Patience and Gentleness:When you stir in the initial ¾ cup of flour, stir gently but thoroughly. Do not rush the process and do not over knead. When you’re adding in more flour, do it a tablespoon at a time until the dough just holds together. The goal is to add as little flour as possible and to not handle it as much. I made the fatal mistake of not following these important directions and ended up adding 14 more tablespoons of flour, which ended up turning my supposed-to-be-soft-and-pillowy-gnocchi into whole wheat butternut squash-carrot pasta. It didn’t turn out so bad though. In fact, it was actually very good! But considering that my original intent was to make gnocchi, I failed on that account.
Accept the fact that homemade gnocchi will look whimsical. It will turn out billowy when dropped in boiling water and won’t stay smooth and blemish-free, like store-bought ones. I usually prefer the rustic look over store-bought, but since I have never made my own gnocchi before, I thought it was supposed to turn out smooth. The dough was so freakin’ sticky and just stuck to everthing, so more and more flour was desperately added while the dough was gently kneaded until it finally came together. I then pulled off small chunks and rolled these into pieces of rope a bit at a time. It was the best way to do the job rather than rolling the whole dough into a rope.
To make a long story short, what originally started out as a plan to make gnocchi turned into butternut squash and carrot whole wheat pasta! Cooking is always a learning experience. Thank you Joanne for choosing this recipe for The Food Matters Project this week. I am already planning to redo this in the near future and make gnocchi, not pasta. If you want to learn how to make carrot gnocchi, for real, hop over to Joanne’s blog to see the original Mark Bittman recipe.
Now then, on to this delicious butternut squash and carrot whole wheat pasta tossed in a vegetable stir fry! The butternut squash-carrot combination is utterly good and using those two ingredients to make pasta is pretty amazing. This pasta is soft and sweet with a nice, nutty texture. All the vegetables that were tossed together in the sauté complemented each other perfectly… caramelized onions, flavorful shiitake mushrooms, and garlicky kale are the best of friends.
Let me tell you, this was heaven on earth, literally. Everything was so deliciously earthy, each bite felt like a celebration of all things good in life. This is why I love to eat healthy… because it just tastes so darn good!
Whole Wheat Butternut Squash and Carrot Pasta Tossed in Stir Fried VegetablesInspired from Whole Wheat Carrot Gnocchi, The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman
Whole Wheat Butternut Squash-Carrot Pasta:11 oz butternut squash
5 ½ oz carrots
¾ cup whole wheat flour + 14 careless tablespoons (which means, the size was more or less a tablespoon)
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ of a large yellow onion, sliced
3 large shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
4 kale leaves, leaves sliced thinly and stems diced
freshly ground pepper
about 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
generous amount freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 of the pasta made above
½ cup of pasta water
Place butternut squash and carrot chunks in a medium sized pot. Add just enough water to cover the chunks and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Turn the heat on to medium high and bring the water to a rolling boil. Uncover the pot, stir, turn the heat to medium low and partially cover. Allow vegetables to keep boiling gently until they are tender. The total cooking time is about 40 minutes. You will know the vegetables are done when the carrots pierce through easily with a fork. Drain well (save the water, this makes for good pasta water or soup later). Return the vegetables to the pot, uncovered, and turn the heat on low. Allow the vegetables to dry out for about 10 minutes, then turn the heat off. Meanwhile, sift the flour into a small bowl.
Mash the vegetables with a fork or potato masher thoroughly until all clumps are gone and the mixture becomes creamy. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix well to make sure everything is well-combined. Add ¼ cup of the flour at a time and mix. Add more flour one tablespoon at a time if it remains super sticky. (Since, the mixture was so soft and ended up sticking all over my hands every time I touched it, I added a total of 14 more tablespoons.) Stop when it begins to hold together.
Lightly flour a clean, working surface. Pinch off a chunk of dough and roll into a thin rope. Keep repeating until all the dough has been rolled out. Cut pasta into 1 inch pieces and place in a flat container. Store in the refrigerator for at least an hour to give the pasta some time to set (in my case, I stored it overnight).
Pour the vegetable water (from the boiled butternut squash and carrots) into a medium sized pot and add a cup or more of water. Use your judgment to determine how much would be enough to cook 1/3 of the fresh pasta you made. Bring the vegetable water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add a very generous pinch of salt. Place just enough pasta to completely cover the bottom of your pot. You don’t want to pile them in the pot. Cover the pot and allow the water to boil again. Once it is boiling, the pasta will float on top. Leave the pot partially covered and let cook for another minute or two. Since the pasta is fresh, the total cooking time is only about 7 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
While the water is boiling, sauté the vegetables. Start with heating the olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, sauté the garlic and sage until the garlic turns golden brown. Toss the onion slices and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and brown on the sides. Season with a pinch of salt. Add the mushrooms and kale stems and cook for about 3 minutes until the mushrooms pieces are shiny and fragrant. Toss in the kale leaves and let cook for about 2 minutes until it wilts. Season with a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Using a slotted spoon, move the pasta from the pot into the vegetable pan and half a cup of the pasta water. Stir and let everything cook together for about 3 minutes or until all the liquid has dissolved. Season with freshly ground nutmeg and a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir well to make sure everthing is coated with the cheese. If you wish to, add more salt to taste and an optional small pinch of red pepper flakes for a little spicy kick.
Serve immediately and savor!