I made Steve a surprise special dinner last night. I sent him an invitation, so that he had a heads-up that something special was going to happen, but then I barred him from the kitchen for the day so that he’d have no clue what we would be having.
And it literally took a whole day to make. I’ve made this dish before, using sweet potatoes, and it also took a long time. But this time I decided to use one of Steve’s favourite foods – butternut squash – and because the butternut squash was huge, I doubled the recipe again, and it took even longer this time!
But don’t let the time it takes to prepare this delicious dish discourage you from making it! You could prepare it as is and it wouldn’t take quite as ridiculously long. But when you do make plenty, you get lots of leftover gnocchi, which makes the effort more worthwhile I think.
I got the original sweet potato gnocchi recipe here. But here are my instructions using butternut squash —
Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Gouda Cheese Sauce
FOR THE GNOCCHI:
- 1 pound butternut squash
- 6 ounces, fluid Ricotta Cheese
- ½ cups Parmesan Cheese, Finely Grated
- 1 Tablespoon Golden Brown Sugar, Packed
- 1 teaspoon Salt Plus 1 Tablespoon For Pasta Water
- ¼ teaspoons Nutmeg, Freshly Ground
- 1-¾ cup All-purpose Flour
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 2 cups Milk, Heated
- ¼ whole Onion
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 3 whole Sage Leaves
- 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 3 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
- 1 cup Gouda Cheese (Shredded)
- Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste
Microwave the butternut squash for 4-5 minutes. Let cool and then cut in half (lengthwise) and scrape out the seeds. Put both halves face down in a dish and microwave another 4-5 minutes or until soft and cooked. Let it cool.
Scoop out the butternut squash into a medium bowl and mash until smooth with no chunks. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash to a large bowl. Add ricotta cheese and blend well. Add the Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, one tsp of salt, and nutmeg. Mash again to blend. Mix in flour gradually, about 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.
Transfer dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll the dough into a 20-inch long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), using flour if the dough remains sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. *Alternatively, if you’re having trouble getting long ropes as I was, you can instead take 1 inch pieces and roll them between your floured palms into round 1 inch pieces of gnocchi.
Next roll each piece over the tines of a fork to indent (I skip this part because I don’t really care about the little indents). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt (1/2-1 tbsp depending on size of pot) and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, approx. 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to a clean baking sheet. Cool completely. The gnocchi can be made up to 4 hours ahead of time (Let stand at room temperature).
When you’re ready to cook the meal, pan fry the gnocchi in a tiny bit of butter and/or olive oil to warm and crisp them up a bit. For an added boost of flavour, add some sage as well.
Add milk to a small sauce pan and heat over low heat. Once the milk is heated, add the onion, garlic, and sage. Increase to low-medium heat and cook until tiny bubbles appear around the edges of the pan (about 5 minutes). Important: do not boil. Remove pan from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the onion, garlic and sage leaves. Cover to keep warm.
In a saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, whisking, until blended (about 1 minute). Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened (about 4-5 minutes). To tell if the sauce is ready, dip a wooden spoon in the sauce to coat it and then pass your finger through the sauce on the back of the spoon — it should leave a clean track. Don’t worry if there are still chunks for floor/butter mixture. This should resolve itself in the next step.
Whisk in the shredded Gouda cheese. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth (no chunks). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the sauce over the gnocchi and serve on a plate garnished with sage leaves. Enjoy!