Squash Season

Gnocchi edition

Welcome to issue #30 of Susanality, a free weekly newsletter. Thanks for being here! If you’re loving this newsletter, please consider a paid subscription. Having your support would mean a lot to me, as I continue to work hard to bring you fresh content on a weekly basis with additional posts and recipes going out to paid subscribers at least twice a month. Thanks again!

Well, it was bound to happen! Not only did I have to remember where I put my sweaters this morning because it was chilllly, I suddenly started thinking about fall food and flavors (even before this happened). How could I not? I am constantly amazed and inspired by all of the produce which changes week to week, even day to day. I’m lucky enough to be based in Eastern Long Island these days, so I can easily cruise around to my favorite farmstands which I do almost daily. Either because I need something, or I just want to see what surprises are making their debut. What little gift does Mother Nature have in store for us today?

As you already know (if you’ve been paying attention— ha!) that I am working on a book about vegetable-forward cooking, and as always, I am trying to bottle all that joy and inspiration I feel so I can share it with you through great recipes and ideas that put veggies first. It’s a lot of fun, but I’ve been a little breathless trying to keep up with it all!

Fall is one of the best times to reduce the meat in your menu, if that’s what you are trying to do (and we all should try, at least a little) because there are so many hearty vegetables that you can make a meal of without necessarily eating meat, like Broccoli! Cauliflower! Eggplant! Squash! I feel satisfied after eating a dinner that stars any one of these “meaty” vegetables (am I forgetting anyone?), especially if there is a carb-y or cheese-y component. My husband and I had a little chuckle over one of our pandemic dinners when we praised something that wasn’t meat as “meaty”. Why is this the ultimate compliment to a food, we wondered? Can’t a vegetable just be delicious on its own, without having to be compared to meat all the time?

Squash is one of my very favorite fall/winter staples. I love that they keep so well— I always have a few on my “produce table”, and they come in handy for a last-minute dinner when you think you don’t have anything in the house to make a meal. I love stuffing a spaghetti squash with whatever bits of veggies I have lying around, a little grain, and usually some Parm to top it off. Sometimes with a little meat, like sausage (for flavor) and sometimes not. I don’t know why, but I really love a stuffed vegetable. It somehow feels more like a meal, and it is self-contained in its own little shell. I have sort of a universal formula and I have never made them the same way twice. More on that later!

I’m sure you might not think that homemade gnocchi are something you can just whip up on a whim on a weeknight, but I am here to tell you that it is! It really is! They are actually quite easy to make, but I understand if you want to save it for the weekend. I know there are a lot of recipes out there that use shelf-stable gnocchi as a shortcut (heck, I even wrote one of them!), but the quality can really vary so they are hard to rely on. Some are better than others. 

For a real treat, you will need to make them yourself, and I am going to show you how. I promise you will be proud of yourself when you have produced these pillow-y little beauties with your own two hands. You may have seen gnocchi that are ridged, but that’s an optional step, and one that is meant to help a sauce cling to them. I really like my gnocchi browned in a pan after they are very briefly boiled, and a flat surface works better for that. To me they look so appetizing with a bronzed crust, and it adds a lot of texture and flavor too.

I started out wanting these gnocchi to be 100% squash, both for the ease of making the recipe, and for the flavor. I found through my experimentation that this is not a good idea, because squash alone makes gummy gnocchi. They really need a potato to make the light and ethereal texture that you are after here. To streamline things, they both bake in the oven at once, so the process is pretty straightforward.

If you’re in the mood for a weekend project, double the recipe (or don’t), and freeze the gnocchi on wax paper-lined trays. When they’re frozen, transfer them to an appropriate container. Now you can boil as many as you need straight from the freezer in just a few minutes, making these a true convenience food!

In my Sunday post for paid subscribers, I’ll be sharing a video tutorial to show you every step of the process. If you’ve never made gnocchi before, you’ll want to see this video!

PS - I wanted to remind you that all of the recipes in my newsletters live permanently here. You can also scroll through public recipes on my site or keep up with me on Instagram. Or better yet, you can support me by ordering my book, Open Kitchen.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Click here for a printable version

Serves 4 to 6

This time of year, it’s easy to find a small squash, but if you only have a larger one, either cut it up and weigh out about 1½ pounds or make the puree and measure out two cups. You don’t want to have too high a ratio of squash to potato or the gnocchi will be gummy. The moisture content can vary too, so if you need to add more flour to the dough, it’s fine, but remember you want to add as little as possible to keep the texture light and airy. If you’re not sure, simply boil a small piece of dough to test it. As long as it holds together, you’re good. If you want to add Brussels sprouts but only have big ones, simply shred them and skip the blanching step.

For the gnocchi:
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound 6 ounces)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large (about 10 ounces) russet potato, scrubbed and pricked with a fork
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ cup/20 g grated Parmesan 
¾ cup/96 g all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
Freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper

For serving:
2 tablespoons butter, or as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
8-10 sage leaves
2 cups Brussels sprouts (preferably tiny ones!), trimmed and halved, then blanched and shocked, optional
Grated Parmesan

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Cut the squash crosswise though the center, and then cut each half again lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out with a melon baller or small sharp spoon and discard. Cut each piece in half again so you have 8 pieces. Coat with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet, and place on the center rack of oven. Place the potato directly on the rack.

  2. Bake the squash until a paring knife slides through the skin and into the flesh easily, about 30 minutes. Turn the potato and continue baking for another 15-30 minutes until soft when squeezed and it smells like a baked potato!

  3. Turn the squash pieces over with a pair of tongs and let sit until cool enough to handle. Peel the skin off (it should come off easily, but if not, scrape the flesh from the skin, or use a paring knife to remove it) and transfer to a food processor. Puree until totally smooth. Let cool in the food processor bowl.

  4. When the potato is done, let it cool until you can handle it, and repeat the peeling process. Mash the potato in a medium bowl using a large fork. Add the squash puree and continue mashing and mixing until you no longer see any spots of potato.

  5. By now the mixture should be pretty cool, but if not, let it cool a bit more. Use the fork to incorporate the cheese, and then make a well in the center. Add the eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, nutmeg and cayenne. Beat with the fork, and gradually incorporate the squash mixture, continuing until it is thoroughly mixed, switching to a rubber spatula.

  6. Sprinkle ¾ cup flour over the top of the mixture and use the spatula to mix well. Knead in the bowl with floured hands briefly to form a smooth dough and turn out on a lightly floured work surface. If it feels very sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it’s not.

  7. Divide dough into four pieces using a bench scraper or knife. Roll each piece into a rope about ¾ inch in diameter. If it becomes too long to manage, cut the rope in half. Use a bench scraper or a knife to cut the rope into 1-inch pieces and transfer to a wax paper-lined and floured baking sheet. Refrigerate if using within a few hours. Otherwise, freeze them on the baking sheet and then transfer to a container.

  8. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a generous amount of salt. Add half the gnocchi. They will float to the top after about a minute but cook for a total of 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Remove the towel after a minute or so, so they don’t stick. Repeat with remaining gnocchi. Oil them lightly if not proceeding right away.

  9. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the half the butter and oil. Add half the boiled gnocchi and scatter the sage leaves in between. Cook about two minutes per side until deep golden brown. Repeat with remaining gnocchi. Transfer to a dinner plate as they finish.

  10. If adding Brussels sprouts, add them to the hot pan, using more butter and oil if needed, and cook 2 to 3 minutes until tender and golden. Serve the gnocchi on warm plates with more Parmesan. 

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