14 November 2010

Butternut Squash Gnocchi alla Romana

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.

 Also, since it seems I am blogging less frequently, but still long  to support my friends it is also my contribution for this weeks Presto Pasta Nights the baby of Ruth of Once Upon a Feast which is being hosted this week by Debbi of Debbi Does Dinner. This homemade pasta takes a little muscle but it will muscle it's way into your food memories.

Since it is also Meatless Monday consider that done too over at Sweet and Savory!!!!

Since this was also a twist on a dish I recreated myself from something I had in my bucket list  for a long time I am giving myself a pat on the back and giving myself an I Did It Award from Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn. The muscle involved in recreating this polenta type dish was well worth it!

For my first attempt at this butternut squash twist on a classic gnocchi recipe I decided to pair it down to it's purest form and bake it with a little Parmesan cheese and butter. I still have some in the freezer so I see Browned Butter and Sage or Spicy Sausage and Basil in my future. The herbed butternut squash gave the dish a subtle flavour that will remind you of the best parts of the season.

** Butternut Squash Gnocchi alla Romana**
recipe by Valerie Harrison/More Than Burnt Toast (14 November 2010)

1 1/2 cups (250 g) semolina
3/4 - 1 cup roasted butternut squash, mashed (recipe below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pint (500 ml) skim milk
1 pint (500 ml) water
3/4 cup (about 40 g) freshly grated Parmigiana
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Combine the water, milk, and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add butternut squash and whisk vigorously.

Add the semolina in a steady stream, whisking all the while, and then half the butter.

Continue stirring; the mixture will thicken quickly, to the point that you will want to switch to a wooden spoon.

Continue cooking the semolina over a moderate flame, stirring constantly, until it peels easily away from the sides of the pot, about 20 minutes. (if your arm gets tired enlist your friends) By this time the semolina will be quite thick.

Spread the mixture out on your work surface in a 3/4 inch (1.cm) layer and let it cool for a couple of hours. I I spread it out on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet and pit it in the refrigerator until I was ready to use it).

Use a moistened glass to cut out rounds, and arrange them in a baking dish, partially overlapping them. Either distribute the cuttings in the spaces between the rounds, or save them for a less elegant batch of gnocchi. (For individual dishes you can also fry your gnocchi rounds in a little olive oil and top with a sauce of your choice)

Sprinkle the cheese over the gnocchi and dot them with butter. Or, if you'd rather, pour melted butter over them, if you're following a less light recipe.

Bake your Gnocchi alla Romana in a preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for about 15 minutes or until heated through and browned, and serve at once, either as a first course, or with a roast or stew. A wine, if you're serving them alone? White, for example Orvieto Bianco, or Est! Est! Est!

**Roasted Butternut Squash**

1/4 teaspoon ground sage (use fresh if desired)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Olive oil
1 butternut pumpkin or squash, halved, deseeded, cut into 8 lengthwise
1 clove garlic, crushed
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Preheat your oven to 400F (200°C).

Bash all your spices together in a pestle with a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, add a few glugs of olive oil and mix well. Rub this all over the squash segments, then place them on a roasting tray.

Bake in the hot oven for about 25 minutes.

Just before time is up, pick the rosemary leaves and dress them in your hands with a tiny bit of olive oil sand the crushed garlic. Sprinkle over the squash — it will give a delicious flavour.

Put it all back in the oven uncovered and turn the temperature down to (345F)170°C, brushing the pieces with a bit of olive oil if you feel they need it. Cook for another 25 minutes, or until the squash is soft, golden and delicious looking.

You will have leftovers since you only need a cup for the above recipe.

You might also enjoy.....

Gnocchi alla Romana - The Wednesday Chef
Iva's Gnocchi alla Romana with Spicy Sausage, Tomato Ragu, Crispy Sage and Parmesan
Bron Marshall - Gnocchi alla Romana

 You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Content must be credited to this author.
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  1. What a different inglos...fantastic...version of gnocchi. This has my mouth watering...so homey and perfect fall flavors. I think it would definitely compliment some spicy sausage and sage...mmmm!

  2. Good to see you have taken gnocchi one step further!!! Love the idea!!

  3. I'm not picky. I've never met a gnocchi I didn't like

  4. I do love it when I can turn a childhood memory into an even better reality. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Night.

  5. As you probably know, I am ALWAYS looking for ways to utilize squash!!! This looks delicious, hopefully it was worth the effort. If I am feeling strong, I might give it a go!

  6. A wonderful dish! Now, I'm starving...



  7. This looks off the charts amazing!!!

  8. Ever since I tasted Chef Todd's Butternut squash and goat cheese salad, I realized I just might be turning a corner on my aversion to that fall vegetable (or is it a fruit?) Indeed, my butternut recipe (I have yet to blog) turned out to be delicious. My next venture is to bookmark this version, Val. It's beautiful and so different. Just like you! (In a very good sort of way.)

  9. You made this up yourself?? I'm so jealous, I would never have thought of it Val! This looks wonderful!

  10. Stunning recipe, Val! I cannot keep up to you... by a loooong shot!

  11. Tile gnocchi has been on my to-do list since I made "little mice" a few years ago.

    Really lovely, Val. Lifting out a casserole of these beauties from the oven would be such a treat on a cold fall evening.

    Thanks for contributing to WHB!

  12. I've actually never heard of this before but it sounds like something I would love. All that butternut squash cheesy goodness. Heavenly.

  13. It has been on my bucket list to make for some time as well since I love to get back to tradional dishes but with a twist of my own.

  14. this looks yummy great recipe, thanlks!


  15. You really are a creative cook! This sounds absolutely wonderful. I really want to give this a try. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  16. Although never truly a fan of the typical classic gnocchi...I would probably devour your dish without a second thought.

    Val...your experimention has blended a great array of ingredients to please my palate for sure;o)

    Ciao for now,

  17. I have tried posting a comment 3 times and I keep getting rejected.

    The jist of my comment is that I am crazy about gnocchi and this would be a wonderful starter for a Thanksgiving dinner.

  18. Leave it to you to teach me yet another new term, Val. These gnocchi look delicious and they sound pretty easy to make, too.

  19. I do love pasta with squash and I suppose gnocchi area hybrid...count me in!

  20. What a wonderful combination of textures and flavors...looks amazing

  21. I have never used semolina, but this looks like a great place to start. :) Your dish looks heavenly!

  22. I'm not all that fond of regular gnocchi. I love the idea of using roasted butternut squash and the semolina flour to make gnocchi. It looks so delicious!

  23. I like this! New for me and I want to try this baked version.

  24. I'm so impressed! What a fabulous dish...can't wait to try gnocchi made this way!

  25. What a great twist on gnocchi! Very imaginative and delicious, I'm sure.

  26. I've never seen gnocci cut from a flat sheet - it looks excellent and so tasty! I'm kicking myself because I just finished some baked squash for lunch yesterday and it would've been perfect for this!

  27. Double bookmark here ,if there was ever such a thing. Excellent!

  28. Oh my goodness, Val, this sounds sooooo good! I'm crazy about butternut squash! I really want to try this recipe soon.

  29. This looks awesome! I haven't had gnocci in ages and I love that you've used squash for yours. YUM!

  30. Have tried potato Gnocchi, but this sounds amazing. Nice to have dropped here, lovely site. Best wishes.

  31. Hi Val - oh that looks divine. The combination of flavors and textures, perfect! I have only had the potato variety, so this post is really interesting to me. Sorry I didn't get to see you at the Festival, I see you are in a lot of the photos on Joan's site, I'm sure you all had a great time, maybe I'll be able to go next year?
    Take Care,

  32. lovely recipe..this sounds amaizing. thanks for sharing.

  33. included in the list of things i don't want to eat are lumps of anything and field mice. this plate o' gnocchi, however, does it for me. :)

  34. Mouthwatering, Val. I'm always looking for new ways to use my favorite fall veggie.

  35. This dish looks so warm, comforting and delicious, Val. :-) I've never had gnocchi done in this manner, and I'm intrigued to try it. :-)

  36. I like to have Gnocchi for dinner, its my and my husband favorite. thanks for sharing such a yummy recipe.

  37. Look at you with the print friendly button, you go girl! BTW, this dish looks phenominal!

  38. hey, just found this at Meatless Mondays ... this looks amazing; I NEED to make this!

  39. Mmmm mmmm mmmm GNOCCHI ! I love gnocchi and I love how you prepared them! Perfect for the season! Comfort food ala Italiana and Val!

  40. Looks so warm and comforting!

  41. What a wonderful recipe. This is original and creative and warming. That says a lot for it.
    Thanks for linking this to My Meatless Mondays.

  42. That looks just beautiful! I love dishes like this.

  43. I love the time and thought you put into this! It MUST be good! It looks so good I can almost smell it. Butternut squash is my favorite, thanks!


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