Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gnocchi with Sausage, Cream and Roasted Butternut Squash

Back in October I won a $50 gift certificate to La Spiga, an Italian restaurant in Capitol Hill featuring food from the Romagna region. Life became increasingly hectic –- the big move, travel, holidays –- so we didn’t find the time to take advantage until last Saturday. 

We arrived a few minutes early and had time to sip a glass of chilled white while taking in the surroundings. The space was lovely with lots of dark wood, glass and romantic lighting. After being lead to the upstairs loft, we ordered a few plates to share: ricotta gnocchi, fresh pappardelle with duck ragout, pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and, for dessert, an assortment of cheeses. We enjoyed every last bite. (I did, however, have one small bone to pick: they served plain, chalky pita bread before and during the meal. Someone should tell them that crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic wins every time).

Back to that gnocchi. These were made with ricotta cheese instead of potato, which I find impossible to resist, and were paired with a simple sauce of sausage and cream. So light, so fluffy, I was instantly obsessed. Two days later I found myself at Madison Market buying local chicken sausage, organic cream and a package of freshly made potato gnocchi (Monday evenings warrant shortcuts). I intended to recreate the meal with my own winter twist: roasted butternut squash.

When I got home I quickly peeled, de-seeded and diced the squash into uniform little squares. After a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and 40 minutes in the oven, they were caramelized and crispy.

The rest of this dish was a snap to assemble, taking only 15 minutes or so. Sausage, white wine, cream, garlic, nutmeg and Parmesan were simmered down into a creamy, velvety sauce, requiring only a quick toss with the hot gnocchi, squash and fresh herbs to call it dinner. Definitely doable on a busy night.

La Spiga’s version was absolutely delicious... but this! This was dynamite.

Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash, Sausage and Cream 
This dish would do well with a few handfuls of baby spinach tossed in at the last minute. To make it vegetarian, replace the chicken sausage with sliced porcini mushrooms.

1 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and diced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Italian chicken sausages
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 glass dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground nutmeg
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1 package ready-to-cook gnocchi or 1 batch of homemade, ricotta or potato style
A good handful of chopped fresh parsley 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place diced squash on a parchment-lined baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and transfer to the oven. Bake, stirring once or twice, until tender and caramelized, 30-45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.

In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Squeeze the chicken sausages out of their casings and place in the skillet (you can add a drop of oil at this point if necessary). Cook, breaking the meat up into bite-sized pieces, until sausage is no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in a hefty glass of white wine and bring to a boil, reducing it down to about a third of its volume. Add the cream, a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Lower heat to a simmer and let it cook down a bit until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

When the pot of salted water reaches a boil, add the gnocchi and cook according to package/recipe instructions (mine only took about 3 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the skillet. Add a handful of freshly chopped parsley and toss to coat. If the sauce seems too thick, add a spoonful of the pasta water. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot garnished with freshly grated Parmesan.


Beth Twist said...

You must be my secret twin, because I, although I hadn't tried a similar dish at a restaurant, have been suddenly, the last few days, been thinking up a recipe that would combine gnocchi, turkey sausage, roasted butternut squash, and some green leafy thing. Not being entirely sure in my head how I would put it all together, this morning, in preparation for my trip to market, I googled "recipe sausage gnocchi butternut squash spinach". And there you were!

I'll be checking out the rest of your blog to see if we share any other food tastes... and, I will be using your recipe for dinner tonight!

NudeFood said...

Great minds think alike, Beth. It really is a killer combination. I hope your dinner was everything you hoped for!

Anonymous said...

Tried this recipe with chopped chard and gorgonzola instead of paremesan, topped with toasted walnuts. Delicious.