Several years ago, in a cooperative spirit no doubt bourne out of the short-lived vegetarianism described in my last post, I bought a share in a community garden. This meant that during the months that pass for spring and summer in Wisconsin–that period between mid-May and August when temperatures most likely won’t dip very far below freezing and in all probability won’t creep above 95 for more than a week–I got a box of produce once a week. In that box, one happy day, were some butternut squash. And it just so happens that I was trying to make gnocchi for the first time, and that I thought I would spice things up a bit by using something other than what the recipe called for (in this case potatoes) and there were those butternut squash. And boy did I feel brilliant. How many people would figure out to do that–you know, substitute one starchy vegetable for another, then know how to adjust spices, then make a sauce that worked?
About 136,000, it turns out. At least that’s how many hits you get if you type in “butternut squash gnocchi” into Google. Then you have to add the 505,000 people who came up with sweet potato gnocchi, and the 398,000 who thought pumpkin gnocchi was a good idea.
This glut of squashy thinking means there’s not a whole lot to add to the conversation, but since no one else seems to be bothered by this fact, I won’t be either. One thing I have noticed: Gnocchi recipes involving squash of some kind tend to use a cream or butter sauce. This is fine, but the variation I like best is a spicy, garlicky tomato sauce, which makes a wonderful contrast with the sweetness of the squash. So here is a recipe.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce
1 butternut squash
1 egg, beaten
A lot of flour
Cut buternut squash in half, scoop out seeds, and baste halves in olive oil. Roast at 350 for at least half and hour or until very soft. Scoop out flesh into bowl and let cool. Can do this several days ahead–just refrigerate squash until ready to use.
For gnocchi, add egg, about 1 tsp or so salt, and a cup or so of flour to the squash. Keep adding flour until you have a soft but not sticky dough. Knead dough for a couple of minutes. Cut into quarters and roll out into a log. Cut log into 1/2″ pieces and shape as desired. Cook in small batches in boiling water immediately before serving.
Saute 1 large chopped onion in olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Reduce heat and add 3 cloves minced garlic, then stir. Add crushed red pepper to taste. Add 1 can (not the big one, just that ordinary size) tomatoes (crushed, pureed, or sauce) and salt to taste. Cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Add a little cream if desired and serve over gnocchi. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.