The change of seasons is always an opportunity for a palate reset. As a chill in the air sets in, do your tastebuds crave flavors of warmth and richness too? With a large pot of bubbling water on the stove, we’re heating up the kitchen and cooking Butternut Squash Ricotta Gnocchi with Rainbow Chard.
If you’ve never made gnocchi before, you’ll be surprised how simple it is. As always, we recommend that you read through the recipe and line up all your ingredients and cooking equipment to set yourself up for success.
We’ve been foregoing some of our large equipment lately and working various doughs with our hands. This recipe calls for creating a well of flour right on your (clean) kitchen counter. By using your hands, you’re able to provide a lighter touch than a mixer or food processor, rendering a gnocchi that is light and fluffy instead of dense and rubbery.
While gnocchi is often associated with potatoes, different regions around Italy and the world make these pillowy dumplings with various flours, meals and vegetables. Our version of gnocchi is a take on ricotta gnocchi. We’ve paired it with butternut squash.
Squash that you’ve roasted or steamed — whether it’s from the whole vegetable or pre-diced and frozen from the store — works here. Having the squash cooked and cooled before you start making the recipe allows you to breeze through to the next step of forming the dumplings.
It’s a simple process: combine the wet ingredients, combine the dry ingredients, then combine them with each other and add an egg. Gently knead the dough and form it into a disk.
On a counter that is already covered with flour, we roll out the dough with our hands and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Just like pasta has different shapes to capture the flavor of sauces, subtle ridges in gnocchi catch the delicate sauces that they are ideally paired with. We roll ours on a gnocchi board here to achieve this effect. Home cooks around the world use everything from the back of a fork to the interior of a curved cheese grater to create gentle indentations that provide a space for sauce to land.
Usually served as a first course, we’ve plumped up our bowl of gnocchi to a main course with garlicky rainbow chard - the perfect foil to their slightly sweet flavor. It’s hard to resist browning the gnocchi in butter for an added bit of richness. A generous grating of fresh parmesan cheese is the only task left before you can start enjoying this dish. With each bite, it’s a comforting surrender to autumn.
Butternut Squash Ricotta Gnocchi with Rainbow Chard
1 cup butternut squash, cooked and mashed - cooled to room temp
1 pound ricotta cheese, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, more if needed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
parmesan cheese, grated for serving
1 bunch rainbow chard, washed
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp golden raisins (optional)
1 Tbsp toasted pine nuts (optional)
In a small bowl, combine mashed squash, ricotta, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until thoroughly mixed.
On a clean counter, spread half of the flour in a small circle, creating a well in the center. Add the ricotta mixture to the well. Using a fork or your fingers, gently incorporate the flour and ricotta mixture. Add the remaining flour to start forming a shaggy looking dough. Add the egg and continue to incorporate it into the dough. Using a bench scraper or a spatula, gently knead the dough to form a disk. Allow it to rest while you prepare the chard.
Cut the larger pieces of chard stems into 1/2-inch pieces. Roughly chop the leaves. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, sauté the stems in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add leaves and season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium. Continue to cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon several times throughout. Cook until it is easily chewed, without being tough. Just before turning off the heat, add the butter and garlic. Stir until butter is completely melted. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice. (Add raisins and pine nuts if desired.)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add more flour to your work surface. Cut the dough into 4 strips. Using floured hands, gently roll the dough into 1/2 to 1-inch logs. Using a paring knife, cut each log into 1-inch pieces. Using a gnocchi board or the back of a fork, make a gentle impression in each gnocchi and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface (about 2 minutes.) Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt 1 Tbsp of butter. Add the gnocchi and lightly brown. Portion chard into pasta bowls, add gnocchi and grated parmesan.
Photo credits - Nancy Renwick Photography