Butternut Squash Gnocchi With Hazelnuts And Sage

The first time I made gnocchi, I was a little apprehensive but what I found was they were quite simple to make. I love being able to use our local squash from the Farmer’s Markets in the fall.  Just remember, the trick is not to work the dough too much and to use as little flour as you can. Yes, there really is a difference between freshly grated and purchased ground nutmeg!  Yes, you can buy squash gnocchi, but there is no comparison.

Makes 6 Servings

2 lbs. butternut squash
1 Tbsp. EVO
1 (12-14 oz.) russet potato, peeled, quartered
¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
1 large egg, beaten to blend
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 ¾ cups unbleached flour

For the Sauce:

¼ – 1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted**

Special equipment: a potato ricer (great for mashed potatoes too, they come out really fluffy).

Preheat oven to 400F.

Make The Gnocchi Dough:

Halve the squash & scoop out the seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet & brush with EVO. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with a skewer & browned in spots, about 1 – 1 ½ hrs. Cool slightly. Scoop flesh from squash into processor; puree until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan; stir constantly over medium heat until juices evaporate & puree thickens, about 5 minutes.  Measure 1 cup packed squash puree, reserving remaining squash for another use. Puree needs to be quite dry.
Meanwhile, cook potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 20 minutes; drain. While the potato is still warm, press through a potato ricer onto a rimmed baking sheet; cool completely. Measure 2 cups (loosely packed) into a measuring cup. Reserve any leftover potato for another use.
Mix squash, potato, ½ cup Parmigiano, egg, nutmeg & salt into a large bowl. Gradually add 1 ¾ cups flour, kneading flour gently into mixture in bowl until dough holds together & is almost smooth. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead gently but briefly just until smooth. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.

Rolling & Cutting The Gnocchi:

Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with baking parchment. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll out on the floured surface to about ½” thick rope. Cut rope crosswise into ¾” pieces. (If you are so inclined, you can roll the pieces along the back of fork tines dipped in flour making ridges on 1 side). I don’t bother, it doesn’t seem to affect the taste! Repeat process with remaining 7 pieces of dough, transferring gnocchi to baking sheets as you go. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & chill at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours. Keep chilled until ready to cook gnocchi.

Make The Sauce:

Just before cooking the gnocchi, melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat just until golden, stirring often, 3 – 4 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp. fresh sage; stir for a minute.  Add the chopped, toasted hazelnuts & keep warm.

Cooking The Gnocchi:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add 1 Tbsp. salt. Working in 2 batches cook the gnocchi, waiting until they float to the surface, continue cooking for a minute, then check to see if they are tender, if not, cook for a bit longer. Remove from the water using a “spider” or slotted spoon directly into the butter sauce, stirring gently with a spatula until coated; season with salt & freshly ground pepper to taste. Transfer to a large heated pasta bowl or individual plates, sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmigiano and serve immediately.

**When I make these, it’s usually just for us two, so I freeze half of the uncooked gnocchi on a rimmed baking sheet, when frozen I transfer them to a freezer bag. You simply add them, still frozen, to boiling salted water and make ½ the amount of butter sauce.

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