Winter Ragu Bolognese with Butternut Squash Gnocchi

by Julie Cohn
Winter Ragu Bolognese with Butternut Squash Gnocchi5

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Winter Ragu Bolognese with Butternut Squash Gnocchi

(This post was sponsored by Better Than Bouillon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.)

I’m not going to lie, this is one of the best dishes you will ever make/eat in your entire life.  I’m not bragging, it is truly that good.  Hearty yet elegant, savory and oh so delicious, this Winter Ragu Bolognese with Butternut Squash Gnocchi, made with Better Than Bouillon, makes an excellent Christmas or New Year’s Eve dinner, especially if you are hosting guests.  Don’t let the lengthy recipe scare you though, it’s a labor of love and does take a bit of work, but I have a few tips to make it more manageable.  

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I love incorporating winter squash into recipes this time of year.  Butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and other squashes are not just tasty and filling, they are low calorie and nutritious, with fiber, calcium, potassium, and Vitamins A & C.   This Winter Ragu Bolognese with Butternut Squash Gnocchi recipe incorporates roasted butternut squash in both the bolognese and the gnocchi.  

Better Than Bouillon

What is Better Than Bouillon, you ask?  Better Than Bouillon is a seasoned paste concentrate equivalent to a broth or bouillon cube (but so much better!!) used to enhance the flavor of culinary dishes.  Think of it as a top-secret flavor bomb, just one spoonful is all you need to make your recipes taste even more incredible.  Better Than Bouillon comes in several varieties (including organic) to make your holiday meals truly gourmet, including Roasted Chicken, Roasted Beef, Roasted Garlic, Turkey Base, Mushroom Base, and more. 

Better Than Bouillon Flavor Varieties

There are also several vegetarian and vegan varieties, including  Vegetarian No Beef Base, Vegetarian No Chicken Base, and the Seasoned Vegetable base that I use in my Winter Ragu Bolognese.   Although I still use a variety of vegetables in my bolognese, the Seasoned Vegetable base that adds a “cooked all day” kick of flavor that normally only comes from hours of simmering. But let’s be honest, during the holidays, who has time for hours of simmering?  Not me!   

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Another bonus? In my quest for healthier living, Better Than Bouillon is my secret weapon.  A little goes a long way to boost the flavor of my dishes and the flavor pastes are low-calorie, low-sugar, and low-saturated fat.  They even have low sodium varieties for those watching their sodium intake. I use Better Than Bouillon to enhance the flavor of many of my dishes, including soups, gravies, and casseroles, but I especially use it during the holidays when I want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with family and friends. 

Give Better Than Bouillon a try for your recipes, you will be pleasantly surprised!  

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This is an original recipe with a rich and savory Italian meat sauce. The traditional bolognese is made with beef and pork, but my recipe is made with ground turkey to lower the calories and fat, plus lots of fresh vegetables, wine, and cream.  I incorporated Mediterranean seasonal flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sage into both the sauce and the gnocchi to make it extra flavorful. The butternut squash gnocchi are light and airy pillows of pasta made from roasted butternut squash.  The gnocchi pairs well with the hearty ragu sauce to make a warm and comforting winter holiday meal.

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Serve this Winter Ragu Bolognese with Butternut Squash Gnocchi with marinated olives, a salad, a nice crusty bread, and a few bottles of fine red wine for an elegant gourmet meal to rival a five-star restaurant.   For more holiday ideas, check out the Better Than Bouillon holiday site!

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Winter Ragu Bolognese with Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

A CORK, FORK, & PASSPORT

A savory and delectable Italian meat sauce served on little pasta pillows of homemade butternut squash gnocchi. This version is made with ground turkey, butternut squash and other vegetables to make it lower fat. Perfect for an elegant dinner party or holiday meal.

Ingredients

Ragu Bolognese

  • 2 Large Fresh Butternut Squash 
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil 
  • 2/3 c. Finely Chopped Shallot
  • 1/2 c. Finely Chopped Celery 
  • 1/2 c. Finely Chopped Fresh Carrot 
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. Lean Ground Turkey 
  • 2-3 Fresh Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 -3 Tbsp. Pancetta or Bacon, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg 
  • 1 tsp. Ground Sage
  • 2 tsp. Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base 
  • 1 (6 oz) Can of Tomato Paste
  • 1 1/2 c. Red Wine 
  • 1 c. Heavy Cream or Almond Milk
  • 1/2 c. Fresh Grated Romano Cheese (more for seasoning)

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

  • 3 c. Roasted Butternut Squash Cubes
  • ½ c. Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/4 c. Freshly Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
  • 1 Egg, whisked
  • 2 - 3 c. Italian (00) Flour*
  • 1 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Ground Sage
  • 1 tsp. Salt 

Instructions

Winter Ragu Bolognese

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry a butternut squash. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds.
  3. Rub the squash with the tablespoon of olive oil and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet face down.
  4. Place in the oven and roast for about 35-40 minutes, until the skin is brown. Be careful not to burn it.
  5. While the squash is roasting, chop the shallot, celery, and carrot.
  6. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a large stockpot, then add the shallot, celery, and carrot and saute on medium for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the ground turkey and chopped pancetta and saute for about 5-7 minutes on medium-high, until brown.
  8. The squash should be done about now, so remove from the oven and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the skin from the squash and cut into small cubes, about 2 inches.
  10. Take about 3 cups of the squash cubes and set aside to use for the gnocchi.
  11. Take the remaining approximate 1/2 cup of butternut squash and set aside in the refrigerator to add to the bolognese later.
  12. Once the turkey is browned, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, salt, and Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base and stir to incorporate.
  13. Blend in the tomato paste and red wine and simmer for about 45 minutes on medium, stirring occasionally.
  14. Mix in the heavy cream and Romano cheese, stirring thoroughly to blend. If you want to make the dish more low fat, use almond milk instead of the heavy cream.
  15. Have extra romano cheese on hand to season.

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Butternut Squash Gnocchi

  1. Take the 3 cups of cubed roasted butternut squash that you set aside and puree it in a food processor or mash with a potato ricer by hand.
  2. Place the pureed butternut squash into a large mixing bowl and make a hole in the center.
  3. Add the ricotta, romano cheese, egg yolk in the center.
  4. With clean hands, mix everything together until well blended.
  5. Add 1 cup of the flour, as well as the nutmeg, sage, and salt. Blend together.
  6. The dough will be very sticky but slowly knead in another cup of flour to help the dough clump together.
  7. Lightly flour a work surface, then move the dough to the surface to roll out.
  8. On another section of your work surface, lay out two sheets of parchment paper.
  9. Cut the dough into fours and using one quarter at a time, then cut those into four.
  10. Using 1/8 of the dough, roll it into a long rope. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle it with flour.
  11. Using a pastry cutter, cut the rope into 3/4 - 1-inch pieces. Lay those pieces on the parchment paper.
  12. When you are finished with a rope, start another rope, dusting with flour to keep the dough from sticking.
  13. When all the gnocchi pieces are cut, dust with flour and let sit for about an hour to dry.
  14. To cook the gnocchi, heat a two-quart pot of water to boiling. Add 1 tsp of salt.
  15. Add about 10 pieces of gnocchi at a time to the water so they don't stick. Boil about 1 - 1/2 minutes.
  16. Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi and drain.
  17. If you are not using the gnocchi immediately, lightly rinse under cool water and set in the refrigerator until use, then reheat about 1 - 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave.


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Notes

Ragu Bolognese

The ragu bolognese can be made ahead of time and frozen, then defrosted and reheated. If you do not freeze it, use it within 48 hours. You can reheat it in a slow cooker on low for 2-3 hours for a buffet table.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Not going to lie, the gnocchi dough can be difficult to work with because it is so sticky, so keep a cup of flour on hand to help. A little bit of flour can make a huge difference; if it is too sticky to knead or rollout, add a 1/4 cup of flour and work it into the dough. You want the dough to be pliable and soft, not sticky or stiff.

When cutting the dough, use an extra sharp knife or pastry cutter and keep that flour handy to dust each piece before putting it on the parchment.

Freezing the Dough

You can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it. You can either freeze it in large balls then roll out the ropes when you defrost it or to make it even easier, roll the ropes, roll those ropes in parchment paper, and place the parchment in freezer bags. When when you remove the ropes from the freezer, let them defrost about an hour and cut the pillows while the dough is half frozen. So much easier and less sticky! Once you cut the half-frozen dough, let it sit out on fresh pieces of parchment to dry before you boil it.

The Cooked Gnocchi

Once the gnocchi is cooked, you can set it in the refrigerator if you are not going to use it until later in the day. Be sure to freeze it within 24 hours of boiling it, if you do not use it.

You can also make the gnocchi, boil it, then freeze the cooked (well-drained) gnocchi in a well-sealed freezer-proof container. Just be sure that you drain the gnocchi again after you defrost it so there is not too much condensation, as it will make the gnocchi stick together too much. Once the gnocchi is defrosted, reheat it in a bowl in the microwave for about 1 - 1/2 minutes, then serve with the reheated ragu bolognese.

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