Recipe: Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Harissa Onions

This recipe is my nod to Halloween.  I’m currently in France and this post was written several days ago and scheduled!  Such is the wonder of blog software I can work ahead of time and no one is any the wiser as to my whereabouts.

Looking though the archives it seems that I last blogged about gnocchi over two years ago, in June 2009, when I made tofu gnocchi, and very good they were too.   I am surprised that I have not made them since.

Potato gnocchi (the more times I type it the more convinced I am that I am spelling gnocchi wrongly) is all very nice, but a little boring, so I made this batch with a mix of about 50% spud and 50% butternut squash.   You could use the innards of your Halloween pumpkin too.      Do not throw the seeds away, give them a good wash and pick out all the fibrous bits and roast in olive oil with pepper, salt and some spices until golden and crispy.   Pumpkin seeds are meant to be an appetite suppressant, a good thing if you are a food writer like me and also enjoying your work a little too much.

Roasting will improve many vegetables, especially pumpkins, squash and root veggies.    Water will be lost, concentrating the flavour, and carbohydrates will be caramalised making them sweeter.  Yum!

Most of the time I use Steenbergs spices, they are organic and Fairtrade, great quality with fantastic deep flavours, Sophie Steenberg is also Ed’s cousin.   Their rose harissa is fantastic, the label is not joking when it says “bitingly hot”.   I love the extra flora note that the rose gives, and far prefer a tin of ground spice, that can be kept in the cupboard, over pastes that need to live in the fridge once opened.

I suspect that these gnocchi will work equally well with a mix of any root vegetable, pumpkin or squash, use what you have, there really are no recipe rules or recipe police here.

I learnt the piping bag trick from Mardi, using one, or just a zip lock bag with the corner snipped off, will make making gnocchi a far easier, quicker and infinitely less messy and sticky experience that you are more likely to repeat.   Which you will want to, as homemade are infinitely nicer than shop bought.  Pipe out any leftover batter onto a silicon mat and freeze, then drop into boiling water to cook from frozen.

One word, when slow frying the onions it is very very easy to keep adding more and more butter and oil.    I think that both are delicious, but if you have never done so take the time to measure out 1 oz of butter and 1 oz of oil.  An ounce of butter contains 184 calories, olive oil 225, with both this is a relatively small amount.   I usually add a little of the pasta cooking water to a sauce,

Recipe: Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sticky Harissa Onions

Serves 4

1 small butternut squash
About 3 or 4 medium potatoes
6 oz / 150g plain flour
1 large onion
25g / 1 oz / 1 tbs olive oil
25g / 1 oz / 1 tbs butter
1 tsp Harissa powder or paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cut the squash into 5cm / 2″cubes.   Drizzle with a little oil, season with salt and pepper and roast at 180C / 350F / GM4 for about 30 to 40 minutes until soft and starting to brown.

Slice the onion thinly and slowly fry with the harissa in the oil and butter.  You need to do this over a very gentle heat, so you drive off the water and the onion becomes sweet and sticky rather than browned.   I find this impossible to do without burning the onions unless I use a heat diffuser.  This should take about 30 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and boil the potatoes.  When done drain and add the cooked squash, mash or pass through a potato ricer and stir in the flour.   Add more flour if needed, yo will nedd about 150g for 750g cooked vegetables.   The mixture will be sticky, but should come together into a solid lump.

With floured hands roll into sausages and cut into bit sized pieces.  Or, as will be far easier dollop it into a piping, or strong plastic bag and snip the corner off and pip directly into a pan of boiling water.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pan of boiling water, allow gnocchi to boil for a minute or two after rising to the surface of the pan.    Scoop with a slotted spoon and drain on a tea towel or kitchen paper.

Serve topped with the slow cooked harissa onions.

We washed it down with a rather good bottle of Morrison’s The Best Valpolicella, 2008 that really stood up quite well to the heat of the harissa.

Thanks to Morrisons for the wine.

I am sending this to Ren’s Simple and in Season and Presto Pasta Nights.



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  1. says

    What a fantastic technique that piping is! I’ve been very scared to attempt gnocchi and now I think that I will have to (wo)man up and give it a go. Nice idea as well about the butternut squash — quite my favorite of the orange veg family and I seem to have some lurking in my fridge! Many thanks for this tip!

  2. says

    Delicious! Thank you so much for linking this recipe to Simple and in Season. I have a leftover pumpkin that we didn’t carve, one took long enough, so I will make this with pumpkin instead. I love the piping bag idea and also really enjoyed using my Steenbergs spices from the FBC11 goodie bag for the first time this week.

  3. says

    Your post reminds me that I still haven’t gotten around to trying to make my own gnocchi, has been on my want list for ages!

    Love the colour with the squash in, looks delicious!

    Hope you are having a great time in France


  4. says

    That is insanely, wickedly deicious! I love the heat added to the sweet squash. Thanks for sharing such a brilliant dish with Presto Pasta Nights. Glad to see you back.

  5. says

    sounds delicious – though a little less spice for me – love the piping bag trick – I have memories of messy gnocchi but I love the stuff – should make it more often

  6. says

    came voer from ren’s! what a great great trick! that just takes all the faff out of manking gnocchi! one thing that puts me off form making fresh pasta at times is the effort it takes to roll verything out and form shapes. I now have fallen in love with the slapdash method of just tearing irregular pieces off and dropping them into the boiling water/stock. this is another great idea to add to my pasta-making!


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