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Butternut Squash Gnudi with Sage Butter

The Italian name for these light, fluffy dumplings translates to “nude” in English because they resemble the filling of ravioli without the pasta wrapper. Enjoy this dish on its own, or serve with roast chicken and an Italian red wine for a warming meal when the weather turns cold.

This recipe calls for clarified butter: In a fry pan over low heat, melt the butter. When it stops sizzling and the solids begin to separate and rise to the surface, skim off and discard the solids. Watch carefully to prevent the butter from getting too dark. Pass the clarified butter through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter to extract any remaining solids.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 1 butternut squash, about 3 lb.
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, clarified
  • 10 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 450ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the surface lightly with olive oil.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and place the halves, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp paring knife, poke the skin of each half in a few places to create steam vents. Bake until the halves have begun to collapse and are thoroughly tender when pierced with the knife, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and, when the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out and discard the seeds and fibers. Using a large spoon, scoop out the flesh and pass it through a ricer or food mill set over a bowl, or place the flesh in a bowl and mash with a potato masher until smooth. (The squash puree can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before continuing.)

Add the eggs, nutmeg, sea salt and several grinds of white pepper to the squash and mix well. Slowly resift the flour into the squash mixture while stirring with a wooden spoon and continue to stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. The mixture will be very soft but cohesive enough to form gnudi.

In a large pot over high heat, bring 5 quarts water to a rapid boil.

Put the clarified butter in a large fry pan, set over medium-low heat and add the sage. Heat until the butter is infused with the flavor of the sage, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Add the kosher salt to the boiling water. To form the gnudi, use a teaspoon to scoop up a generous spoonful of the dough. Use a second teaspoon to scoop under the dough, transferring it to the second spoon. Use the first spoon to scoop under the dough, transferring it back to the first spoon. Repeat several times, transferring the dough back and forth between the spoons until the dough forms a dumpling that holds its shape.

Drop the dumplings into the boiling water, cooking as many gnudi as you can right away without breaking the boil; adjust the heat as needed to prevent the gnudi from knocking against one another and breaking. When the gnudi rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer them to the frying pan with the sage butter. Repeat until all of the gnudi are cooked. Turn the gnudi in the butter to coat evenly, then transfer them to a warmed platter or individual plates. Serve immediately and pass the cheese at the table. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book, by Julia della Croce (Weldon Owen, 2010).