Gnocchi with roasted butternut squash, spinach & sage

I’ve been trying to make perfect gnocchi for years. Somehow I never quite hit on the perfect formula. They were either too springy, too chewy, or so soft they almost disintegrated. I’d always made them with egg yolk, but when I left that out, I realised I’d made exactly the gnocchi I’m always craving. Soft pillows with just enough bounce, robust enough to hold firm without being hard work to eat. They even fry up nicely if you like your gnocchi lightly crisped on the outside.

 This is my favourite way to eat gnocchi. The butternut squash is roasted with only olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, before being tossed together with gnocchi, some lightly cooked spinach, and garlic and sage butter. I usually remove the sage after cooking the butter, but if you like it strong, keep it in. It’s not the fastest recipe, but a nice project on a chilly autumn evening. And if you don’t serve it with the Parmesan and switch out the butter for olive oil, it’s even vegan. Dream dinner.

Gnocchi with roasted butternut squash, spinach & sage

Serves 4

500 g floury potatoes, whole and unpeeled
½ tsp salt
150 g ‘00’ flour

½ butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and chopped into 1.5 cm cubes
5 fat cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
olive oil
200 g spinach, washed
60 g unsalted butter
3-4 sage leaves
Parmesan to serve

Boil the potatoes for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife slides through the centre of the potato without resistance. Drain and allow to cool for a few minutes. Fill a small bowl with cold water and set aside. When the potatoes are still hot, slip the skins off them. Cool your fingers in the bowl of cold water if necessary.

Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer directly onto a clean work surface. Sprinkle the salt and flour on top. Using a pastry knife, cut the flour through the potato until it is incorporated. Knead the dough with the heel of your hand a couple of times. It might be a bit sticky. Divide the dough in four and roll into long sausages on a lightly floured surface. Cut the sausages into 2 cm gnocchi. Flour a baking tray and set the gnocchi on top until you’re ready to cook them.

Prehat the oven to 220°C and arrange the squash on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Make sure not to crowd them. Add the garlic cloves, a generous glug of olive oil and seasaon well with salt. Toss everything in the oil and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the squash is nicely browned. Remove the garlic cloves after 15 minutes, and mash on a plate.

In the last 10-15 minutes of cooking the squash, put a large pot of unsalted water on to boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until they start to float on the surface. Scoop a couple of tbsp of water out of the pot and set aside. Just before draining, add the spinach to the pot. Drain in a colander immediately.

Melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the garlic and sage leaves. Season with salt to taste. Add the gnocchi cooking water and stir.

Remove the squash from the oven and tip the gnocchi and spinach on top. Add the garlic butter and toss to combine. Check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Serve drizzled with extra olive oil and grated parmesan.

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