perusini manages a major vineyard as well as the inn and a trattoria on the estate. Teresa comes from a long line of cooks: her grandmother write a cookbook that's considered the bible on Friulian cooking, and Teresa likes to keep the menu at the trattoria very true to the region. This butternut squash gnocchi is a great example of the traditional food served there.
You start out by roasting your squash, but the trick here is to keep it really moist. If you were just roasting it for a side dish, you might want to dry it out and get it nice and browned, but here the moisture is important for tender gnocchi. So you add a 1/2 cup of water to the sheet pan, and roast it at 425°F until it's completely tender, about 45 minutes. Then let the squash cool completely.
When the squash is cool, mash it and mix in an egg, 1-1/4 cups of flour, 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a little kosher salt. This is where it's important to have cooled your squash all the way: Working hot squash in with the flour will cook the flour and make it gummy. At this point the dough will be pretty loose-it's not at all kneading consistency. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
When you're ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag and snip off a small hole at the tip. Squeeze the dough out of the bag, and as you squeeze, use a butter knife to cut off the dough every half-inch so it falls into the water. You want to cook about 20 gnocchi at a time; any more than that and it will bring down the temperature of the cooking water. Cook them until they rise to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then scoop them out and shock them in a bowl of ice water. After this first cooking, you can store them on a sheet tray lined with a dishtowel until you're ready to serve them.
When you're ready to serve the gnocchi, melt 5 Tbs. unsalted butter in a sauté pan. When it's melted, add 2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage, along with the gnocchi, and cook until the gnocchi are totally warmed through, about 2 or 3 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper. The last step is to grate some smoked mozzarella over the top. The smokiness is an important element: it contrasts with the sweet squash and really balances all the flavors of the dish.
|Episode 1: Croxetti (Pasta Coins) with Pine Nut-Butter Sauce||Episode 2: Butternut Squash Gnocchi||Episode 3: Spinach Malfatti (Dumplings)|
|Episode 4: Bergamo-Style Ravioli||Episode 5: Bigoli with Duck Ragu||Episode 6: Pasta Imbottita (Cheese Pillows in Broth)|
|Episode 7: Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Walnut Butter Sauce||Episode 8: Cappelletti with Wild Mushroom Sauce||Episode 9: Spinach, Ricotta and Egg Yolk Raviolo|