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Winter Squash Gnocchi with Meat Sauce Recipe

Winter Squash Gnocchi with Meat Sauce Recipe

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Winter Squash Gnocchi with Meat Sauce

Pumpkin or other winter squash is used as a filling for ravioli and other stuffed pastas all over Italy. In the frasche, or informal farmhouse restaurants, of Friuli, it is sometimes made into hearty gnocchi.

Adapted from "The Country Cooking of Italy" by Colman Andrews (Fall 2011).


  • 1 small acorn or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and quartered
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • ½ pound/250 grams ground pork
  • ½ pound/250 grams ground veal
  • 2–3 chicken livers, minced Pepper
  • 3 cups basic tomato sauce


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the squash, cut side up, into a baking pan and cover the pan with foil. Bake for 1 hour or until soft.

Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool. When it's cool enough to handle, scrape out the flesh into a strainer and, with the back of a wooden spoon, press out as much liquid as possible. Put the squash in large bowl and add the eggs and plenty of salt and mash with a fork or a potato masher. Work the flour into the mixture to form a thick, soft dough. (Add a bit more flour if the dough doesn't stick together.)

Using a tablespoon, form dough into oval gnocchi, putting them on a floured board as they're done.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion, the pork, the veal, and the chicken livers, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until onions are very soft and meat is browned, stirring frequently.

Drain the meat and onion in a colander or sieve, then return it to the skillet and add the tomato sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi to the pot in batches, cooking 1–2 minutes, or until they rise to the surface. As the gnocchi are done, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a warm serving bowl. When all the gnocchi are done, spoon the sauce over them. Do not toss the sauce.

Emma Coburn's Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Herb Sauce

Looking for energy-boosting meals to fuel your training? Pro track and field New Balance athlete Emma Coburn has you covered with this sneak peek recipe from her new cookbook, The Runner’s Kitchen. The cookbook is packed with 100 nourishing recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and releases December 15, 2020. It’s complete with meal plans and tips to help you fuel for peak training, race week and recovery days.

Inspiration behind the recipe

Coburn says, “I love pasta, pizza and all carbs. One of my favorite pasta dishes is gnocchi with brown butter, and I like to make it with butternut squash, acorn squash or sweet potato, for an extra bit of flavor. These veggies also give a little brighter color to the dish. If you want to get into the fall vibes, you can even make it with pumpkin. I often serve this with chicken apple sausage, but it is also delicious on its own with herbs and butter.”

When to make it, when to eat it

While this recipe is wonderfully simple, it requires a bit of time and planning.

Coburn says, “I like to make this recipe on an easy training day when I have a workout the next day. It provides great fuel for my workout, but also making it on an easy day is useful because it takes some time.”

How to Make Our Gnocchi with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

Ingredients You’ll Need

We kept it simple for this winter gnocchi – just a few ingredients is all you need: Butter, onions, garlic, butternut squash, cream, parmesan, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Start the Pasta Water

One key to great pasta is to ensure the water is salted well enough. It will take on some of the salty flavour, but only slightly so use a heavy hand. I like to use about 1 tablespoon of salt for about 8 cups of water.

Make the Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

Turning butternut squash into a cream sauce is actually much siompler than it sounds. Start by melting some butter in a large saucepan and cook a diced shallot for about 2 minutes, or until softened.

Add about 2 1/2 cups of cubed butternut squash, season with salt and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the edges begin to soften. To this add a clove of crushed garlic then pour in a cup of heavy cream. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes, cover and lower the heat to simmer.

Cook until the squash is tender, then blend with an immersion blender or food processor. Return to the pot and keep warm until the gnocchi is cooked.

Cook the Gnocchi

One of the things we love about gnocchi is just hoow quickly it cooks and the fact that it tells you once it’s done without having to guess. Once your salted water is boiling, simply add the gnocchi, give it a quick stir and wait for it to float to the top. Depending on the amount you are cooking, it generally takes about 3 to 5 minutes to cook through.

Finish, Garnish, and Serve

Once your gnocchi is cooked, drain all the waterr out and add the gnocchi directly to the butternut squash cream sauce. Add as handful of parm and gently toss to combine.

For serving, we like to keep it simple with just a light sprinkling of additional parm and a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper.

Reviews ( 6 )

To clarify my previous post, I DID steam the gnocchi, let them cool and then fried them. Was reading a couple of the other posts. Someone said they were bland. I'm thinking that maybe this person doesn't realize that gnocchi are a type of pasta. So, you'd probably find a bowl of spaghetti on its own bland as well, until you added a sauce or at least olive oil, garlic and a bit of crushed red pepper. It's the lovely soft, almost pillowy and slightly chewey texture of gnocchi that I and so many others love! And the fact that these are made with nutrient rich and low calorie squash is a plus! So if you're one of those people who loves the mouth feel of gnocchi, this recipe won't disappoint and it's easy to make! (Also, instead of using a fork, I use the traditioal method used in Naples - the end of my thumb to make a slight indentation in each gnocchi where the sauce can gather.)

Winter Vegetables and Gnocchi Recipe

Pillowy store-bought potato gnocchi are a great stand-in for dumplings in this easy and comforting dish. Buy precut butternut squash to save time, but slice any larger pieces of squash in half to ensure that it cooks evenly. We tend to think of dumplings as those savory and soft clouds of dough, simmering in a pot of chicken soup. But have you tried gnocchi? These Italian dumplings are often made with potatoes, and sometimes herbs, cheese, or chopped spinach are added to the dough. Shaped into little balls and cooked in boiling water, gnocchi, topped with melted butter or a savory sauce, are usually served as a side dish or as an accompaniment to meat or chicken. You can find potato gnocchi in the grocery store aisle alongside the dried pasta. In this recipe, gnocchi combines with roasted winter vegetables and a cheese sauce to make a warm, hearty supper, perfect for a cold winter&rsquos evening. By using convenient packages of pre-chopped butternut squash and frozen pearl onions, you can get this dish on the table in just 30 minutes, perfect for a busy weeknight meal. This recipe also works well if you are feeding a group on a weekend. Add a tossed green salad and some fresh fruit, and everyone will be satisfied.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Garlic Butter & Sage Sauce

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Garlic Butter & Sage Sauce is comforting fall meal that freezes perfectly!

This post may contain affiliate links.

This weekend I ate unethical amounts of homemade Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Garlic Butter & Sage Sauce. YES! Plump, sweet, butternut squash gnocchi are cooked then tossed with melted butter flavored with sizzling garlic and fresh sage, then inhaled. Over, and over, and over.

I picked up a couple beautiful, organic butternut squash at Whole Foods on Saturday, knowing exactly what they’d be used for: a big ol’ batch of both Butternut Squash Ravioli and this homemade gnocchi to stash in the freezer. Not only are these two meals absolutely mouthwatering, but they’re total lifesavers on busy weeknights. Just pull out of the freezer, and cook. No thawing required.

Aside from filling up the freezer, a couple people asked me to profile a few fall and winter squash varieties this season, and I couldn’t think of a squash better than a butternut to start a newbie out with. Butternut squash are easy to find, work with, and roast like a dream. The flesh gets super sweet and becomes velvety-smooth when mashed or processed, which makes it perfect for using in dishes like gnocchi.

Look for butternut squash that are heavy for their size, oblong and elongated (rather than short and fat,) and have smooth, tan skin.

Ham and Gnocchi Mac and Cheese

Aside from the squash part, I know gnocchi can also be intimidating. It’s true that the process of making gnocchi takes a little while, but you can stretch it out over a few days, and the actual act of forming the gnocchi is not difficult. Homemade gnocchi are great for people on a budget – just squash, flour, egg, and salt – and they’re also great for people who cook for one or two. Make a big batch of gnocchi and freeze, then pull out whatever you need, whenever you need it, and cook the same was as you would fresh.

If I haven’t scared you off yet (sheesh!) homemade butternut squash gnocchi with garlic butter & sage sauce is worth ANY amount of elbow grease because it is indescribably delicious, and tastier than any white or sweet potato version I’ve ever had, due to the super sweet flesh of the butternut. You will LOVE these babies!

Start by roasting a gawgeous butternut squash. In addition to the taste, I also love BNS (and most other squash varieties, for that matter,) because they are so ridiculously inexpensive. This 3lb-er here made a gazillion gnocchi, and only cost $1.60!

Wash and dry the butternut squash then pierce the “bulbous” end a few times with a sharp knife. Microwave the squash on a plate for 3 minutes, flipping halfway through, to soften it up a bit and make it easier to slice the top and bottom off, then cut it in half lengthwise.

Scoop the seeds out with a spoon then place the squash halves cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush with extra virgin olive oil, season liberally with salt & pepper, then roast at 400 degree for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the thickest part of the squash meets no resistance. You won’t believe how yummy and caramelized these babies get in that super-hot oven. SO YUM.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, peel the skin off then place the flesh into a food processor and process until very smooth. That’s another thing I love about roasting butternut squash – it gets sooooo silky and luscious. I almost can’t handle it.

Now, the butternut squash puree will be pretty liquidy so, to make sure we don’t have to add a ton of flour to the gnocchi (which would result in a tough gnocchi,) pour the puree into a large saucepan over medium heat and cook out some of the moisture for about 10 minutes. You don’t have to babysit this – just give it a stir every so often, until the puree isn’t so moist. I learned this trick on an episode of America’s Test Kitchen last year. (Heart that nerdy show!) :)

Once the moisture in the puree has cooked out, spread it onto a large plate and let it chill in the refrigerator.

The puree doesn’t have to be perfectly cold, but the gnocchi will be really tough to roll out if the dough is warm.

When the puree is cold, measure out 2 cups puree (should be just about all of it) place it in a large bowl, and then stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 whisked egg.

Next stir in 2-1/4 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. (You may need more or less flour depending on how moist your squash is.)

Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface then knead a few times to bring everything together. It’s ok if the dough is still a little sticky at this point.

Cut a hunk of the dough off then roll into a rope and cut into 1″ pieces.

Typically, in the case of potato gnocchi, you would then roll the pieces over the back of a fork or gnocchi paddle to create the signature grooves on top and sauce-trapping pocket in back, but, I don’t know…I kind of like leaving my non-potato gnocchi a little rustic, shall we say. (Read: I was feeling lazy.)

Continue rolling and cutting the rest of the dough, placing the gnocchi on a foil or waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Now you can either freeze the gnocchi on the baking sheet until frozen solid, then pop them into a freezer bag to cook later, OR you can cook the gnocchi fresh!

NOTE: cook frozen gnocchi the same as fresh – ie do not thaw first.

To cook the gnocchi (again, either fresh or frozen) bring a big pot of water to a boil, then lightly salt. Add the gnocchi about 1 cup at a time, then turn the heat down so you have a gentle boil. When the gnocchi float to the top about 2-3 minutes later – they’re done!

Transfer the gnocchi to a skillet of minced garlic and fresh sage that have been sauteed in a little butter. I KNOW.

Toss the gnocchi to coat in the garlic butter & sage sauce, then plate up and get down wit yo’ bad, gnocchi-eating self.

Baked Delicata Squash with Lime Butter

Delicata squash, nicknamed the "sweet potato squash" for their brown sugar-like flavor, are the workhorse of the winter squash world. Small enough to roast quickly, with skin thin enough to eat, this is an excellent all-purpose squash. Just slice these slender cylinders up, season and bake. This recipe calls for fresh lime juice, chili powder and butter as a topping after roasting𠅊 winning combination that gives a slightly piquant flavor to this.

Gnocchi and Winter Vegetables with Sage Cream Sauce

Hi Friends! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

My Thanksgiving was fairly low key, but that’s just the way I like it. I had plenty of home cooked food. Some time with family and friends. A cold, foggy walk on the beach. And a crackling fire to warm my toes. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

After the Holiday, I took a much needed break from the blogging world to recharge my batteries. The days leading up to Thanksgiving were filled (overfilled, actually) with work projects and Holiday preparations. And I had some turbulent emotional ongoings as well (i.e. boy trouble) that was causing me some serious anxiety and heartache. By the time Thanksgiving was here, I was exhausted in every way imaginable. I could feel my rope starting to unravel from both ends. To be blunt: I was a hot mess.

So I needed to stop and slow down for a few days. Which admittedly, is a very hard thing for me to do. But it’s something that I’m working on trying to be better at. As my acupuncturist says, “it’s good you’re doing this stuff now, so that by the time you’re 50 you’ll have it figured out”.

Which is now my new life goal: get my shit together by the time I’m 50. Good thing I’ve got plenty of time until then to work on things.

In the meantime, I’m back with some comfort food. I actually don’t consider myself usually very good at making comfort food. It’s not really my thing. I’m more of a smoothie bowl and salad type of gal. But I think I nailed it this time with this cozy pot of Gnocchi and Winter Vegetables with Sage Cream Sauce.

I absolutely adore gnocchi and I need to remember cook with it more (I constantly seem to be forgetting about entire food groups). Homemade gnocchi is great – like soft, carbohydrate pillows of deliciousness. But store-bought versions are pretty good these days, and that’s what I’ve used in this recipe. The gnocchi cooks up in just a few minutes, which is a lifesaver on busy weeknights when you need dinner ASAP before you start mindlessly inhaling a whole box of Cheez-It crackers (not that I’ve ever done that). And when combined with some hearty roasted vegetables, like mushrooms, butternut squash and brussels sprouts, you’ve got a satisfying meal that’s perfect for the coldest of nights. I finished off this pot by myself in just two sittings, but you can stretch it to feed four people if you serve it with a salad and some toasty bread. And some wine, obviously.

I’m sharing this recipe as part of our monthly 30 Minute Thursday series, where you can find other great recipes (links below!) that are perfect for fast weeknight dinners. Or for times when you’re just so damn hangry that you might demolish a whole box of Cheez-It crackers by yourself. Just saying.

Squash Gnocchi Recipe


  • 1 cup baked and mashed winter squash (such as acorn, butternut, carnival, or kabocha)
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cups (approximate) all-purpose flour, or as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  1. Place the squash in a small (1 quart), heavy saucepan. Heat pan over medium heat, stirring every minute for about 10 minutes, or until the squash is reduced by about half. This step removes much of the moisture from the squash so that less flour is needed (the secret to lighter gnocchi). You can skip this step, but you will need to add ½ cup flour (or more).
  2. Cool squash to room temperature before you add the egg and mix well with a fork. Add 1 cup flour and stir again with a fork until a stiff, but sticky dough forms. Divide the dough into 6 portions, each about the size of a golf ball.
  3. Sprinkle a working surface with flour. Roll each ball of dough into a long snake about the width of your thumb. Use a dinner knife to cut each length of dough into 1-inch pieces. If you wish, you may press a fork lightly into each piece and pull slightly forward to get the traditional ‘hash’ marks on one side of the gnocchi as well as form a slight cup that helps gnocchi hold onto sauce. Sprinkle additional flour only as needed to keep the gnocchi from sticking to the work surface. Gnocchi is ready to cook or freeze.

Spaghetti Squash with Gnocchi and Parmesan

1 2 1/2-lb spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz gnocchi*
1 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the squash cut side down on the parchment. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin is easily pierced with a fork. Scoop out the insides. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare gnocchi according to package instructions. Drain throughly. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet. Cook the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the gnocchi and cook until just starting to brown. Add the squash, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through and all ingredients are evenly distributed. Stir in the parsley. Cook 1-2 minutes until the parsley starts to wilt. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan. Serve immediately.

*You can make your own but for this dish, the self-stable kind in the air-tight tray is just fine.

My thoughts:

This is another one of those surprisingly good recipes. I picked up a spaghetti squash on impulse at the store and brought it home with no idea what I wanted to do with it. I was trying to think of a hearty side dish that would be filling enough to act as lunch the following day and remembered I had some gnocchi from a mega-sized Costco purchase a while back. I had parsley and Parmesan on hand and voila, a meal was born! It is easily now my favorite way to eat spaghetti squash. I don’t think it as a pasta substitute (who are we fooling here) but it is tasty on its own and really absorbs the flavors of anything it is tossed with. I like pan-fried gnocchi the best but some times it is hard to know what to dress it with but tossed with squash was wonderful. No need for a sauce. The whole thing just came together in a really surprising and satisfying way.

Like I said, I served it as a side but it could easily be a (vegetarian!) meal onto itself.


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