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BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND MASCARPONE GNOCCHI

March 9, 2012 10:31 pm 0 comments

Butternut Squash and Mascarpone Gnocchi is an excellent Italian dish made with a combination of butternut squash, mascarpone cheese spiced with fresh ground black pepper and salt cooked into small soft delicious dumpling and fried to a crusted brown exterior. This dish is remarkably delicious and luscious served as entrée or appetizer.

This is a simple, classic, surprisingly tasty and easy to make dish. It has very simple, subtle and delicate flavors. Made with butternut squash and mascarpone cheese, the dish gives a refreshing, crispy and exotic taste to the palate. It looks attractive, golden in color, crispy exterior and soft and creamy inside.

Butternut Squash comes from the gourd family and is a popular winter squash that is pear shaped pale orange in color with a hard thick skin and soft bright orange flesh. It taste sweet and is quite similar to pumpkin. Butternut Squash is also commonly known as Butternut pumpkin or Sweet Pumpkin in English, Kalyana Poosannikai in Tamil, Thiyya Gummadikaya in Telugu, Kaddu in Hindi, Seegumbalakayi in Kannada and Mathanga in Malayalam.

Due to its sweet, rich and nutty flavors, squashes are amongst the most versatile of vegetables and ideal in many preparations. It can be roasted, toasted and also be puréed (to make a butternut squash soup) or mashed into soups, casseroles, breads, and muffins. Grilled butternut is normally either seasoned with spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon or the de-seeded centre stuffed with other vegetables for example Spinach and Feta before wrapped in foil and then grilled. The grilled butternut is often served as a side dish to brais (barbecues) and the soup as a starter dish.

If you are tired of eating the regular stuff like noodles, pastas, Manchurian, pakoras etc, Butternut Squash and Mascarpone Gnocchi makes an excellent dish to delight on. Gnocchi are thick, soft dumplings traditionally made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, flour and egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs or similar ingredients. Like many Italian dishes, there is considerable variation in recipes and names across different regions.

Gnocchi are eaten as a first course (primi piatti), alternatives to soups (minestre), or pasta. They are generally home-made in Italian households. They may also be bought fresh from specialty stores. In supermarkets, industrially-produced packaged gnocchi are widely available refrigerated, dried, or frozen. Common accompaniments of gnocchi include tomato sauces, pesto, and melted butter (sometimes fried butter) with cheese.

Mascarpone is another vital ingredient in this dish, rich in taste and flavor; is milky-white in color and is easily spread. It is used in various dishes of the Lombardy region of Italy, where it is a specialty. It is a main ingredient of modern Tiramisu and sometimes used instead of butter or Parmesan cheese to thicken and enrich risotto.

Generally people don’t like gnocchi, which is the actual traditional, potato-dough style dumplings, and not the much easier and lighter, cheese-based versions, like this one featuring butternut squash and mascarpone cheese. Traditional potato gnocchi are too often dense, gummy nuggets of disappointment. However, as temperamental as the classic recipe is, these cheesier, low-starch versions are really quite simple.

To prepare this incredible Butternut squash and mascarpone Gnocchi, firstly wash and dry the butternut squash. Cut off both ends and slice the squash in half long ways. Microwave the butternut squash until tender. This would take about 8 to 10 mins. You can also roast the butternut instead. Remove and let the squash cool for some time before scooping out the pulp. Remove the skin and place the pulp aside.

Roasting butternut squash also happens to be extremely simple. The Roasted butternut squash brings a whole new level of flavor to the butternut squash caramelizing it adding a musky sweetness to the squash. You can use the roasted butternut squash to make a butternut puree to use in soups, breads, and desserts. Freeze the puree in recipe-sized servings for ease of use.

In a large bowl, add 1 cup mascarpone cheese (very rich Italian cheese), 1 ½ tsp salt to taste, black pepper, 2 large eggs, ½ cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and combine all the ingredients with a whisker. Whisk until smooth. To this add 2 cups cooked butternut squash pulp and mix well. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour and mix. It gives the batter a very soft, light dumpling. Once your mixture is done, wrap the bowl with a plastic sheet and refrigerate overnight until firm.

Simultaneously place a stock pot with salted water to boil and on the other side heat a non-stick pan and melt 1 stick unsalted butter. Take a spoon of the mixture and push it into the salted water. You can put about 10 dumplings at a time. Cook in batches. Once done, simply fish them out of the boiling water, draining well, place on a plastic wrapped sheet pan to cool. Then fry these soft dumplings in the melted butter.  You can follow the spoon-boil-fry-method, or you can do the spoon-boil part ahead of time, and then fry in the sage butter when ready.

Fry all the dumplings until golden brown and crispy on the outer side. Season the fried dumplings with salt, cayenne and pepper to taste. Finally add sliced sage leaves and toss well. Serve hot slightly pouring the browned butter and grated cheese over them.

Tip: Gnocchi-making takes practice, patience, and persistence. At their best, gnocchi can be light and delicate. At their worst, they get dense, rubbery, and/or soggy. The very worst are the gnocchi that come apart in the boiling water before they even reach your plate.

Butternut squash is a good source of an array of vitamins and minerals. It is a stand-out in providing vitamin A, a vitamin associated with the deep orange color of the butternut squash. It is also a good source of magnesium, calcium, iron, and B vitamins.

Either way, prepare your palate for some incredibly light, tender, and delicious gnocchi. You can use them for a first course, or as a very special side dish to some roasted meat. I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy Cooking!

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