November 24, 2015:
Chef Marc Vetri is the founder of Philadelphia’s critically acclaimed Vetri Family of Restaurants. A Philadelphia native, Vetri spent his formative professional kitchen life in Bergamo, Italy, working alongside some of the region’s most noted chefs. In 1998, he opened the fine-dining restaurant, Vetri, to universal acclaim. Within two years of the restaurant’s debut, he was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” and received the Philadelphia Inquirer’s highest restaurant rating. In 2005, he was given the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic.”
Italian Tonda Padana squash is about the size of a basketball and weighs close to 8 pounds. It’s pretty high in starch and low in water, so it’s great for gnocchi. If you can’t find Tonda Padana squash, use kabocha squash instead.
- 1/2 Tonda Padana squash
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup almond flour (plus some for dusting)
- 1/4 cup finely crushed amaretti cookies or almond macaroons
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 8 to 12 fresh sage leaves
- 3/4 cup grated bagoss, Bitto, Parmesan cheese
- To make the squash easier to peel, jab the squash all over with a knife (to allow steam to escape), and then microwave it on high power until the skin softens, about 2 minutes. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Scoop out and discard the seeds and strings, then cut the flesh into 1″ to 2″ chunks.
- Put the squash in a heavy pot and add water to a depth of 1/4″. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and simmer, covered, until the squash is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Mash the squash in the pan (or puree it with a handheld blender or in a food processor), and then continue cooking the squash, stirring often to prevent burning, until much of the water evaporates and the puree reduces in volume, about 1 hour. When it’s done, the squash should be the consistency of a loose dough and thick enough to cling to an upended spoon.
- Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the puree and reserve the rest for another use. Transfer the puree to a bowl, let cool slightly, then add the whole eggs, egg yolks, Parmesan, almond flour, cookie crumbs, salt and nutmeg, and mix with a spoon until the dough comes together (it will be loose). Spoon the dough into a zip-lock bag, seal closed and refrigerate it until it is somewhat firm, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Snip the corner from the bag and pipe 1″ dollops of the dough into a bowl of almond flour or all-purpose flour. Scoop up a dollop with floured hands, roll it into a ball, and then place it on a flour rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. You should have 50 to 60 gnocchi.
- Use the gnocchi immediately or cover them loosely and refrigerate them for a few hours. You can also freeze them in a single layer, transfer them to a zip-lock bag, and freeze them for up to 2 weeks. Take the gnocchi straight from the freezer to the boiling water, adding about 30 seconds to the cooking time.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the gnocchi and cover the pot to quickly return the water to a low boil. Cook the gnocchi until springy to the touch and tender throughout, 3 to 5 minutes. Squeeze a dumpling between your fingers. It should have some bounce back. If it just flattens, the gnocchi are not done yet.
- Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1/2 cup butter and sage together over medium heat in a small sautee pan until the butter turns golden brown and the sage is crisp, about 7 minutes.
- Using a spider strainer, transfer the gnocchi to warmed plates, allowing 10 – 12 gnocchi per serving. Spooning the brown butter over the gnocchi and sprinkle with the cheese. Garnish with the crispy sage.