I lived in Santa Cruz, California, for 5 years. Santa Cruz is a beautiful place known for a great many things. There’s the Mystery Spot, a gravitational anomaly where balls roll uphill, not downhill; some believe that vampires live in the Santa Cruz mountains because of the movie “Lost Boys”; Santa Cruz is known for it’s great surf; it’s where the ocean meets the mountains, where bohemians and hippies frolic about; and where you can find some really fantastic restaurants.
I learned about the long list of great restaurants while I worked full-time at PricewaterhouseCoopers while attending school and being a choir director at the university part-time. With my busy schedule, I didn’t have much time to make my own food so I’d eat out…a lot. Influenced by my older friends from work, I was guided by ratings in the Zagat guide.
That’s when I found Star Bene on East Cliff. The first time I had dinner at Star Bene, I ordered one of their specials– gnocchi with prosciutto and peas in a creamy gorgonzola sauce; it was heavenly. Even though the dish wasn’t on their regular menu, I ordered the same dish every time I went back to the restaurant. I was so pleased that they’d make it for me every time with no hassle. It’s been 11 years since I’d eaten there. Since then, I’ve transitioned to a vegan and gluten-free lifestyle, so I’m sad to say I’ll never have an amazing meal there again. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had a good gnocchi since. Well, up until yesterday.
After seeing a few gnocchi posts on Instagram recently, I developed a hankering for gnocchi. Since I had butternut squash on hand and watched Giada DeLaurentiis on television make a creamy pasta dish with butternut squash, I thought I’d do the same.
Mmmm…I loved the sweet- and spiciness of the roasted butternut squash and red onion, the savory light pillows of gnocchi, the saltiness of the vegan parmesan, creaminess of the sauce, crunchiness of the nuts and the depth and freshness of the basil. It was a perfect, warming and comforting Fall dish.
I was very pleased with this gnocchi dish and hope you will enjoy it just the same.
Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash
1 pound of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/2 red onion, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
sunflower or cold-pressed olive oil for drizzling
Himalayan sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts and/or pecans, toasted
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
4 tbsp vegan/gf parmesan cheese ( I use Go Veggie! brand. Found at Whole Foods)
“goat” cashew cheese, cream. (directions below)
about a pound of gnocchi (directions below)
Goat-less cashew cream:
3/4 cup cashews soaked in filtered water for at least 3-5 hours or overnight.
1 pound of red jacket potatoes
2/3 cup oat (gluten-free) flour
1 chia egg (1 tbsp chia seed mixed with 3 tbsp water. set aside for about 15 minutes until it thickens)
about 1/4 tsp Himalayan fine sea salt
1. Put oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Spray a baking sheet liberally, or use a silpat or parchment paper to line a half sheet pan. Mix the squash and onion together and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with sunflower or olive oil and season with sea salt and cayenne pepper, to taste. Bake for to 40 to 45 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
3. While the squash and onion are cooking in the oven, prepare the gnocchi.
4. Toast the walnuts, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly toasted, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before using.
5. Make the goat-less cashew cream.
6. Once all components are prepared, assemble. In a large bowl, add the cashew cream and vegan parmesan. Thin the cream and parm into a sauce by adding some of the hot, reserved salted water (used to boil gnocchi). Stir until it becomes a sauce-like consistency (like cheese-sauce). Add the gnocchi and vegetables, basil, nuts. Toss and serve. Garnish with vegan parmesan, chopped basil and nuts.
I recommend watching this demonstration video on how to make gnocchi! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_47FQRlGy9w
1. Boil the potatoes, with skins on, in lightly salted water until they are fork tender and when you see the skins breaking off.
2. While still hot, peel the potatoes.
3. With a potato masher or with a fork, mash the potatoes. Add oat flour, and chia egg and 2 generous pinches of sea salt or 1/4 tsp.
4. Knead the dough together for about 4 minutes. It should look like a dough. If it looks more potato-y, add a little more flour until it looks like a dough (up to about 1/3 cup more, if needed). Roll into a ball.
5. Take about a fourth of the dough and roll into a dowl or snake-like shape about 3/4 inches in diameter. Cut 1 inch pieces and flick off a fork. Repeat.
6. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi. As they float to the top of the boiling water, remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Reserve the salted water! Toss with a drizzle of sunflower or olive oil until ready to use.
Goat-less cheese or cashew cream:
In a powerful blender, add the soaked cashews. Reserve the soaking water. Blend. If the cashews aren’t moving in the blender, add some water. Not too much, only enough to get it going in the blender, about 3-4 tbsp. Scrape the sides and blend until smooth. It should look like a cream. Place in a bowl. Set aside.
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