SAVEUR Recipe #8: Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage Sauce

I saw the SAVEUR recipe for squash gnocchi early last week amongst a bunch of other winter squash recipes and it was just the thing to scratch my itch for a challenge.

I’d never made gnocchi or any base starch like pasta or dumplings like matzah balls before this. I do make a great pot of rice though and I mean the real stuff, not the Uncle Ben’s de-pulped rice in a bag stuff. It’s tricky, rice over the stove, that is. But that’s for another post.

This gnocchi dish requires excellent sense of timing. The gnocchi batter was very soft and was a bit of a pain in pumpkin ass to work with. It cooked super fast so that the brown butter sauce had to be timed just right since I didn’t want the cooked gnocchi to be sitting there on my counter continuing to cook and then overcook.

And even though this was my first time making gnocchi and the sauce, I did good. The recipe isn’t hard. It really is more about timing. I was at first dismayed by the not so pretty, dumpy looking gnocchi, but they looked just like the ones pictured in SAVEUR and they tasted fantastic even without the butter sauce.

The butter sauce, however, really brings the dish together. The crisp sage ribbons are delicious and the nutty brown butter makes you want to lick the bowl afterwards. It’s not a light dish, so I wouldn’t serve this dish like a regular bowl of pasta. Better as a starter or a side with 6 to 8 pieces.

The original recipe called for a meat sauce, however, I think this is a mistake. The delicate flavor of the roasted butternut squash would be completely overpowered by the far more aggressive beef and tomato flavors. There’s no point, in my opinion, of going to all the trouble of making a lightly flavored homemade gnocchi if you’re only going to cover it up with a bully of a sauce.

So go with the butter sauce. And plus is super fast and way easier to make. And another plus, it’s butter.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage Sauce (Gnocchi adapted from SAVEUR; sauce adapted from SAVEUR.)
Serves 6 to 8

1 small butternut squash, quartered lengthwise, seeds removed
6 to 8 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 stick or 8 tbsp of butter
30 leaves of sage
Black pepper

To make the gnocchi:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into quarters and place them on a foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until soft, about 1 hour.

Remove from oven and and it should look like this:

When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork. You can put it in a blender or use a potato masher. I like the uneven texture of the fork mashed squash. You end up getting some pea-sized, sweet chunks of squash in some of the bites of gnocchi. Yum yum.
Add eggs and flour and salt and work in using the fork to form a thick, soft dough.

Transfer some of the dough onto a generously floured surface and form a log, using as much flour as you need to keep it from falling apart or sticking to your fingers. Cut the blog into 1 inch-ish balls, making sure to dip the edge of the fork or butterknife into flour so that it doesn’t stick. They do not have to look perfect. Look at mine. They are not perfect.

Drop them into salted boiling water one at a time, keeping them from landing on top of each other. After about 30 second, swirl the water around a bit so that the ones stuck to the bottom get loose. Once they are floating and it’s been about 1 or 2 minutes, scoop them out with a slotted spoon into a dish to be served in.

To make the brown butter and sage sauce:

This sauce couldn’t be easier or tastier.

Chiffonade the sage. I like to stack the leaves together and while holding them down I slice across the length of the leaves into very thin ribbons.

Place butter in a small pan over medium heat. When the butter is all melted, add the sage ribbons and some black pepper. Let the butter brown and the sage ribbons get crisp. Do not burn the butter!

Spoon over gnocchi and voila! The crunchy sage bits, the butter, the butternut squash flavors work amazingly together.

For more photos, go to Flickr.

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