Open my food cupboard at any given time of year and you are guaranteed to find it stocked with a predictable panoply of canned goods. All of them lined up in date rotation, with their labels facing forward… yes, a that is little too much like Julia Roberts’ character in Sleeping with the Enemy (I love, and am terrified, by that movie in equal measure) and a mere 50% of said cans will be Italian whole plum tomatoes. They are just so useful as they offer the promise of dinner in so many ways, what with everything from soup, to curry, to a pasta sauce, baked eggs even and being cooked already, it means that dinner can be ushered forth at pace. However, I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to mix it up from time to time and leave those tommies lined up like soldiers in my cupboard for a day when I need predictability to soothe my soul. Enter my Sage & Onion Butternut Squash Gnocchi.
A brilliant recipe to have up your sleeve, the sauce and the gnocchi freeze extremely well so can be made ahead – indeed, make a double batch as it’s so delicious, you’ll be sad if there are no leftovers for lunch the next day! Make your colleagues envious by bringing a tupperware pot full of homemade gnocchi to work tomorrow. Another way to eat this that I highly encourage is to stir some shredded roast chicken leftover over from your roast dinner the night before, into the squash sauce and serve over spaghetti. Oh my. Now that is another level of delicious altogether.
Sage & onion is a British institution, thanks to a packet mix stuffing called Paxo. It is one of those ingredients which divides the nation into love or loathe camps but regardless, the flavour combination is a winner every time. I’m a big advocate of using dried herbs without shame and I’m sure real, everyday home cooks agree with me. Dried herbs aren’t talked about enough, it’s like they are a dirty little secret to be hidden away, gathering dust in the cupboards of 1980s housewives! (I say that having cleared out some dried herbs with the half pence sign on from Step Mum’s spice rack a few years back – she still gets teased mercilessly about that 😉 ). Nonethelss, sage is a very powerful herb when fresh and can overpower the delicate sweet flesh of butternut squash. It can even be soapy if sprinkled on as a garnish rather than cooking it into a dish so using it dried gives all that musky, woody flavour which is often also described as tasting a little like pine with minty undertones, as it is a member of the same family as common or garden mint. A complex little herb well worth adding to your repertoire. And actually, a classic paring with squash in Italian cooking.
So next time you fancy a change from tomato and basil, why not try these Sage & Onion Butternut Gnocchi? Do try my ricotta gnocchi – they are delicate little cheesy pillows, a perfect partner for that silky smooth squash.
- 600g peeled and deseeded butternut squash
- 2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- Large knob of butter (about 2 tsp should do but more is fine!)
- A little drizzle of olive oil
- 1 rounded tsp of dried sage
- 400ml vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper to season
- Parmesan, to finish
- A batch of my ricotta gnocchi (link in notes)
- Cut the squash into 2 inch chunks and place in a large, preferably shallow microwave safe bowl so they lay in one layer. Add 1 tbsp of water and cover with cling.
- Microwave on high for 10-12 minutes until soft, stirring half way through to redistribute the chunks of squash so they cook evenly.
- When soft, remove the cling, drain away excess liquid and mash with a fork before putting to one side.
- Place a saucepan on medium heat and melt the butter with a drizzle of oil to prevent it burning. Add the onions and celery, cooking until soft and translucent, not browned.
- Add the garlic and sage and cook for 1 minute to release their aroma before adding in the mashed squash.
- Give it a good beating with your spoon or spatula and then blitz with an immersion blender to purée, pouring in as much stock as you want. I like this quite thick and with a bit of texture to it.
- Leave on a low heat as you bring a vast pot of water to the boil, drop in your gnocchi and cook for barely 2 minutes until they float. Drain well and add to the sauce before serving.
- Both the sauce and gnocchi freeze beautifully (you can cook gnocchi from frozen, whether store bought or homemade, they just take an extra minute or two).