Butternut squash gnocchi sautéed with pancetta (Gnocchi di zucca saltati con pancetta croccante)

Butternut squash gnocchi 3When we started our “Wandering…” series featuring region-specific food around Italy, we emailed our friends at Borgo Floreani in the heart of Friuli–Venezia Giulia for some ideas. We stayed at this lovely agriturismo in 2010. The owners, Federica & Carlo, were delightful hosts. This is a trip I will never forget.

Carlo recommended this wonderful and simple recipe for butternut squash gnocchi. It’s pretty f00lproof as gnocchi recipes go. You will be tempted to add more flour to make the dough less sticky, but DON’T! This minimal use of flour is what gives the gnocchi their very light texture.

Ingredients and Directions:

  • 1 pound of peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash (many stores sell butternut squash this way in ready-to-use packages)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • One thick slice of pancetta
  • One tablespoon of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs (such as rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme)

Special Equipment:

  • Food mill or ricer
  • Non-stick skillet
  • 1 plastic freezer bag
  • A large slotted spoon or “spider”
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Please the cubed squash in a buttered baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Make a few slits in the foil to allow some steam to escape. Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is very tender. When done, remove the squash from the oven and press it through the food mill or ricer into a bowl. Allow the squash to cool.
  2. To the bowl, add the egg, some salt and pepper, and the flour. Fold the ingredients to completely combine.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the pancetta into small cubes (about 1/4-inch square) or to whatever size you desire. Place in the non-stick skillet and slowly cook over medium-low heat until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is crispy. Add a tablespoon of butter and cook, letting the butter froth up.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Reduce temperature so the water is gently boiling.
  5. Get ready to drop the gnoochi dough into the boiling water. The individual gnoccho can be made in several different ways:
    • Using a teaspoon and butter knife, take a spoonful of the dough and scrape it into the hot water with the knife. Repeat.
    • Put all the dough in a plastic freezer bag. Snip off one of the lower corners to make a piping bag and squeeze out the dough into the water using a knife to separate each gnoccho.
    • Or with either of these techniques, put the dough in the freezer for a little while to firm it up. But it will go from firm to frozen fast to keep an eye on it. You can always let it defrost if you go too far.
  6. Boil the gnocchi until they float to the top and then cook for 2 more minutes. Remove using the spider or slotted spoon, allowing the excess water to fall away. Please them in the hot pancetta-and-butter mixture.
  7. Saute and toss the gnocchi until the gnocchi begin to brown.
  8. Serve in warmed bowls and top with the chopped herbs.

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