BUTTERNUT SQUASH: THE JOY OF AUTUMN

BUTTERNUT SQUASH: THE JOY OF AUTUMN

Butternut squash is one of the many joys of the season: rain and cold temperatures are compensated by incredibly rich and comforting foods. It is another gift from the Americas, like potatoes.

Accompanied by a creamy Taleggio cheese sauce, this dish speaks about the valley crossed through the Po river, its fog, its chilly temperatures. In this discomforting weather, nevertheless, the inhabitants created a varied cuisine, sophisticated, that requires some manual skills but is a great source of satisfaction.

One of my personal favorites is this recipe of gnocchi: the great canonic recipe of gnocchi is enriched by the addition of Butternut squash. It is extremely versatile: the 00 flour can be easily replaced by the same quantity of gluten-free flour in order to create a dish which can be tasted by our celiac guests. It is important to underline that the temperature of potatoes and squash is fundamental: just tepid, not too hot, or it would require an excessive quantity of flour, nor too cold, or it would be very hard to knead. Still, for the egg intolerant or vegan tablemates, we can decide not to add the egg. We must be quite skilled, though, since the egg makes pasta easier to knead. (and of course, the Taleggio sauce should be replaced by a vegetables one.

This recipe, like many others, is a starting point for a journey in the pleasures of Autumn.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH TALEGGIO CHEESE SAUCE

  • Ingredients for gnocchi
  • 2 pounds (800 gr.) Hubbard squash, deseeded and cut in thin slices, then baked
  • 1 pound (400 gr.) russet potatoes , steamed and peeled
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 cup (130 gr.) pastry/00 flour
  • Ingredients for Taleggio sauce
  • 7 oz. (200 gr.) Taleggio cheese
  • ¾ cup (200 ml.) milk
  • 1 tablespoon (20 gr.) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (20 gr.) pastry/00 flour
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Preparation of gnocchi

  2. Push the potatoes (while still tepid/warm) through a food mill or potato ricer, onto a lightly floured work surface. In case the potatoes are too humid (moist) bake them for 5 minutes in the oven, before mashing them.

  3. Gather the potatoes into a mound and make a well in the center. Peel the squash. Squeeze it, push it through a potato ricer and add it to the well. Sprinkle ¾ of the flour into the well and add in the egg. 

  4. Mix the ingredients by hand until a soft dough forms. If necessary, add more flour, a little at a time, until the dough has a smooth, evenly moistened consistency.

  5. Lightly flour your work surface and divide the dough into at least eight portions. Roll the portions into 1-inch-thick ropes and cut the ropes into 1-inch pieces. Roll the gnocchi over a fork to shape them, if desired. 

  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and stir a few times with a wooden spoon to submerge and separate them. Cook at a gentle boil until the gnocchi is tender and just beginning to float about 2 to 3 minutes. 

  7. Preparation of Taleggio sauce

  8. Make a béchamel melting the butter over low heat, combining the flour and salt and whisking with a fork as you add to prevent lumps. Add the milk a little at a time, whisking as you pour. 

  9. Raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken, whisking to prevent and break up any lumps (eventually, use an immersion blender). Add the Taleggio, whisk for about 5 minutes to break up any lumps and join the gnocchi. Grate a pinch of nutmeg on the dish.

 

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About the Author

Growing up in Emilia Romagna, a region known for Parmesan, Parma ham, lasagna, and filled pasta, a great deal of my childhood was spent in the kitchen with my grandmother and mother.

Even at a very young age, I could see that for them cooking was a passionate expression of their love for their family. While I’m filled with many warm memories of watching them cook, what I remember most is circling the table and watching the stove, waiting for any opportunity I could to steal a taste.