Local produce stars at Tomasso

MetroWest Daily News : Wednesday, October 1, 2008

SOUTHBOROUGH — As the days turn cooler and shorter, and the kitchen reclaims its place as the heart of the home, cooks turn their attention to hearty, steaming dishes made with the season’s bounty of locally grown New England squash.

Justin Melnick, executive chef at Tomasso Trattoria & Entoca in Southborough, has created a Butternut Squash Gnocchi with a Sage and Walnut Pesto made with locally grown butternut squash from Grateful Farm in Franklin.

Suitable as either a first or main course, this dish looks and tastes like it takes a lot more effort to make than it really does about an hour, not including overnight refrigeration of the cooked squash while it drains. It can also be made days ahead.

If you’d like to try it before diving into creating this dish yourself, the gnocchi will be on the Tomasso Trattoria menu starting Oct. 9.

The restaurants’s wine director, Lorenzo Savona, has selected a white wine with fruit flavors to pair with the gnocchi, Saladini Pilastri Offida Pecorino from the Marche region of Italy. It plays off the sweetness from the squash, while the wine’s savory qualities frame the walnut pesto.

The Pecorino grape continues the current trend in Italy to resurrect worthy, if almost extinct, varietals. The name of the grape, so the story goes, is Pecorino because the pecore (sheep) used to snack on the grapes as they passed through the vineyards. The wine is very unique with savory nutty flavors, soft yellow fruit (think nectarines and apricots) and roundness on the palate to play off the savory qualities of the Walnut Pesto.

Mary Prince is the owner of Tomasso Trattoria & Entoca, The Crossings, 154 Turnpike Road (Rte. 9), Southborough. Call 508-481-8484 or visit.


Cooking time: About 1 hour, not including overnight time for squash in the refrigerator.


For the gnocchi:

* 2 butternut squash (about 1 pound each)
* 2 eggs
* 2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

For the pesto:

* 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1 cup walnuts, toasted (toast in a 300-degree oven on a sheet pan for 20 minutes)
* 1 clove garlic
* 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1 bunch sage
* For the sauce:
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
* Salt and pepper


For the gnocchi: The day before, cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and season with salt and liberally with olive oil. Roast on cookie sheet or sheet pan face down, skin up in a 400-degree oven for 40 minutes or until tender.

Take the squash out of the oven, and scoop flesh into a strainer lined with cheesecloth to drain excess moisture. Place strainer in a bowl to catch the moisture. Place a weight on top of the squash to press out liquid. Allow squash to drain overnight.

The next day, place the drained butternut squash on a table with a small amount of flour. Mix in whole eggs with a fork until smooth.

Cut flour in with a bench scraper (or a fork and a spatula) in three installments until all flour is worked in. (Note: More or less flour may be necessary depending on moisture content of squash.) Once the dough is together and not too sticky, roll into long rolls (should look like a snake) about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut the gnocchi rolls to approximately 1/2-inch wide.

Note: The gnocchi can be made in advance and frozen for later use. They can be cut to whatever size you prefer.

For the pesto: Place toasted walnuts, Parmesan cheese and garlic clove in a food processor and pulse until a loose paste is formed. (This could be done using a mortar and pestle.)

Add sage and oil, pulsing slowly until sage is incorporated. Transfer into a plastic container and refrigerate. Note: Pesto can be made up to 3 days in advance if kept refrigerated.

Cook the gnocchi and make the sauce: Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a rolling boil, and carefully place gnocchi in water. When gnocchi floats it is done, about 1 minute. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and set aside in a dish.

Brown the butter slightly in a saute pan until a nutty aroma is released, about 2 minutes.

Add in the pesto and stir to incorporate all the flavors. Add the cooked gnocchi, and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese directly into the pan. Stir and serve immediately topped with more Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Harvest Days at Panzano

Panzano Provviste e Vino, Tomasso’s Italian food and wine shop, is hosting Harvest Days Monday, Oct. 27, through Sunday, Nov. 2. Enjoy autumn’s bounty with individual-sized pumpkin breads, pies, apple tarts and CIA graduate Emily Herman’s spooky (but yummy) decorated Halloween butter cookies. And from 5 to 7 p.m. each day, taste wine director Lorenzo Savona’s autumn wine picks for under $20.

On Friday, Oct. 31, from 5 to 7 p.m., join Savona and Tomasso Executive Chef Justin Melnick at the tasting table for more great autumn wines and butternut squash gnocchi.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008