Potato Gnocchi With Roasted Squash and Gorgonzola
I pity my cat.
Every day, he eats the same chicken kibble—crunch, crunch, chew, chew. Day in and day out, he always knows that breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served at precisely the same time... and he will receive precisely the same thing, day after day after day.
Despite the obvious luxuries of sleeping 20 hours a day, not paying rent or mortgage, and "owning" the entire universe, I could not be a cat.
I love diversity. I love a surprise.
And when cooking, I love to create contrast in the foods I serve to my friends and family. Pairing creamy with crunchy or sweet with savory is what makes food interesting and enjoyable. Even the lowly scoop of vanilla ice cream is elevated (no pun intended) when placed atop a crisp waffle cone.
Last evening, I experimented on my family and found a serendipitous combination of sweet and savory, creamy and crunchy that they raved about.
- 1 butternut squash, small
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pkg. potato gnocchi, 500 grams (17.6 oz.)
- 1 1/4 cups half and half
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, ground
- 1 cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
- 3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
- grated parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
- Peel, seed, and dice (about 1/2-inch) squash—enough to make about 2 cups. Heat butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the squash in a single layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and well browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same saute pan, bring the half-and-half to a simmer over low heat. Add the nutmeg and Gorgonzola and stir until the cheese begins to melt.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium-high heat. Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and add to the half and half/Gorgonzola mixture in the saute pan. Stir to coat.
- Add the cooked diced squash and stir gently until all of the gnocchi and squash are coated with sauce and are heated through.
- Garnish with walnuts and Parmesan cheese.
A Few Words About the Ingredients
How to Prepare a Squash (and Not Risk a Trip to the Emergency Room)
Butternut squash can be rather intimidating, especially to the novice cook. They don't hold still (they are round, hard, and can squirm like a two-year-old). And, they are full of seeds that need to be removed—but how do you get to those seeds without risking the loss of a digit?
I have one word for you—MICROWAVE. You can use your microwave oven to soften a winter squash just enough to make it easier to cut, open, and prepare for cooking.
They're Not All Alike
Blue cheese has a distinctive, pungent taste, but not all blue cheeses are created equal. The most popular blue cheeses are Cambozola, Gorgonzola, Maytag Blue, Roquefort, and Stilton.
- Cambozola is a German cheese. Unlike other blues, it is creamy and has a much milder flavor. If you are a blue cheese newbie, this might be a good one for you to start with.
- Gorgonzola is the blue cheese of Italy. Italian-made Gorgonzolas (Gorgonzola dolce) are creamy and mild; domestic versions made in the United States are sharper and more crumbly.
- Maytag Blue is an American blue cheese—it is quite crumbly and pungent.
- Roquefort is a French sheep's-milk cheese and is considered to be one of the finest of the blue cheeses.
- Stilton is made in England. It's firmer and milder than Roquefort or Gorgonzola.
Petite Pillows of Potato Perfection
Do you know gnocchi? According to the American Heritage Dictionary (and Wikipedia) gnocchi (N'YO-kee) are "...small dumplings made from semolina flour, bread, or potato." Oh my—what an uninspiring definition of such a heavenly creation. Although cooked and mashed russet potatoes are typically the primary ingredient, they do not taste like mashed potatoes. Gnocchi, if made properly, is more firm than mashed potatoes, but softer than pasta. They are soft and pillowy.
What Makes This Recipe Work?
- Butternut squash sauteed in butter becomes creamy, sweet, and caramelized. But it is more than just a pretty face; butternut is full of fiber and beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, and potassium.
- Pre-packaged gnocchi cooks quickly.
- Nutmeg is a spice commonly paired with creamy sauces; it lends a sweet heat elusive flavor that enhances the final dish.
- Gorgonzola is distinctive—creamy, funky deliciousness.
- Hazelnuts are uniquely sweet and provide a contrasting crunch.
- Parmesan cheese on top...why not? Salty cheesy goodness in every bite.
© 2013 Linda Lum