Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far


I still remember the first great meal that I made for my husband. It was on a cold, wet, October Saturday - a day suitable for only a few activities: cleaning, slow cooking and, from Mike's perspective, watching college football. I had scoured through my cookbook collection to find just the right recipe for the day, considering and then rejecting beef stews, pork chili and long braised lamb shanks. The recipe that finally piqued my interest was from The Tribeca Grill Cookbook: Beet Gnocchi with Oxtails and Horseradish Sauce.

Although we'd been dating only a short while, I was fully aware of Mike's unquenchable love of gnocchi. He had grown up in an Italian neighborhood on Chicago's south side and would wax poetically about the virtues of the little boiled dumpling. I knew that it was likely that any potato gnocchi I made would pale in comparison to those in his memory. An untraditional recipe that didn't have to stand up to the past was ideal.

The Tribeca Grill recipe spanned four pages, involving 16 steps, at least 3 of which took an hour or longer. I started mid-morning and still I'm pretty sure that ate at 10:30pm, both of us starving and a little soused, having started the wine a few hours earlier. Good thing that the result was worth waiting for. The rich, beefy oxtails complimented the earthy beet-iness of the gnocchi. The horseradish cream was a velvety, piquant touch that almost gilded the lily. Mike speaks wistfully of that meal to this day and I feel quite certain that the beet gnocchi was the catalyst for his proposal to me only 2 months later, merely six months after we met.

Given our history with the gnocchi, it makes perfect sense that Thor would share his father's obsession. He too orders it whenever he sees it on a menu. But it wasn't until last week that I found Thor's beet gnocchi. Fortunately, this recipe takes substantially less time to make and Thor can help with most of the recipe's steps.

Delicata Squash

The delicata squash, also known as the sweet potato squash, is relatively small, about 6 to 8 inches in length. The flesh is yellowish and drier than pumpkin or butternut squash, which makes it ideal for gnocchi.

Delicata Squash Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce
6 Servings

1 delicata squash, roasted until tender
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sage leaves
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Mash the squash in a medium bowl. Mix in the ricotta, parmesan, egg, flour and salt and stir until combined. If the mixture is very wet, add more flour a little at a time.


Lightly knead the dough on a floured board. It will be moist. Return to a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and refrigerate for an hour.


Roll chunks of the dough with your hands on a floured board into ropes 1-inch thick. Cut into 1-inch pieces and set on a silpat, wax or parchment paper lined baking sheet.


Heat the butter over low heat in a small skillet. Add the garlic and sage and cook slowly until the butter is browned and smells nutty. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook until they rise to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large skillet. Strain the butter over the top and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Sprinkle parmesan cheese and coarse sea salt over the gnocchi and divide evenly into 6 bowls. Sprinkle chopped sage on top. Serve immediately.

Any unused gnocchi can be frozen.

Kids' Cooking Tips
Kids can mash the squash, mix and knead the dough, roll and cut the gnocchi.

Delicata squash from Genesis Growers
Sarvecchio parmesan
Eggs from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm
Butter from Organic Valley
Garlic from Growing Home
Sage from my garden


  1. I just posted about my husband's anniversary pasta -- which thankfully is just a simple penne alla vodka. Though your beet gnocchi does sound fabulous!

  2. Colleen,

    I've never made the beet gnocchi again - I'm a bit afraid to as I don't think it will stand up to our memory. I've got the book next to me. Perhaps if I find some oxtails at the market. Though, these days, I'm not so hep to make 12 hour labor intensive recipes.


  3. Hmmmm ... beet gnocchi. I think I'm being deprived. The Little Locavore would definitely like beet gnocchi - his favorite color is red!


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