Gnocchi are essentially bite-sized dumplings with a signature grooved texture. They have been part of Italian cuisine since at least Roman times, offering affordable and filling food incorporating locally accessible ingredients that have changed and diversified over time. Early ingredients were likely semolina, breadcrumbs, and eggs, with potatoes coming later.
Why Make Homemade Gnocchi?
Making gnocchi is a true labor of love that requires patience, commitment, and appreciation for the skills to prepare food from scratch. While there is no shortage of artisan or mass-produced gnocchi products to buy, nothing can replicate the superior flavor and tender texture of truly fresh homemade gnocchi.
Big Fall Flavor, Tiny Dumplings
This recipe forgoes the traditional potato and instead utilizes the much cherished autumnal butternut squash to impart a bright color and mildly sweet flavor to the resulting gnocchi. The squash is mixed with egg and ricotta for added creaminess and to help bind the dough. Complex and richly flavored Parmesan cheese and freshly grated nutmeg complete these gnocchi and bring them to life.
The gnocchi are complemented beautifully by the deep flavors of sage leaves and slowly browned butter, hitting all the flavor notes for a satisfying meal. The dish can also be finished off with lightly toasted nuts to add that special crunch to the otherwise soft and tender dumplings.
For the Gnocchi
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash (1 small squash)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, divided, more as needed
2/3 cup (145 grams) whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup (30 grams) freshly grated parmesan, more for serving
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
For the Brown Butter and Sage Sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Steps to Make It
Prepare the Squash
Gather the ingredients. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425 F.
ingredients to make butternut squash gnocchi
Using a sharp knife, cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds using a spoon.
Place the squash halves on a rimmed baking sheet with the cut sides facing up, brush with olive oil, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Roast until the squash halves are fully cooked and tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before scooping out the flesh.
Puree the squash using a food processor or hand-held blender until completely smooth and creamy.
Place the squash puree in a saucepan over medium heat and stir frequently to remove some of the moisture. The squash should roughly resemble the consistency of a dense whipped cream.
Place 1 cup of the squash puree in a large bowl, and let cool to room temperature. The remaining squash can be reserved for other uses, such as soups or lasagna.
Make the Gnocchi Dough
Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, ricotta, parmesan, egg, and nutmeg to the bowl with the pureed squash and mix well using a rubber spatula.
ingredients to make butternut squash gnocchi in a glass bowl
Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing gently until the mixture begins to come together into a soft, pliable dough. If the dough is still sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time to bring it together.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean and lightly floured surface. Gently knead the dough just until it is smooth with no visible flour, 2 to 4 minutes. It is important to keep the kneading to a minimum to avoid developing gluten and toughening the gnocchi.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with a clean towel, and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour or up to overnight to firm up.
Shape the Gnocchi
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and on a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out each piece of dough into a rope approximately 12 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.
Cut each rope into 1-inch segments. Lightly roll each gnocchi along the side of a lightly floured gnocchi board or against the floured tines of a fork to create a grooved texture.
Spread the gnocchi on floured baking sheets, leaving enough space between them to prevent them sticking to each other.
Cook the Gnocchi
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In three batches, transfer the gnocchi pieces to the pot and boil them until they become springy and soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Gnocchi are ready 1 to 2 minutes after they have floated to the top.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the pot and place on a large plate. Continue until all the gnocchi have been cooked.
Prepare the Brown Butter and Sage Sauce and Finish the Gnocchi
Gather the ingredients.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook for 4 to 5 minutes while stirring frequently. The butter will begin to foam and then become golden and fragrant.
Add the sage and garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the cooked gnocchi to the skillet, add salt and pepper, and continue to gently stir until they are completely heated through, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the gnocchi to a large serving bowl and serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese.