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squash gnocchi with ragu sauce

gus | Sep 30, 200504:45 AM

It was cold and rainy yesterday, and this dish (from Saveur) called to me ... I had half a Hokkaido squash in my refrigerator and some ground beef thawed, so it worked out very well.

Hokkaido is an excellent squash to use in this dish. It only takes about 30-45 min to bake in the oven, and when it is scooped out and mashed gently, it has the very starchy texture of potatoes and the delicate flavor of chestnuts. The gnocchi dough is 1 small roasted squash, 2 eggs, 1 c flour, and a pinch of salt. Very easy and good texture.

Sauce involves browning beef and cooking tomatoes & onion separately, so the fat from meat doesn't get absorbed in the sauce. Recipe suggests 1/2 lb each of pork and beef but I used only beef. No herbs! I had to add a 1/2 tsp fennel seeds to the tomatoes and onion (it just isn't tomato sauce without fennel seeds -- and find it helps in digesting ground beef).

To sum it up -- the flavors are delicious together, the sweet gnocchi (sweeter than potato gnocchi) against the salty meat and acidic tomato sauce. When you taste the sauce separately, it tastes quite sour, but I left it so to complement the meat and gnocchi.

Now I need help on my gnocchi technique. The recipe calls for merely dropping spoonfuls of batter into the water, but I found them large and a little too chewy. Next time I'll try putting them through my spaetzle maker (I prefer them small, I think). I also browned a few in butter and that helped with the texture, too. Any hints regarding size and shape for these kind of dumplings or gnocchi?

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