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Butternut squash gnocchi with sausage and sage

A familiar comfort dish in a new place to call home.

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We haven’t yet managed to find the time to pass an entire weekend making sausage or even make any mince pies for Christmas, and perhaps compared to some of our earlier exploits, this recipe may seem tame, but some handmade butternut squash gnocchi made mid-week offered a reassuring return to the old groove that we’re excited to be back in. Beyond that, the fascinating challenge of planning, redeveloping and paying for the kitchen we have yearned for the majority of our adult lives looms on the horizon. It’ll take us a while, but the enormous advantage of owning rather then renting is that any investment we make will be solely for our benefit, constituting a paradigm shift from a combined forty years of feathering the nests of neglectful and rapacious landlords since we last inhabited a place we called home.

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Amy and Jonny Seponara-Sills (Amy’s American, Jonny’s English) run the food blog We Are Never Full. Through recipes, anecdotes and podcasts, it chronicles their borderline obsession with food from meals made at home to travels studiously built around the search for authentic regional and national dishes from all over the world.

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Butternut Squash Ricotta Gnocchi with Sweet Sausage and Sage (serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash 

1 large floury potato, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks

1 x 16-ounce tub whole milk ricotta

1-2 large eggs

1+ cups plain flour

1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

2-4 links sweet Italian sausage

1/2 glass dry white wine (optional)

6-10 sage leaves

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons)

unsalted butter

freshly ground black pepper

crumbled goat cheese (we had one flavored with honey, but any regular soft goat cheese will be fine)

Recipe:

 1 large butternut squash, cut into 2 inch cubes and roasted at 350 degrees F. until very soft and toasty looking, about 25 minutes.

When cool, scrape squash flesh off skin into a bowl and reserve.In plenty of boiling water, boil the potato chunks and cook until soft and mashable.

Remove potato from water, and allow to cool enough for handling. Then using the large side of a box grater, grate potato onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, place grated potato, squash flesh, 1 egg, 1/2 tub of ricotta and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Combine into a wet mixture and begin adding flour. Depending on the squash, the potato and the amount of liquid in your ricotta, you’ll need more or less flour to bring it together into a dough that resembles cookie dough in texture – soft but holding together and not wet.

Then on a well floured cutting board, cut dough into chunks and roll each chunk into a long sausage about the width of your thickest finger. Cut inch long gnocchi from the dough sausage and transfer to a floured cookie sheet, sprinkling gnocchi with flour. Continue until all dough is used up.

Allow them to set up for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, empty your Italian sausage out of its casing into a separate bowl and combine with the white wine. Mash it all together with your fingers until sausage starts to be less sticky.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the unsalted butter and add sausage. Cook, prodding carefully with a spatula to separate sausage to resemble ground/minced beef, until nicely browned and crispy on the outside, and has rendered plenty of delicious fat.

With a slotted spoon, remove crumbled sausage to a plate and add one more tablespoon of butter to the pan and allow to brown gently. Add sage leaves and cook until softened and aromatic.

In a large pot, bring plenty of salted water to the boil, and cook your gnocchi until they all float to the surface, 1-4 minutes depending on how many you cook at once.

Return the sausage to the saucepan with butter and sage, and add one ladle of gnocchi water. Increase heat on saucepan and with a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi into saucepan.Toss in the final two tablespoons of butter. Coat gnocchi well with sauce and when satisfied, kill heat, and season robustly with black pepper.

Serve immediately sprinkled liberally with crumbled goat cheese.

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