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Butternut Squash Gnocchi for Picky Eaters + Suffering Succotash

[putting on her best Sally Struthers “Save the Children” voice] Picky eating affects nearly every one of us. Whether you’re a picky eater or know someone who is, we can all do something to help.

No, really. How many of us have never been or never dealt with a picky eater in our lives? I don’t see too many hands.

Apart from the fact that I’ve known and adored Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic for years through her pithy writing on Grub Report and Television Without Pity (yes, Top Chef fans, you can all thank her for coining the word “cheftestant”), I had to get a copy of her book, Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate.

butternut squash gnocchi
Photo: Casey Barber

Not to throw my husband under the bus yet again, but I have spent more than a decade trying to figure out why Dan out-and-out rejects most foods I consider staples—from lobster rolls to hot dogs to omelets to Thai food to guacamole to soup and any other hot liquid (no coffee, no tea, not even hot chocolate, really!).

I needed Stephanie to give me some answers and, with any luck, a game plan for changing Dan into an omnivore.

As a picky eater turned foodie, Stephanie draws on a lifetime of food trauma (terrorized by pudding skin, freaked out by the smell of spinach) to try and figure out why we become picky eaters, and how we can overturn our food phobias and stifle our gag reflexes to embrace the world’s full spectrum of tastes.

butternut squash gnocchi
Photo: Casey Barber

It’s not as simple as discovering whether or not you’re a supertaster (sorry, Dan), but both picky and adventurous eaters will identify with Stephanie’s quest and be satisfied by the conclusions she draws.

Stephanie challenged my own picky eating phobias (yes, I have them—witness my screed against bananas) with a recipe for butternut squash gnocchi.

Squash, like pumpkins, is what Stephanie calls a “texture violation” for my palate: it’s like weirdly stringy, fleshy baby food.

butternut squash gnocchi
Photo: Casey Barber

In one of Suffering Succotash‘s chapters, Stephanie relates a highly traumatic story of being forced to down an entire plate of cold, maple syrup-y acorn squash, and reading that tale sent tremors through my stomach.

Spoiler alert: I ate almost the whole bowl of butternut squash gnocchi until Thanksgiving got in the way and I needed to purge leftovers for fridge space, as you do.

“What I found most amazing about this supremely quick dish was how the squash turned into a lovely rich and velvety mess when there’s barely any oil added,” Stephanie said.

butternut squash gnocchi
Photo: Casey Barber

My only concessions, other than adding more crème fraîche to make it saucier and a dollop of miso to hide the squashiness a little better, were to substitute coriander and a pinch of cumin for a tablespoon of curry powder.

(She didn’t know it, but curry powder is another thing that gets my gag reflex going. Not sure how to fix that one!)

Stephanie’s recipe for butternut squash gnocchi follows below.

butternut squash gnocchi
butternut squash gnocchi

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

This savory and creamy butternut squash gnocchi with garlic, ginger, and miso is not your usual pasta dish. Try it tonight for a change of pace.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound butternut squash, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to your taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
  • 3 thinly sliced scallions

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the cubed butternut squash with the olive oil, coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  3. Pour the squash into a large ovenproof baking dish and scrape any remaining oil and spices onto the squash with a spatula.
  4. Cover the dish and roast for about 45-50 minutes, until the squash is very soft.
  5. Uncover the dish for the last 10 minutes of the roasting process to bring out a nice, toasty color in the squash.
  6. While the squash cooks, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt.
  7. Cook the gnocchi until tender, then drain and reserve.
  8. Splash the gnocchi with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together while they wait for the sauce.
  9. Remove the squash from the oven and stir in the garlic, ginger, miso, and crème fraîche while the squash is still hot. (This allows the residual heat of the dish to cook the garlic without burning it bitter.)
  10. If the squash cubes aren't fully breaking down, mash with a potato masher or fork until they dissolve into a sauce.
  11. Add the cooked pasta to the squash “sauce” and toss gently until fully coated.
  12. Garnish with the scallions and serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 336Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 321mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 7gSugar: 4gProtein: 9g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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15 Comments

  1. Blueberries! The devil fruit. I don’t like the feel or the taste of them on my tongue, unless they’ve been cooked in a muffin. The tannins or whatever it is that causes that dry feeling, similar to red wine, gross me out, as does the occasionally gritty texture. No no no. I don’t consider myself a picky eater in most things (in fact, there are many things I love the taste of, but don’t eat because of tummy issues rather than palate issues), but blueberries are straight from the devil.

    I once ordered a spring salad with a raspberry vinegarette and goat cheese. Started digging through, took a bite, only to bite directly into a blueberry. It was nearly very bad, and I ended up with no lunch, because I was so put off.

  2. I have a really easy recipe for Butternut Squash Gnocchi that uses the squash in the gnocchi itself (and a browned butter sauce). I guarantee you will like it, as it has the wonderful flavor of squash without the objectionable texture. I’ll make it for you some time.

    As far as my picky eating? You already know it’s cilantro, the devil weed.

  3. I don’t have a food. There were things that I didn’t love, but it had more to do with my mom burning or cooking them to mush than it did with the food itself. I am, however, delightfully interested in this book, and not because I have four children. I just find topics like these endlessly interesting.

  4. Best food story for me as the day I taught myself to make vegetable soup. I grew up in a single parent household with a mom who cooked solely for sustenance. At 13, I had had enough. and went in the kitchen armed with my grandmother’s copy of Better Homes Cooking and though trial and error figured it out. I am still a picky eater due to a combination of food allergies, sensitivities and textural dislikes, but knowing I could follow a recipe and have something enjoyable to eat was one of the best lessons my can’t boil water mother ever helped me learn.

  5. My worst picky eating experience: my husband and sons! They are all picky in different ways and it’s nearly impossible to cook a dinner that they all like. I’d love this book to help understand them all. Me, I can eat just about anything. I’ve grown to like a lot of foods as an adult, such as beets, but mostly because I wasn’t exposed to them as a kid.

  6. No no no, to get over the texture issue, puree the squash and put it IN the gnocchi! I know this was posted a while ago, but I finally found a way to enjoy winter squash, and that is incorporating it into the dough itself. I have tried a few recipes and they have all turned out delicious.

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