14 November 2010
Most gnocchi, or as they say in the Italian translation "lumps", that I am familiar with are tiny potato or ricotta dumplings. Florentines call these tasty gnocchi morsels "topini", or "field mice". My first taste memory was at a family-style restaurant in Northern Ontario at Wasaga Beach where my family spent many a summer vacation. Being a teenager without a truly developed palate I don't know if these were the best "lumps" I have ever tried but I do know they are embedded in the recesses of my foodie memories. The gnocchi of my childhood is boiled briefly and then seasoned with a sauce limited only by your imagination.
Lately I have been wanting to try a completely different animal. Gnocchi alla Romana are a pasta made with milk and semolina flour, and baked. This type of gnocchi is quite different from the potato or ricotta recipes of my childhood. Semolina flour is used to make a thick muscle-straining dough which requires about 20 minutes of stove top time similar to preparing polenta or even a brioche dough. I started by roasting the squash with seasonings right in the oven, mashed it to a fine texture and add it to the semolina mixture while stirring on the stove top. This version doesn't have any eggs but gets the extra moisture from mashed butternut squash instead. I wanted to experiment with these fall flavours, and reduced the milk as well. The dough is allowed to cool and is then cut into discs and baked. A light butter and Parmesan topping is all that's needed. They are tremendously satisfying, and extraordinarily tasty but they are also rich. To me their only defect is that they have a way of disappearing off your plate!!!
I was intrigued by these little pillows on the Food Network on an episode of the "Best Thing I Ever Ate." It started the wheels turning and as with all recipe development I have researched into this dish and have come up with something that is part Jamie Oliver who gave me the idea of cooking the butternut squash with herbs to infuse flavour into the dish, part Aunt Emma who lightened it up for me and gave me a step by step pictorial account and part More Than Burnt Toast finesse and fine tuning.
With its thick orange flesh and its nutty sweet flavor, the butternut squash has become a favourite ingredient in MTBT casseroles, quick breads, muffins and soups. As the summer turns to fall, and side dishes tend towards savoury flavours, I thought I would treat our taste buds to the subtle sweetness of caramelized butternut squash with sage and rosemary in a starring roll in these savoury little pillows. This is comfort food at it's finest!
This is my contribution to edition #259 of Weekend Herb Blogging, an event started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, now organized by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once and hosted this week by Susan from The Well-Seasoned Cook. This recipe uses a combination of autumnal flavours like rosemary, sage and garlic infused into the buttery, nutty toasted squash.
Sweet and Savory!!!!