Late Winter “Rustic” Gnocchi
I made gnocchi about 20 years ago, prompted, I think, by a Martha Stewart recipe. After hours of intensive labour rolling them out to perfectly even little ovals and then carefully pressing fork ridges into the dough, I swore I would never, ever make them again. They were good, but the store-bought ones were actually better, and mine were SOOOOO much work. Although I’ve bumped into lots of gnocchi recipes over those 20 years I’ve stuck to my guns and refused to give them the time of day. Until now.
About a month ago we were invited to have a “simple, quick lunch” with friends. I was excited to see steaming bowls of a tomatoey sauce arrive at the table, laced with plenty of parmesan and dotted with what appeared to be… gnocchi? I was right, but they weren’t like any gnocchi in the supermarket or the food blogs. These gnocchi were large chunks of dough quite literally pinched from a roll, the ends gave the technique away. They were uneven, unlaboured, and quite likely the best tasting gnocchi I’ve ever eaten. Rustic. I suddenly had new hope for homemade gnocchi and began planning the day when I could build a stash of the little potato pasta in my freezer.
Last week I came home from market with a rather homely looking buttercup squash. This late in the winter storage veggies sometimes look like they’ve seen better days. Humming and hawing about what to do with the beast, I relected back to all those recipes I’d skipped over for squash gnocchi. A lightbulb went off.
I halved the squash and scooped out the seeds, baked it until it was mushy soft, and then set it aside to cool overnight. The next day I set about making squash and potato gnocchi and managed to put about 12 servings of the pasta in the freezer in just over an hour. Like my friend’s gnocchi they aren’t perfectly shaped and they aren’t pretty, but I cooked some for supper last night, and they are definitely delish. My homemade gnocchi drought is over!
Here’s the recipe for my rustic version of gnocchi. You could use any kind of dry orange squash -butternut, acorn, etc., but depending on the moisture content you’ll need to adjust the flour to make a workable dough. If you’re worried that the squash flavour will overwhelm the gnocchi, don’t be. It is there, but it’s subtle, and it made this healthier pasta version just that extra bit tasty, so it’s totally worth the not-much trouble. This recipe is pretty loosey goosey touchy feely. You can add more or less potato, more or less squash. Adjust the flour until you have a soft dough that’s kind of sticky but not unworkable, and then run with it.
Rustic Squash & Potato Gnocchi
- 1 cooked orange squash (butternut, buttercup, hubbard, etc.), cooled
- 2 large Russet (or other dry type) potatoes, peeled, boiled and cooled.
- 1 large egg, straight from the chicken, if possible
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling
1. Prepare a couple of cookie sheets by covering with parchment paper
2. If you have a large food processor puree the potato, squash & egg until it is totally lump free. I have a tiny food processor, so I used my KitchenAid mixer and beat the heck out of the veggies and egg. Worked like a charm.
2. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and any other seasonings you may be tempted to grab. Then add the flour 1/2 cup at a time and stir well. Stop adding flour when you have a soft and slightly sticky dough that you can form into logs.
3. Working with a tennis ball of dough at a time, roll it out lightly with your hands on a well-floured surface to make a long log that’s about 1-1.5 inches thick.
4. Using a fork dipped in flour, break off 1/2 inch pieces of the log. Roll gently to make little ovals (or don’t)… it’s up to you. You can also roll your fork over the surface to give them those characteristic gnocchi indentations… or not. Again, depends how much fuss you feel like. Either way it will still taste awesome.
5. Place gnocchi pieces on the prepared cookie sheets and freeze flat. When they are frozen solid, divide into baggies of however many portions you choose ( I allow about 15 gnocchi pieces per serving), and return bagged gnocchi to freezer.
6. To cook gnocchi, remove from freezer and let thaw for about an hour. Bring a generous pot of water to a rolling boil, add a teaspoon of olive oil, and then toss in the gnocchi. In about 3-5 minutes the gnocchi will rise to the top of the water, at which point they are done. Remove from the water and add the sauce of your choice. I love to toss them with diced chicken and basil pesto. Yum.