Fall flavors are like a warm hug from a friend you’ve missed. My mouth waters and my mind buzzes with the potential flavor combinations that a fall harvest brings to the table. One of my favorite fall vegetables is squash, and surprisingly enough my dog Chet adores it too! He’ll eat roasted squash over a chewy dog treat any day…so would I.
Butternut squash has this rich, sweet and buttery flavor that pairs with just about anything. The trick with squash is in the slicing & dicing, but when it comes to roasting, preparation is just as easy as can be.
This particular dinner with friends was in celebration of our new house. My boyfriend Alex and I purchased our first home this past August. Its taken a month of construction dust, new paint, boxes and exhaustion to finally start feeling comfortable.
Even with our living areas piled to the brim with boxes we had friends over to celebrate, dug into the pantry, dirtied the kitchen and gathered around the table. The meal was all about embracing fall flavors in every dish, from a cranberry salad to pumpkin cupcakes with a cream cheese topping. Mmmmmm…
The main course was a homemade gnocchi, new to my list of staples, but nonetheless delicious and worth the extra effort. Mix the savory warmth of potato gnocchi with the sweet buttery flavor and smooth texture of butternut squash, and you’ve got yourself a melt in your mouth favorite.
Preheat oven: 400 degrees
5 medium sized potatoes
sea salt for baking
1 1/2 cup flour
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter, diced
2 teaspoons sage
1 small bunch of fresh basil, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 small onion
1 small/medium butternut squash, peeled & diced
salt & pepper
Start by placing a layer of sea salt on the bottom of a baking dish, thick enough that the potatoes will rest on the salty layer, rather than the bottom of the pan. Remember to poke a few random holes with a fork in each of your potatoes…the recipe for ‘exploding potato bombs’ is a mess I’d prefer to leave for someone else :) Bake them for 40 minutes or until tender and remove from the oven.
While the potatoes are cooking, its time to peel, slice & dice the squash. The best trick I’ve found is to slice off the bottom of the squash so you have a flat surface to work from, then simply slice into smaller sections. Peel & dice each section one by one.
Place the diced squash into a medium bowl and toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat the pieces, then a quick pinch of salt. Transfer the contents to a baking pan and place in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring the pieces around on the pan about half way through and removing them from the oven to cool after your 20 minutes are up.
At this point in time, you’ll either have a little free time on your hands or your potatoes will be nearly ready to pull out of the oven. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle you should easily be able to remove the skin and toss the soft potatoes into a medium sized bowl. Mash them as well as you can manage, or even put them through a food processor if you have the means to do so.
Add the flour and egg yolks to your potato mash and fold “dough” together. Then, toss some additional flour on a cutting board and place the dough on top. Your gnocchi dough should be rather sticky, yet solid enough to be rolled easily. Split the dough in half and roll out each section into a 1 inch-thick ‘snake’. You’ll then, cut the ‘snake’ into one-inch wide pieces so that your little pieces of gnocchi are squares of 1 inch by 1 inch.
Your gnocchi are nearly finished! Just get a pot of salt water boiling on the stove and you’ll drop a few (5-8) at a time into the boiling water. The gnocchi will rise when they are finished, so simply fish them out of the boiling water with a spoon and place them into a strainer. The next step is optional, but personally I love my gnocchi browned on either side, I place a small tab of butter into a frying pan and simply brown them in a little butter and set aside.
The sauce is the last step and its really quite simple, plus it smells absolutely delicious. Warm your remaining butter in a pan over low-medium heat, toss in the chopped onion, and garlic and simmer. Stir in your sage and continue to heat. The aroma should be nothing short of tantalizing and luckily all you’ve got left to do is toss in your roasted butternut squash, gnocchi, and fresh basil at the last minute.
My mouth waters for the flavors in this dish and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. Soak in the savory warmth and goodness of your homemade gnocchi and butternut squash. Its a friend you’re bound to return to, and one that will always greet you with the same warming hug of those delicious fall flavors.