16 December, 2012

Butternut Squash Gnocchi in Saffron Cream Sauce, Crispy Pancetta & Crumbled Pecans

I've been on quite the butternut squash kick lately.  

I've used it in lasagna, quinoa, and now gnocchi. 
(and to be honest- several other recipes I haven't listed here, I can't list everything! :)

I wanted the gnocchi to be light and fluffy.  Nothing is worse than a dense, heavy plump of gnocchi.  So I added a good amount of parmigiana cheese, and as little flour as possible. 
**Note that this is a two-step recipe, requiring time to freeze the gnocchi. (This is due to them being light and fluffy, they would fall apart in a pot of boiling water without being frozen first.)

I notice everything butternut squash-related is served in a brown butter sage sauce, which sounds absolutely delicious.  But I wanted to do something different.  I came up with a decadent saffron cream sauce that gets soaked into the little gnocchis, and garnished it with pancetta for a little complementary fat, and crumbled pecans for added crunch.
It's just to die for.  

Be careful on cooking times- do NOT make the mistake I did and walk away from the boiling gnocchi.  I overcooked mine by just a minute or so.  The trick is to have the saffron cream sauce, pancetta, and pecans ready when the gnocchi is cooking.  

Butternut Squash Gnocchi in 
Saffron Cream Sauce with Crispy Pancetta 
and Crumbled Pecans

Step one- make the gnocchi

1 butternut squash, halved, seeds removed 
2 eggs
1 cup freshly grated parmigiana cheese
1 cup all purpose flour
1 generous tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Roast squash for 40 minutes, or until soft and tender. Let cool completely.

2. Peel skin from squash.  Place squash into a large mixing bowl, and mix until very soft.  You can use a food processor too.

3. Add the eggs and salt, mix thoroughly.  Add in the flour and blend.  The dough will be soft and pretty sticky.  Cover and refrigerate dough for at least a half hour, it will be easier to handle.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Take dough out of fridge.  It will still be very sticky and hard to manage.  Form nickel sized balls (or dollops I should say, it is impossible to form the dough into a ball right now).  Place on baking sheet.  You can keep them very close together, they will not be actually baking on these sheets.  Once all are formed into little dollops, place in freezer.  Freeze for about a half hour.

5. Remove from freezer.  NOW you can shape them much easier!  Form into ovals. You can press a fork into the batter at this point to give them some nice ridges. Return to freezer.

These will keep in the freezer for up to a month.  Just remove the gnocchis from baking sheet and store in ziploc bags.  

Step two- prepare the meal.

Frozen gnocchi
6 thin slices pancetta 
1/2 cup toasted pecans
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Saffron Cream Sauce:
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 shallots, minced
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp saffron threads 

Cook pancetta.  In a large skillet, heat a small drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the pancetta, and cook until it starts to crisp.  Flip, and cook until pancetta rounds are nice and crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Make saffron cream sauce. In another large skillet, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots, and saute until starting to soften.  Deglaze the pan with white wine, and let cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the heavy cream and saffron threads. Bring to a light simmer.  Turn heat down to med low while you boil the gnocchi.

Boil the gnocchi.  Have a slotted spoon and a colander ready. Fill a saucepot with water.  Bring to a boil, and once boiling add the gnocchi.  They will only take a minute or two to cook.  They are done the very second they float to the top of the pan.  With the slotted spoon, carefully remove the done gnocchi to a colander. 

Assemble and eat!  Portion the gnocchi on plates, drizzle with saffron cream sauce, crumble toasted pecans over top, and garnish with crispy pancetta rounds.  Serve with fresh grated parmigiana. Enjoy!

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