Homemade gnocchi are one of the best things you can do for yourself. They are so good as to produce noises of joy from everyone who eats them. It also just sounds impressive when you say that you made “homemade gnocchi.” Also, it is near impossible to find good gnocchi anywhere, so you will have a tight hold on the market if you can nail these.
My favorite are sweet potato gnocchi, but I had butternut squash, so I figured that would be good too. After looking at some recipes online, I of course decided to make them my own way – but having suggested proportions was helpful. I will say that it is so key to drain the squash of as much water as possible. This is the same no matter what kind of gnocchi you are making – do not start with wet vegetables/potatoes/ ricotta – otherwise you will have to add so much flour to compensate that the end result will be dense little rocks instead of the “pillows of pasta” that gnocchi should be.
– 1 medium butternut squash
– 1 cup ricotta, drained well (in a cheesecloth, overnight if possible)
– 1 egg
– 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
– 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
– 2 cups flour, plus additional
– 1/2 stick butter
– 2 sprigs rosemary
– 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
For gnocchi: Cut the squash in half, scooping out seeds, and roast, cut side down on an oiled cookie sheet for about 1 hour (depending on size) in a 350 oven. Test for doneness with a fork, and when cool enough to handle, peel off skin. Coarsely mash with hands and place in a sieve over a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt (this will help to draw out more water) and let sit, stirring occasionally, until the mash is just moist (not wet). Some recipes recommended putting the mash in a pan on the stove-top to cook off more of the moisture – I can see the benefit of this, but was too lazy 🙂 At this point, you can either put the mash through a food mill, press through a sieve, or puree in the food processor – whatever is easiest – to get it nice and smooth.
Measure 2 cups squash puree into a large bowl, and mix in drained ricotta. Add in egg, cheese, nutmeg and salt, mix well. Now begin adding the flour, being careful to stir just until incorporated – do not over-mix or the gnocchi will get tough. Add flour until mixture is sticky but will hold together. This step is hard to describe. The dough will not be like a pasta dough, or even a bread dough; it will be much wetter and more delicate. I will admit that the first time I made gnocchi, the first batch I put into the boiling water disintegrated! In my caution to not add too much flour, I did not add enough, and they didn’t hold together. If you are unsure, roll up a ball or two of the dough, and do a test run into the boiling water. Let them cook about 10 minutes or so and then taste them – the texture will tell you a lot, and of course, if they don’t hold together, you need more flour! You will get the hang of it over time.
Next, working with about 1/6th of the dough at a time, roll it into long ropes on a heavily floured surface, about 1/2 inch in thickness. Cut the rope into 3/4 inch pieces. Now is when, if you are super motivated, you could make little ridges in the gnocchi using the tines of a fork. I have tried this, and I just have no patience for it. There are also tools for this, if you happen to have something, but I have found that the dumplings are just as delish when they are flattish and square, so I tend not to worry about it. The ridges are supposed to help sauce cling to the gnocchi, but I’ll manage 🙂
Repeat with all of the dough, put the cut gnocchi onto a well floured cookie sheet and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. They will firm up a good bit (some online folks even suggested putting them in the freezer for an hour).
Working in batches, place the gnocchi in well-salted, boiling water, maintain a bare simmer so as to not jostle the gnocchi too much. They will float to the surface after a few minutes, but continue cooking for about 8-10 minutes total (depending on size). Remove gnocchi to a sieve to drain (if you are not going on to next step right away, you may want to shock them in ice water to stop the cooking, then drain). Repeat with remaining gnocchi.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet until golden brown. Add the herbs and cayenne. In batches, brown the gnocchi in the butter sauce, turning just once to get a nice golden color on each side. (I like them just slightly crisped, while my partner likes a crunchy dark brown texture – so it’s up to you!) Place crisped gnocchi on a cookie sheet and keep warm in the oven until all gnocchi are ready. When all gnocchi are cooked and crisped, return to the skillet, toss to coat and sprinkle with parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve!
I sliced and sauteed the turnips in the same butter sauce as the gnocchi, adding a chopped onion – they were great too!