As the cold fall weather really sets in here in Seattle, I’m so excited to be bundling up in my coziest sweaters and warming myself up with hearty, stick-to-your-belly recipes. And this Butternut Squash Gnocchi in a Sausage and Sage Cream Sauce might just be my new favorite this season. This dish is so utterly indulgent, and made with such rich, savory fall flavors and simple, seasonal ingredients.
First there’s the homemade gnocchi, which is actually easier to make than you think, I promise. It’s made with fresh roasted butternut squash, puréed with a touch of garlic and nutmeg. Once the squash is formed into a soft, sticky dough, it’s cut into dumplings and cooked until fluffy with a soft bite and a subtle sweet flavor.
Then comes the sauce, full of so much fresh sage, accented by thyme and garlic, along with spicy Italian sausage that’s packed with flavor. A touch of cream and a splash of half and half create a luscious, smooth and creamy sauce that coats the gnocchi in every single satisfying bite.
On a cold fall or winter night, I’m telling you nothing beats this dish. It takes a little work with your hands, but trust me it’s so worth it. I say turn on some music, pour yourself some wine and make it fun — or even turn it into a date night.
I promise, you’ll fall in love with this homemade pasta dish after the first bite. Keep scrolling for the easy, step-by-step instructions.
Making Butternut Squash Gnocchi
This star of this dish is the homemade gnocchi. It begins with fresh Butternut Squash, peeled, chopped and roasted in the oven.
The easiest way to peel the squash is to cut it in half right across the middle where the neck starts to narrow. Then use a sharp knife to trim off the outer layer. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. Then chop up the squash into 1-2 inch pieces. Roast them in a 350F oven for 30 minutes and then remove and let cool.
Once the squash are cool enough to handle, add them to a food processor along with a clove of garlic and a pinch of nutmeg. Pulse until the squash is smooth and creamy. Pour the mixture out into a bowl. Add some flour and use a rubber spatula to combine as much as possible. Then it’s time to roll up your sleeves.
Clear a clean countertop and dust the surface with flour. Pour out your squash mixture and use your hands to work the dough until the flour is totally combined. Then tear off chunks of the dough about half the size of your fist and roll them out into ropes that are about an inch thick. Be patient here, as this process takes some time and several rounds of dusting with flour.
Next, cut each of the ropes into 1-inch pieces. Then use two fingers to pinch each piece, and use the end of a flour-dusted fork to imprint the top of each gnocchi. You can skip this step if you want, but I highly recommend. The grooves help the creamy sauce stick to the gnocchi even more. After you finish each pieces, lay them out flat on a flour-dusted platter or baking sheet.
The final step is to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the gnocchi. I recommend doing this in 2-3 batches. That way your gnocchi have space to spread out in the pot and don’t clump together while cooking, which will only take a few minutes. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom when you first add them to the pot. They will rise to the top of the water and float when they’re done cooking.
Making Sausage and Sage Cream Sauce
This sausage and sage cream sauce comes together in just a few simple steps. Grab a cast iron skillet and brown up a pound of hot Italian sausage over medium-high to start. Once the sausage is cooked through, remove it from the skillet onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour out or use a paper towel to remove some of the excess grease from the pan, leaving a thin layer.
Next, lower your heat to medium and throw in half a stick of butter. Once it melts, add diced onion and minced garlic. After sautéing for several minutes, add in some fresh thyme leaves, and a handful of sage. You can just roughly tear the leaves and sprinkle all over the pan. Let the butter fry up those herbs for a few minutes.
The next part of this recipe is super important. Cream sauce can be tricky. If you pour milk or cream into a hot pan, it can separate and turn a weird chunky texture, rather than thickening up in a smooth, creamy sauce.
To avoid this, sprinkle a teaspoon of flour into the pan and cook it, stirring frequently, for a few minutes until the flour starts to darken. The remove your skillet from the heat. Let your onion and herb mixture cool for 5 minutes or so before you add the cream.
Start out with a splash of heavy cream. The higher fat content will also help the cream stay bonded so the sauce retains and smooth texture. Stir that in until the sauce starts to thicken, and then slowly pour in some half and half. Continue to stir constantly for a few more minutes while the sauce comes together and thickens.
Finally, add your sausage back into the skillet along with the cooked gnocchi and toss everything to combine. If your want to thin your sauce out a little, stir in some of the pasta water, about a tablespoon at a time, until you reach a consistency you like.
Serve this gnocchi right away, with some fresh grated parmesan and extra fresh thyme or sage sprinkled on top for garnish.
Let me know if you give this Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sausage and Sage Cream Sauce a try! I love to hear from you in the comments, or tag me on instagram @eat.think.live and let me see your creation! Plus, you can check out the rest of my recipes HERE.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sausage and Sage Cream Sauce
For the Butternut Squash Gnocchi
- 1 Butternut Squash
- 1 Tsp Olive Oil
- 1 Tsp (each) Salt & Pepper
- 1/2 Tsp Nutmeg
- 1 Clove Garlic
- 1 1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour (Plus more for dusting)
For the Sausage and Sage Cream Sauce
- 1 Pound Ground Hot Italian Sausage
- 4 Tbsp Butter
- 1/2 White or Yellow Onion Diced
- 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
- 1 Tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Sage (about 4-5 leaves)
- 1 Tsp All-Purpose Flour
- 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
- 1 Cup Half and Half
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
To Make the Gnocchi
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
- Cut the butternut squash in half width-wise, right where the base starts to narrow. Use a sharp knife to peel the squash, scoop out the seeds and string in the center, and roughly chop.
- Spread the squash out on the baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes and then let cool completely.
- Add the squash to a food processor along with the nutmeg and garlic. Pulse until everything is broken down and smooth.
- Pour out the squash mixture into a bowl and add the flour and combine as much as possible.
- Dust a clean, flat work surface with flour and then pour out the gnocchi dough. Use your hands to continue working the the dough and the flour until it’s completely combined with a sticky but firm consistency.
- Once the dough has come together, break the dough into chunks and then use your hands to roll out the chunks into about 1 1/2-inch thick ropes. You will probably have to re-dust the surface with flour a few times.
- Use a knife to cut each rope into about 1-inch wide gnocchi pieces. Then, hold each piece between 2 fingers and use the tines of a flour-dusted fork to indent each gnocchi. Spread out all the gnocchi on a flour-dusted baking sheet or platter until you’re ready to cook.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi to the water in 2-3 batches (to avoid overcrowding) and let them cook until they rise to the surface and float.
To Make the Cream Sauce
- In a large cast iron skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until browned. Remove from pan and add to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Pour or wipe out the excess grease in the skillet. Then add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the thyme leaves, hand tear the sage and sprinkle into the pan. Continue cooking for another another 2-3 minutes.
- Sprinkle the teaspoon of flour into the skillet, and cook while stirring for another 2-3 minutes.
- Next, remove the skillet from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream and stir until combined.
- Then, slowly pour in the half and half, while constantly stirring, until a smooth and thick sauce forms. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Finally, add the sausage back to the sauce along with the cooked gnocchi and toss to combine. If you want to thin out the sauce a little, add some pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Serve with fresh grated parmesan and more fresh thyme or sage on top.