Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Call it dedication, call it the pursuit of perfection, or call me crazy.
Over the last three days I’ve made four batches of gnocchi so that I could give you the ultimate Butternut Squash Gnocchi recipe.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
½ large butternut squash (about 2 ¼ pounds), seeded
Freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place the butternut squash cut side down on a baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes. Turn and roast another 45 minutes, or until very tender. Let rest for about 15 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. Peel and puree in a food mill using a fine disc. Spread evenly on the baking tray and let cool to room temperature.
Transfer the butternut squash puree to a large bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the flour. Transfer to a work surface and knead briefly until smooth. Cut the dough into eighths. Roll 1 portion of dough into a ½-inch thick rope and sprinkle lightly with flour. Using a bench knife, cut the rope into ½-inch pieces. Roll 1 side of each piece of dough against a lightly floured gnocchi board or the back of the tines of a fork, pressing the other side lightly with your thumb as you roll. Make more gnocchi with the remaining dough in the same manner. As you work, arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on lightly floured parchment-lined baking trays. Let dry for up to 2 hours.
Cook the gnocchi in 2 or 3 batches in a large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they float to the surface of the water. Remove the gnocchi from the pot using a wire skimmer. Serve immediately as desired.
Serves 4 as a main course. Select a 4 ½-pound butternut squash and use the second half for another purpose. The key to making light, fluffy gnocchi is to drive off as much of the moisture from the butternut squash as possible during roasting and cooling and to incorporate as little flour into the dough as possible. It seems that the squash puree absorbs the least flour if it’s left to cool at room temperature for at least a couple of hours. The dough will be a bit soft and sticky, but it should be smooth and fairly easy to knead and form. Keep your hands, work surface, tools, and dough lightly floured as you work but avoid adding excess flour.
Serve the gnocchi tossed with plain butter, brown butter and sage, or your favorite pasta sauce and sprinkled with grated Parmegiano-Reggiano. Perfect in the fall when squash is abundant. Uncooked gnocchi may be frozen in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray and transferred to a zip-top bag when frozen solid. Gnocchi keep for several weeks frozen. Cook them straight from the freezer—do not thaw.