Gnocchi in Butternut Procrastination Sauce

Gnocchi in Butternut Procrastination Sauce

130304 butternut blood orange gnocchi

I found my next cookbook idea: Procrastination Cooking. Procrasticooking? Lately it seems that some of my best recipes are born out of borderline panicked, it’s-5:30-and-I-haven’t-thought-about-dinner necessity.

Take this dish—tender, chewy gnocchi in a creamy sauce scented with brown butter and blood orange juice. It came about after I noticed that a long-neglected butternut squash was threatening to spoil. I’d bought it intending to make Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto but, well… procrastination. As long as the softening squash had my attention, I decided to just roast the sucker and figure out what to do with it later.

Later came soon enough, when I found the roasted squash again threatening to spoil, this time in my fridge. Luckily, I found it during a bout of “What the HELL are we going to eat tonight?” ransacking. Nearby lurked a single blood orange, also feeling somewhat squishy. Wheels started turning, and soon I was browning butter, chopping a sweet red onion, and pulling pine nuts from the freezer.

The true beauty of this dish (beyond the flavor, of course) is that it comes together in just one pan. No need to boil water and cook the gnocchi separately—I like to brown the dumplings straight from the package, get a little texture on the outside, and then add liquid to the pan and let the potato pillows absorb it. They release starch while they’re simmering, which helps to create a thick, creamy-textured sauce. Adding the roasted squash, some of which will break down into that liquid, provides another layer of holy-cow-this-is-good-ness.

What do you do when procrastination threatens to bite you in the behind?

Roasted Butternut Gnocchi in Blood Orange Brown Butter
Serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin
1 package prepared gnocchi
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Salt & pepper
1 medium butternut squash, cubed and roasted (instructions here)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Juice of 1 medium blood orange
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

  1. In a large stainless steel skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally, and when it stops foaming pay attention—you want it to brown, but just a bit. When you see the color starting to change, after a minute or two, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and the butter is nutty brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the gnocchi, pine nuts, and salt & pepper to taste, stir, and cook another 3 minutes, until both gnocchi and nuts have browned a bit.
  3. Stir in the roasted butternut, broth, and blood orange juice, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer 7 to 8 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and what remains looks thick and saucy.
  4. Stir in the parsley and serve, along with grated Parmesan cheese.

MAKE BABY FOOD: If you’ve got a very new eater, reserve some of the roasted butternut squash and puree it with a splash of milk or broth. A little more advanced? Serve the squash as finger food. Slightly older babies can handle the gnocchi as finger food, too (cut it if you like)—just be sure not to give baby any pine nuts, since they might be a choking hazard.