My first attempt at gnocchi was good but frustrating. It took forever to make and I ran out of time and ended up freezing the majority of the dough thinking that I would defrost it and form the gnocchi as I wanted it. Wrong. A year later, I finally pitching the freezer burnt gnocchi dough..... not good. I was so frustrated by the sticky, time consuming process that I didn't take the care I should have on the sauce, and it ended up overpowering the delicate flavors of the gnocchi.
So, since I successfully grew two beautiful Marina di Chioggia squash in my garden this year I decided to try again. The occasion is my Mom's birthday dinner. I'm hosting a family dinner for her next weekend, and I'm planning an elaborate menu (what better do I have to do on these cold winter days?) I knew that making gnocchi would be a time consuming endeavor so I decided to make it and freeze it (formed, but uncooked) the weekend before. All I'll have to do on the night of the dinner is dump the frozen gnocchi into boiling water and let it cook.
This is the larger of the two I grew. It's not as warty as other Marina di Chioggias I've seen, but it is nicely formed and very heavy. I harvested it in early October and it's been sitting on the kitchen table ripening and looking pretty ever since. These squash are great keepers and turn from a dark dark green to a orangey purpley color as they ripen.
The inside held an extremely firm flesh with a beautiful deep orange color. Just the way it should look! I'm always a bit amazed that something I grew could turns out so perfect. It doesn't always happen, but the times that it does make it all worth it.
The seeds and stringy innards went to the chickens who made short work of them. I drizzled a little local sunflower oil on the quarters and roasted them at about 375 degrees. Normally I would roast squash like this with the flesh down to try and keep as much moisture in as possible, but in this case I wanted them to dry out to make the gnocchi dough more manageable.
Along with the squash I baked these three local potatoes.
The potatoes took a little longer than the squash, but after an hour or so everything was nice and tender.
I peeled the vegetables and pureed them in the food processor, which gave me this nice creamy puree.
Here's where things started to get sticky. I added 2 eggs and seasoned the squash puree lightly with white pepper and fresh nutmeg and then started adding flour. I remember this part well from my last gnocchi experience - the dough is STICKY! I was more prepared this time and I managed to keep things relatively under control, although my hands were way too coated with dough to take any pictures. The key, I found was to coat everything that the dough would touch in flour - my hands, the board, the bowl - everything.
After adding a lot of flour, I ended up with a sticky dough that I could roll into ropes, like shown. I covered my hands and the board with flour and carefully separated a piece of dough from the large mass, then rolled it into a rope, cut that rope in half and rolled that, cut that in half and rolled that until I ended up with a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter.
Usually, you would use a fork and press a pattern onto the gnocchi. I have a really good Italian cookbook that makes no mention of this step, so I decided it would be acceptable to skip it. I ended up with these nice plump little pieces.
I didn't want them to freeze into one big lump, so I layed them out in a single layer on a cookie sheets and put them in my chest freezer for a half hour to start freezing. Then they went into freezer bags and back into the freezer. I didn't have either the pans or the freezer space to do this in one batch, so I ended up rolling and freezing it in 3 large batches. The whole process took about 4 hours and I ended up with 6 quart bags full of really nice looking gnocchi and a sore back from hunching over the pastry board. 6 quarts is way more than what I'll need for next week's dinner and will be the basis of many easy weeknight dinners to come.
Here's the recipe. Pictures of the finished cooked gnocchi will be in the next post that covers the rest of Saturday's feast!
Marina di Chioggia Gnocchi
1 Medium Marina di Chioggia Squash
3 Russet Potatoes
Nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
4 cups of flour or more
Preheat oven to 375. Cut the squash open and remove the seeds. Drizzle with oil and roast squash side up until tender (about 45 minutes to an hour.) In the same oven, bake the potatoes whole until tender. Chances are the potatoes will take longer than the squash. Let the squash and potatoes cool. When they are mostly cool, peel them and puree them together in a food processor until very smooth. Transfer the puree to a large mixing bowl and add the eggs and seasonings. Season this lightly - you don't want to drown out the flavor of the squash!
Start adding flour a little at a time until you have a less sticky dough. I recommend starting the mixing with a spoon and then dumping it out onto a floured board and using your hands when it gets too sticky. When the dough is manageable, start rolling the gnocchi.
On a well floured board, roll a chunk of the dough into a sausage shape. Cut it in half and roll one of the halves. Repeat until you have a rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut this rope into 1/2 - 1 inch sections and put them onto a floured cookie sheet. Repeat this rolling until all the dough is gone.
To cook, dump the gnocchi into boiling salted water. It will sink to the bottom at first, but after a few minutes will float to the top. Wait 30 seconds after it starts to float, then drain and serve. To freeze, lay uncooked gnocchi on a floured cookie sheet in a single layer and put in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Take out of the freezer, put in freezer bags, and freeze.
share on: Facebook