Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Butter and Sage
As Sabrina talked of her trips to Italy, she stirred the flours, salt, ricotta, and egg into the cooked squash with smooth, even strokes, and it was almost like the memories were rising up from the bowl.
Northwest Palate shares how to make butternut squash gnocchi with chef Sabrina Tinsley of Seattle’s Osteria la Spiga when she visited our Portland kitchen.
Summary: Courtesy of Chef Sabrina Tinsley, Osteria La Spiga, Seattle, WA
- FOR THE GNOCCHI
- 3 pounds butternut squash
- 1 1/4 cups (8 ounces) ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat or spelt flour
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) semolina flour
- FOR THE SAUCE
- 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
- 12 fresh sage leaves (whole or chopped, as you prefer)
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Cut the squash into large pieces and remove all the seeds.
- Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. It will be done when you can pierce it easily with a fork.
- Carefully remove the skin from the squash while it is still hot and purée the squash in a food processor.
- Transfer to a sauté pan and cook down by one-third to eliminate excess water. You should end up with about 1 3/4 pounds of pureed squash.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl and cool.
- Mix the salt and the egg into the squash, then the ricotta and a half-cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- And finally the three flours.
- Transfer a small amount of dough at a time to a heavily floured work surface and gently knead to incorporate just enough flour to obtain a workable consistency. The dough will be very moist and gooey. Do not knead in too much flour but rather keep plenty of flour on the outside to prevent the goo-i-ness from surfacing.
- Use your hands to lightly roll the dough out into 1/2″ diameter “ropes” and cut these into 1/2″ gnocchi. Sabrina says as to rolling out the dough, “You just have to have a really light touch. I work with just a small amount (of dough) at a time and knead it in very lightly and then start to roll it out in lots of flour.”
- Transfer in a single layer to sheet pans lined with parchment.
- Unless you are cooking the gnocchi immediately, freeze them, and once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. They keep for several weeks this way.
- Cook the gnocchi (fresh or frozen) in small amounts of boiling salted water.
- When they come to the surface, cook for another minute or two
- Strain the gnocchi and toss immediately with the partially melted butter cut into small pieces, the sage, and the Parmigiano Reggiano. ( The key to a creamy rather than greasy-looking sauce is not to melt the butter completely before tossing it with the pasta.)
- Add small amounts of hot pasta water rather than using direct heat from the stove to melt the butter.
- Serve immediately.
Number of servings (yield): 8
In Northwest Palate’s kitchen, we paired this dish with a L’Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Sémillon. Pietro Borghesi, who oversees Osteria la Spiga’s wine list, declared it a good match, its bright fruit complementing but not overpowering the butternut squash. At the restaurant, he added, he might recommend the Kerner Abbazia di Novacella, a cool-climate white from Italy’s Alto Adige region. “Even if its minerality makes it a very fresh and dry wine,” said Borghesi, “the fruit is soft enough to accompany the sweetness of the butternut squash, and the sage in the sauce adds another layer to the experience.”
From the J/F 2008 issue of Northwest Palate with a story by Kathleen Bauer.
Photo credits: Matthew G. Monroe