Squash Gnocci

Kury squash gnocci with garlic scape pesto, cottage bacon & parmesan.

OK, so squash gnocci is no simple meal!  Don’t just think of it as dinner – think of it as an excuse to have a dinner-making party.  The best part of cooking an elaborate meal is inviting friends to share in the kitchen debacle.  And with all the dough making, rolling, cutting and shaping, gnocci is a party in itself.  And we partied my kitchen to a flour-dusted, orange-crusted mess making some kury squash gnocci.  While butternut seems to be the more common squash of choice, I’ve got an Italian friend who swears that kury squash is the only way to go.  It’s the official gnocci squash of little old Italian grandmas.  (I have used butternut, and that’s tasty as well.  But I must admit – the squash flavor did come through more with the kury squash.  Ha! Never doubt the Italian grandma!)

Ain't no party like a gnocci party!

1 kury squash (mine was about volley ball sized, and yielded 4 ½ cups of cooked squash)
Bake at 350°F for about 45 min, and cool (can be done a day before).
Scoop out of squash shell and smash into a bowl.

1 egg
Beat, and stir into squash

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Stir into the above mix

6 cups flour (spelt or other fine ground grain)
6 tsp starch (tapioca or corn starch etc.)
Mix flour and starch
Add gradually, stirring thoroughly as you go

 

Mixing the dough

  • Start with a 1:1
  • Add till kneadable

(My last batch took ~ 1.5 flour : 1 squash, but this will vary with water content)

The magic of gnocci rolling

  • Really you’re doing two things here – you’re flattening the dough ball to give it more surface area to help it dry well and cook thoroughly, and you’re curling it into a pretty shape
  • All this should happen on a lightly flour-dusted surface
  • Give the whole wad a few kneads to get everything consistent
  • Grab a hunk and roll it inot a rope about finger thick (~1/2 inch)
  • Cut the rope into 1 inch pieces

Just press and roll!

  • Roll the gnocci pieces
    • This seems tricky – but it’s just a matter of technique – takes 2 seconds once you know!
    • Place each gnocci piece so that the rounded (not the cut) side of the rope faces you
    • Press the gnocci piece lightly with the tines of a dinner fork
    • Pull the fork toward you
    • The dough piece will easily roll over its rounded edge
  • As you complete each piece place it on a cookie sheet to dry

A perfect gnocci. Now just dozens to go!

 

Drying the gnocci

Dry the gnocci!  This is important.  Everyone you’ve ever heard tell a pasta horror story where everything boils to mush – probably neglected to dry their noodles.

Many recipes I’ve looked suggest air drying for hour or even overnight.  And you can do that.  But that’s bad news if you’re making gnocci for the first time on a whim, reading instructions one step at a time, and it’s already midnight because you just spent three hours perfecting your gnocci roll.  This is precisely the sort of conundrum that breeds creativity!

Turns out you can oven dry your gnocci (or pasta in general) in just minutes.  Set your oven to the lowest temperature (mine goes down to 170°F).  Bake the gnocci for 15 to 20 minutes until the outsides feel dry and a bit stiff.  Now you have gnocci ready to boil!  If you used a whole squash you now have a ton of gnocci!  If you are not feeding an army, this is a perfect stage to save some for later – the dried gnocci will freeze beautifully, then you have instant gnocci read for the pot next time.

Gnocci, just waiting to go in the pot!

Cooking the gnocci

Now simple boil the gnocci for about 5 minutes.  Use a huge pot, or boil in a few batches – you want them to have space to float around and not clump.

Serving suggestions

  • You just spent all that time to make the gnocci squashy.  I recommend fairly minimal sauce to let the gnocci shine.  Try a pesto or browned butter.
  • The sweetness of squash gnocci goes great with a savory or spicy kick – sprinkle on some bacon or spicy sausage chuncks.
  • And of course sprinkle with some more parmesan.

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