Thursday, November 10, 2011

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sausage and Kale

I've been debating whether or not to post this recipe.  Not because it isn't good- it totally is.  But I've been a bit pumpkin and squash obsessed lately and you, my faithful readers, may be getting a smidge tired of it.  I can just hear you all, sitting at your computers and reading the title to this post muttering, "Enough already, Renee.  Move on.".  But I can't help it.  From my CSA box to the grocery stores, I'm surrounded by gourds of all shapes and sizes and I feel an urgent need to do something with them.  So I be grateful if you would indulge me for just one more squash posting.

And yes, it's also another pasta recipe.  And yes, I did make it by hand.  But hear me out- you don't have to make the pasta if you don't want to.  By the way, it's totally worth the effort, even if all you do is pan fry them in butter and not even make the sauce.  I could have snacked on those buttery little dumplings all night long.  But I digress...  If you don't have the time, energy, or inclination to make gnocchi by hand take a look down by the recipe directions.  I am also giving you instructions on how to switch up the ingredients and, using store-bought gnocchi, make a delicious dinner with less fuss then the handmade version but the same wonderful flavors.
So I suppose, in the end, I decided to share this recipe with you because it tastes fabulous and there are so many ways you can make it your own that it can work for just about anyone.  {Unless you happen to be my husband.  Or my oldest son.  Neither of them cared for it.  My husband has come to the conclusion that he's just not a gnocchi guy.  The boy, well, I think he would have liked it if the gnocchi were boiled and not fried.  Usually when I make them he runs around the house shouting "gnocchi" in his worst Italian accent.  It's pretty funny actually.}  So I ate my gnocchi by myself, savoring every last one of them.  Because it's a dish I can only make if I'm all by myself for an evening.  And I think we all know how often that's going to happen.  Sigh.
I just love how an acorn squash looks like a heart.  Don't you?
Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sausage and Kale
Makes 4-6 servings
Here's where I tell you that you can get the same flavors in the dish with a bit less work if you aren't into making the gnocchi yourself.  You can buy packaged gnocchi in your grocery store (sometimes it's in the pasta section, sometimes in the specialty foods area) and you can even get pre-cut butternut squash.  I would probably cut those squash cubes into halves or even quarters of what they are already cut into.  Those big cubes just won't cook in the amount of time you will have.  Cook the gnocchi according to package directions or pan fry in butter like I do the gnocchi in this recipe.  Cook the squash in the sauce after you add the chicken broth and simmer for 8-10 extra minutes to soften the squash before adding the kale.  Follow the rest of the directions for the sauce.

For the gnocchi:
1 butternut squash (about three pounds)
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg ( I use nutmeg in any recipe with squash and/or leafy greens)
3-4 cups flour (depends on the water content of your squash)

Cut the squash in half lengthwise (be careful, the squash is very hard and can be tricky to cut).  Drizzle the cut sides with olive oil and place face down on a baking sheet.  I had a small acorn squash languishing on the counter, so I threw that in too.  Roast in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour.  The flesh should be very soft.  Let the squash cool.
When the flesh is cool, scoop it out into a large bowl and mash it with a fork.  Add the eggs, nutmeg and salt and stir to fully incorporate.  Add 2 cups of the flour and mix.  Continue adding the flour, in half cup increments, until you have a soft, sticky dough that holds together.  My squash must have had a lot of water because I seemed o have to keep adding flour.  I ended up at about 4 cups total.  I also found that at the end, dumping the dough onto the counter and kneading in the last of the flour by hand was helpful.  I generously sprinkled the counter top with flour.
Using a knife or bench scraper dipped in flour, cut off a piece of dough and roll it into a 1 inch diameter "snake".  Cut the "snake" into 1 inch pieces.  Sprinkle the cut pieces with flour to keep them from sticking.  You can press the traditional lines into the gnocchi by gently pressing the tines of a floured fork into the dough.  I demonstrate this technique in the photo below.  Continue cutting, rolling and shaping the ghocchi until you have used all the dough.  You can use the gnocchi right away or put on a floured sheet tray covered loosely with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.
I chose to pan fry my gnocchi, which I did in a large saute pan with melted butter.  Lay enough gnocchi in the pan to cover the bottom and let cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until browned.  Flip the gnocchi and cook until browned on the other side, another few minutes.  This will probably have to be done in batches unless you have a HUGE pan.  Add a tablespoon or so of butter to the pan before each batch.  Reserve in a bowl to add to the sauce.  Alternately, you could cook the gnocchi for 4-5 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water as you are preparing the sauce.
The pan-fried gnocchi.  Great for snacking on all on their own.
For the sauce:
1/2 lb Italian sausage, removed from the casings
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 small bunch of tuscan kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup pecorino romano or parmesean cheese

In a large saute pan, cook the sausage in 1 tbs olive oil until browned.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir for about 1 minute.  Pour in the chicken broth, making sure to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan (that's all flavor hidden in there).  Toss in the kale and stir.  Simmer the sauce for 4-5 minutes or until the kale has wilted.  Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and stir all the ingredients together.  Stir in the cheese and serve.


  1. Beautiful hearty gnocchi. I love the color.

  2. The Way to My Family's HeartNovember 10, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    Thanks Nisrine. You definitely eat with your eyes first. This pasta was begging me to eat it!

  3. amazing!!! i have never made gnocchi so thank you for posting step by step instructions!!!! I cannot wait to try this and to look through your other posts!!!! Im following you ;)

  4. The Way to My Family's HeartNovember 11, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    Good luck Sabrina. The dough is very soft, so be gentle with it and use lots of flour on your work surface so it doesn't stick. So excited to have a new reader!