Amazing Gnocchi in Acorn Squash

I studied abroad in Rome during the summer of 2006, and while I was there, I had a very…European class schedule. I took Italian from 9-12 and history from 4-6, leaving me a very nice chunk in the middle of the day for wandering, eating and siesta-ing. True story – it took me the rest of the summer to break my afternoon nap habit. Those Europeans, they have the right idea.

Lunch was sometimes pizza from a local pizzeria with my classmates, but on days where I just needed to get in the kitchen, one of my staple dishes was gnocchi in a white wine sauce. Super simple – just sauteed onion and and garlic and white wine with a little butter, gnocchi and a bit of cheese, but filling and refreshing. And fast enough that I had plenty of time for a nap.

I make the gnocchi year round, but during the two weeks of squashness early in our marriage I found a way to add some fall to this summer meal. I kept the same recipe for the gnocchi, but placed the finished dish inside the hollow of a cooked acorn squash. It gets in a vegetable serving, creates a great presentation and is just a fun way to eat the dish.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb of gnocchi, any variety
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, minced (Yes, I use a whole head. No, you don’t have to.)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 T dried basil or 20 leave fresh, chopped basil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 acorn squash, split and cleaned
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking:

  1. Place your acorn squash on a baking sheet – drizzle with 1 T of oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Bake at 450 degree for 30-45 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.
  2. When the squash is about 10 minutes from being done, put the water on for the gnocchi.
  3. While the water is coming up to a boil, heat a skillet over medium high heat and add remaining oil. Saute onion 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and saute 1 – 2 minutes more, until softened. Add wine, scraping up bits on the bottom of the pan. Let reduce by half. Add basil and salt/pepper to taste.
  4. Once it boils, add gnocchi. At this point, the gnocchi will only need about 3 minutes to cook – once one floats to the top of the water, they’re done. Scoop them out and add to the sauce.
  5. Cook gnocchi in sauce for another minutes or so, then add butter and allow to melt into sauce.
  6. Scoop gnocchi into cooked squash, top with your favorite cheese (we love this with fresh parmesan, goat cheese and blue cheese) and enjoy!

Splendid Butternut Squash Soup

I’m sure this recipe was inspired by someone, somewhere, but I’ve honestly been making it for so long that I couldn’t tell you where. The first winter David and I were married, we lived right by a local place called Horrocks that sells incredible produce for a great price. Kind of like an indoor farmer’s market, it was right down the road from our first apartment, and I bought a LOT of our veggies there. The problem (that still continues to be a ‘problem’ for me, let’s be real) was discerning how to only cook/buy food for two people. Case in point – for a few weeks that winter, all squash varieties were on sale for 19 cents a pound. 19 cents!!! Are you joking???? I bought a ton. A TON. Of squash. We had squash, I kid you not, every night for two weeks, until David finally begged me to find a new vegetable. But this soup is one of the creations that came out of it, and I continue to get compliments. The key, I tell everyone, is in the apples – it adds the perfect amount of sweetness. This is great side dish or is hearty enough for a meal on its own.

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed with seeds removed
  • 1-2 apples, cored and cubed (You can peel if you want, but you don’t have to – also, the number depends on how sweet your want your soup.)
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T thyme
  • 1 T rosemary
  • 1 T herbes de provence or basil
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t cardamom
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 t curry (Optional – I like it, but that’s me.)
  • 1 t brown sugar (Again, I prefer just the sweetness of the apple, but it’s up to taste.)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 box chicken stock

Get cooking:

You can do this two ways:

1. Combine everything but the stock on a baking sheet, mix well, and roast at 450 under squash is tender. Boil chicken stock, add roasted veggies and puree with immersion blender until smooth. Heat until bubbling and serve. (I like it topped with goat or blue cheese, but again, just me.)

2. Saute squash, apples, onion and garlic in oil for 5-10 minutes (you’ll want to make sure you chop them smaller for this), add spices and stock and then boil until everything is tender – blend and serve like above.

Gnocchi in a white wine sauce

I have quite a few “go to” meals under my belt for those nights where I don’t want to think – I just want the pasta to boil and be done with it already. Yes, even I have those nights. But those nights don’t mean I want to run through the fast food line either. So, this dish is a great way to mend the gap – the sauce cooks uber fast, it works both in the summer and the winter and everywhere in between and it is yummy and comforting.

Gnocchi, if you’ve never had it, is like a baby potato dumpling / pasta mix. Warm and chewy and yummy. I’ve found though, that people either love them – me and the hubs and Mom – or hate them – Colie. So, if you know you’re not a fan, you can use any kind of pasta with this sauce.

I do this a few ways – if I’m feeling really dressy, I’ll serve with a roasted, bone in, skin on chicken breast and a roasted acorn squash (serving the gnocchi inside of the hollowed squash.) This is a very classy, warm winter meal. Other times, I may cook boneless skinless chicken breasts in the pan first and serve with roasted green beans or broccoli. If I’m feeling really lazy, I’ll shred a pre-cooked roasted chicken or with no meat and a salad. It’s a really versatile dish that’s heavy enough for a meal but also light enough in flavor that it serves as a nice side too.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb gnocchi (or other short pasta)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 t oregeno
  • 1 T butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking:

  1. Put a pot of water on to boil. While that’s working, if you are cooking chicken, make it in the same pan as the sauce. Then warm up the pan to medium high-ish, add oil and let it warm up. Add the onion and saute until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add in garlic and saute one minute more. Add wine to the pan and scrape up the bits (if any) on the bottom of the pan.  Let reduce by 1/3-1/2. Add juice and zest of lemon, spices and butter.
  2. At some point in here, the water will have boiled and you’ll add the pasta. Gnocchi only takes about three minutes to cook, and you know it’s done when it floats to the top of the pan. Once that happens (or when the pasta is done) drain and add directly to the sauce.
  3. That’s it! Mix to combine and serve with whatever sides (or no sides) sound good to you that night. If you want more “heft” to the sauce, you can add chicken stock after you add the wine and let it reduce together.  Also, I top with Parmesan cheese, just for a little more flavor – you can use whatever you like.

Lamb bolognese and Spaghetti squash

So here I was, all set to shoot you an enchilada recipe, and I got distracted by one of the best things to ever come out of my kitchen. Not kidding – it was not the day to decide to cut down my portion sizes in order to combat the 5 pounds that have mysteriously appeared on my stomach.

And can I just digress for a second? Ok so I eat petty well – half a plate of veggies, small plates, etc. I’m not perfect – we all know I have a bread obsession – but to combat that, I’m also at the gym 4 times a week for an average of 45 minutes. I have not changed a thing in a while, but all of a sudden, this five pounds seems to think it has a new home, and I’m all “Listen buddy, I have a trip to San Diego in 3 weeks and I WILL be in my bikini because it WILL BE at least 75 the whole time I’m there and I don’t want to look like a fool.” So I decided to go “low carb” – which is probably a normal amount for everyone else, but you know – and I freaking made the BEST THING EVER. AND it’s low carb. I know. I was shocked as all get out too.

So this dish sprung from an EPIC weekend of funness a couple of weeks ago where I 1. saw TWO movies in the THEATER. They tell me this is normal for most people but up until last weekend kids, I hadn’t been to one in almost a year. Why spend the money when I can sit at home in my jammies with a glass of wine and the pause button? When I can see Christina Aguilera shake her booty and Bruce Willis blow crap up for a mere $4 on the big screen, that’s when. So we’re out with friends Saturday and they mention making spaghetti squash. Now I had heard rumblings about this particular varietal, but was never convinced because people actually dared call it a pasta “substitute.” That business is just blasphemy and should go straight down under, do not pass go, do not collect 5 lbs on your belly. But they said “No really, we kind of had to do it in the beginning, but it’s really good and has effectively 0 calories and cooks AL DENTE.” Magic words friends, because I like a bite on everything – pasta, veggies, men…So I thought, what the hey.

Saturday night, we are out dancing with yet more friends and did dinner first at my FAVORITE place downtown, Bistro Bella Vita. I had a great gnocchi app (well, it was a mini meal, let’s not kid) with a beef short rib, almost bolognese, sauce. Tucked away as delicious UNTIL…

Sunday. Cammie and Jay and sweet Andy come over for roasted leg of lamb. Which I prepared when we got home from the club at 1:30 and roasted while we were sleeping, a feat of EPIC brilliance on my part since the leg wouldn’t fit in a crock pot. We had a TON of leftovers. If you’ve ever dined at my house, you know this is like saying the sky is blue.

So in my grocery shopping, I buy said squash, thinking I’ll whip up a fast marinara to go with. I get home from the gym Monday night – ok, scratch that, I’m thinking about dinner while AT the gym, trying to get through the workout – and I remember the lamb. And that I have carrots. And an entire PRODUCE DRAWER full of bell peppers (1.99 a pound and YES I will buy as many as I can stuff in my fridge – do you know what they normally charge for those things? Highway robbery.) And I think – bolognese. Let’s really give this squash a test drive. I figured it would be screaming and begging for mercy under the weight of the sauce, but at this point, didn’t care. And friends? WRONG I was. I underestimated that poor squash.

Now here’s the thing – it is NOT a pasta “substitute.” It IS a nice, light alternative to pasta in certain dishes. It takes on the flavor of sauce well, does in fact cook up al dente and while the flavor is different from pasta, it’s also nice. The sauce – seriously guys, the SAUCE – is SUPER rich. For this, I actually prefer the squash because it does a great job of cutting the richness. Pasta would almost be too heavy. The sauce was great, because the lamb was shredded – which means it soaked up all the sauceness of the wine and tomato sauce and was SUPER thick and rich.

So. Run out and make this as fast as possible. Also, you could totally sub in shredded beef or venison if lamb’s not your gig.What I made served 8, but I cut the squash in what I give you below, so 4-6.

You’ll need:

1 spaghetti squash (I used 2. You do not need 2 unless you want to eat this for the rest of the week.)


Salt and pepper (to taste)

4 T Italian seasoning (2 for the squash and 2 for the sauce)

1 diced onion

5 cloves chopped garlic

4 carrots, peeled and diced into half-inch chunks

1 red bell pepper, diced into half-inch chunks

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 cups shredded lamb (or beef, or venison)

Goat cheese, for garnish

Crusty bread to dip if you aren’t doing this for the low carb bennies

The squash is easy – cut in half and scrape out the seeds. (Which is not easy, so much as simple. Make sure you have a really sharp knife and be really careful, because those suckers are HARD.) Put on a baking sheet cut side up, drizzle with some EVOO, 2 T of the seasoning, salt and pepper and bake at 400 for about 35-40 minutes, or until fork tender.

Meanwhile, saute onions, carrots and red pepper on medium high heat in EVOO (2 T or so) until tender – probably 15 minutes or so. I would chop the carrots first and get them going, then add the bell pepper and onion as you get it done, because they will take less time to cook.

Add garlic and shredded meat and cook about 2 more minutes, until you can smell it.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Aka, dump in the wine, and while it’s bubbling, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up all the yummy bottom bits.

Add in the tomatoes, seasoning and salt and pepper. Let simmer until squash is done.

Once the squash is done, just run your fork along it and you’ll see how it separates like spaghetti. Serve topped with as much sauce as you want and goat cheese for garnish, if you like. I recommend it because the sharpness and acidity from the cheese combats the richness of the sauce nicely, but your call.

Die a death of immense pleasure. Go back for more. Lick the pan when done. But make sure it’s cooled first.