A plate of hot, fresh gnocchi with a simple brown butter and sage sauce is one of my very favorite meals. Homemade gnocchi is a commitment, but when you take quality ingredients and prepare them carefully, the resulting meal is easily worth the hour of sticky, flour covered hands. Gnocchi are most commonly made with potatoes, but they can be made with a variety of ingredients so long as they have a dumpling shape. I’ve made gnocchi with potatoes, sweet potatoes, semolina flour, and most recently, butternut squash.
All it takes a few pounds of oven-roasted butternut squash that’s mashed, cooked down, and kneaded with some flour and an egg. The dough is rolled into ropes, cut into little gnocchi, and flicked off the back of a fork to make a few ridges to catch the sauce.
The gnocchi are gently boiled until they pop up to the surface of the water, which happens at almost two minutes on the dot. While the gnocchi boil, I always brown some butter with sage leaves, minced shallot, and lemon juice, then toss the cooked gnocchi in the brown butter sauce. With a final dusting of parmesan cheese, you can have a fancy restaurant meal in the comforts of your own home. It’s a bit of a culinary challenge, but I hope you try it and see just how delicious and satisfying the tender mouthfuls of butternut squash are on a fall night.
(The first two photos in this post are courtesy of the talented videographer, Samir Ghosh, who filmed me making this recipe.)
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
2 ½ pounds butternut squash, (about ½ of a large squash), halved and seeded
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 dozen sage leaves, 4 sliced into ribbons and the remaining 8 left whole
1 shallot, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
Juice of ½ lemon
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 450F and place the butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub it with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the salt. Roast in the preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, until fork-tender.
- Remove the squash from the oven and scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1-2 minutes, until a smooth puree forms.
- Transfer the squash to a non-stick skillet and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, to remove some of the excess moisture, then transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
- While the squash cooks down, prepare the sauce: In a small skillet over medium heat, add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the sage (the ribbons and the whole leaves), shallot, and salt. Let the shallots caramelize and the butter brown for 2-3 minutes, then take the pan off heat and stir in the lemon juice. Remove the whole squash leaves, reserving them for a garnish if desired. At this point, begin heating a large pot of water to boiling to cook the gnocchi.
- Add 2 cups of the flour and the egg to the bowl with the squash. Stir with a spatula to combine. Dust a work surface with the ½ cup remaining flour and turn the dough out onto it. With well-floured hands, lightly knead the dough until a cohesive mass forms. Divide the gnocchi dough into 4 equal portions, and roll each portion into a long rope, about ¾ inch in diameter, taking care to keep the work surface well-floured. Using a knife or bench scraper, cut the rope into ½-1 inch pieces to form the gnocchi. To achieve the ridges, turn a fork over and using your index finger, gently roll the gnocchi, one at a time, down the length of the fork so that they curl slightly and have a ridged portion. Place the finished gnocchi on a floured plate.
- Once the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water and ½ of the formed gnocchi. Boil the gnocchi gently until they rise to the surface, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, drain the gnocchi and place them in a serving bowl. Cook the remaining gnocchi, then toss all of the gnocchi with the prepared sauce, taking care not to mash the delicate gnocchi. To serve, place on individual plates and top with the reserved sage leaves, if desired, and freshly grated parmesan cheese, then serve immediately.