Sweet potatoes are my life. They are delicious; they are healthy; they last forever in my drawer without sprouting things from their eyes like nightmarish monsters. Sadly we cannot grow sweet potatoes in New England.
I am currently on a mission to try replacing sweet potato in certain recipes with butternut squash because butternut squash grows like gangbusters here and we will have a huge supply by next autumn if our ambitious gardening endeavors are the least bit successful. I made Chrissy Teigen's sweet potato gnocchi a few weeks ago and I really liked it, so here we are.
I'm also trying to get myself to lose my fear of butternut squash. I've had one sitting in my drawer for months because I just keep eating sweet potatoes. They are so much easier to peel! Once I almost chopped off my fingers trying to quickly peel butternut squash with a knife when I was working in a professional kitchen. This is probably why I have avoided them for so long.
But. But! I just learned a new way of cooking a squash that is way easier than any other I've tried.
How to Easily Roast Butternut Squash and Keep All Your Fingers
- Cut it vertically
- Scoop out seeds and either save them because you need to plant some butternut squash plants or save them so that you can toast them and toss with salt for a pepita-like snack
- Place sides face down in a 9x13 pan
- Add an inch of water
- Roast at 350 degrees for 1.5 hours
- After they've cooled a while you can just peel the skin off with your fingers like you would a baked sweet potato
- Enjoy having all of your fingers, although they may be slightly burnt if you didn't wait long enough to peel it
It's best to do this part the night before unless you eat dinner at 9pm. If you forgot about roasting a butternut squash or you just found this recipe and want to make it right away or you just plain hate dealing with butternut squash, you can open a can of pumpkin and use that instead.
Since I was trying to make this gnocchi as New England-y as possible I figured let's add maple! Let's add local goat cheese! And then I added pecans which aren't remotely native to New England, but gnocchi without something crunchy is just a pile of mush.
Anyhow, without further ado...
Maple Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage, Pecans, and Goat Cheese
Serving Size - 3 large portions or 4 medium portions
- 1 cup mashed butternut squash (or pumpkin or sweet potato)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp maple syrup, more if you are really into maple
- 2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 cup chopped sage
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- goat cheese, all of it (4 oz if you are into moderate amounts)
- butter and/or oil for the pan
Chop up the pecans and sage and set aside.
Mash up the squash, egg, cloves, salt and maple syrup in a bowl together until it is all well blended. Add the 2 1/2 cups of flour and knead in with your hands.
Note: The more kneading you do, the more gluten will develop and this will cause the gnocchi to toughen. However, you do need some gluten for it to stick together when you roll it into logs, so make sure it is a somewhat solid ball.
Now is a good time to start boiling around a gallon of salted water.
Cut off a 1/4 cup amount of gnocchi dough and roll into a log on a flour dusted counter. (All the gnocchi recipes say to roll out gnocchi but it has never rolled for me. I squish it into a snake shape.) Use a butter knife to cut into 1 inch segments and press each with a fork.
Once you have finished making the gnocchi, set up a colander in the sink. It cooks very, very quickly.
If your water has come to a rolling boil, add your gnocchi to it, making sure the gnocchi pieces are not sticking to each other or the bottom of the pan. When they are finished cooking they will float to the top. This takes all of 3-4 minutes. You can remove as they float to the top or just wait till they all float and dump into the colander.
Heat up a pan at medium-high heat with around 2 tbps of butter and some oil. When it has started to sizzle, add the pecans and sage and crisp for around two minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the gnocchi to the pan and toss with the sage and pecans for a minute or two until everything is coated and steamy hot.
Serve immediately in bowls and top with goat cheese.