By Eva Kosmas Flores
Photo by Eva Kosmas Flores
Gnocchi is one of my favorite comfort foods, these little pillowy dumplings are an Italian favorite that are traditionally made from potatoes. In this recipe, however, I’ve swapped the potatoes for delicious roasted winter squash to make an extra-flavorful and nutrient-packed meal. To add a little extra richness, I’ve also created a brown butter sauce. If you’re unfamiliar with the process of browning butter, you basically just cook butter in a frying pan until it turns lightly golden. What you’re actually doing during this process is toasting the milk fat solids in the butter and creating a wonderfully deep and rich and nutty flavor, that just so happens to pair perfectly with the gnocchi!
Ingredients for Winter Squash Gnocchi
3 lb winter squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup ricotta
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 teasp salt
1 teasp dried sage
2 1/4 cups flour, plus more as needed
canola oil for frying
Ingredients for Brown Butter with Hazelnuts + Tarragon
1 cup butter
1 cup creme fraiche
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup diced fresh tarragon
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and innards from the squash and discard them. Place the squash on a baking sheet and rub the inside of the squash with the oil. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Remove and allow to cool completely.
Use a spoon to scrape the flesh off of the tough peel of the squash. Place the squash in a food processor and discard the peel. Blend with the eggs, ricotta, creme fraiche, salt, and sage until a puree forms. Empty the mixture out into a bowl. Begin to add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, and continue fold the dough onto itself in the bowl. Be careful not to over work the dough, only fold until the flour is just incorporated.
Once the flour is added, test the texture by grabbing a piece of dough and rolling it out on a well-floured surface until it is a 1/2 inch thick rope. It should be soft, and almost like mashed potatoes when you poke it, but firm enough that it holds itself together. If it keeps falling apart, add a little more flour, but only until it just holds together. You do not want to add to much flour. Cut the gnocchi into 1/2 inch thick rounds and then take a fork to the top of each round and gently press down horizontally to leave an imprint. Very lightly dust them with flour as you make them and place them on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, ridged side up. Please note that the dough will be sticky and that you should use a dough scraper to continually scrape off any dough that has become stuck to the work surface. Keep your hands floured while you work with the dough as well, but be careful not to incorporate too much flour as this will negatively affect the texture and taste of the gnocchi. Allow the gnocchi to rest while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Melt the butter in a small stainless steel saucepan over medium heat. Add the hazelnuts and toast in the butter until they turn golden brown on the outside, remove with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Continue cooking the butter until it turns golden and smells toasty, stirring constantly. Set it aside.
Pour the canola oil into a large frying pan so that it is 1 inch deep. Heat the oil until a drop of water flicked into it sputters, then add the gnocchi one at a time, cooking them in a single layer (i.e. don’t stack them on top of each other in a blob otherwise they will get stuck to each other as they cook). One they’re puffy and golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and set them aside on a plate lined with paper towels. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, toss them in a large bowl with the brown butter, creme fraiche, hazelnuts, and tarragon and serve immediately.