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EASY ENTERTAINING: From the Italian for Let’s Eat Together

Butternut Squash Gnocchi.

As the Christmas break winds down and the New Year gets ushered in, our family spends more time together nestled in the comfort of our home. During hockey and football playoff season, the dining space is more often than not the living room, rather than the kitchen table, and meals become homey celebrations reflective of our best times spent together. Despite the fact that I have no Italian lineage, many of those meals become inspired by Italy — a country we have had the privilege of visiting on a number of occasions. To borrow a line from President’s Choice’s #EatTogether campaign, “no matter where life takes you, together at the table is the place to be.”

Asparagus Crostini

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette, sliced on bias, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/2 lemon, zest, juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch asparagus, steamed, sliced into 1/4-inch long pieces*

Directions: Toast baguette. Rub slices of toasted baguette with garlic. Drizzle with olive oil. In a bowl combine ricotta, Parmesan, pesto, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Spread ricotta mixture over crostini. Top with asparagus slices.

*If fresh Asparagus isn’t available, PC offers frozen asparagus spears. Which can be reheated in 2 to 3 minutes in the microwave.

Substitution Tip: If time is of the essence, consider serving PC Squash, Kale & Beet Flatbread. This Italian inspired flatbread can be served as an appetizer or accompanied with a salad as a main dish.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

  • Serves 4

Ingredients (sauce):

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 sprigs sage, chopped
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

Ingredients (gnocchi*):

  • 2 cups butternut squash, cooked, mashed
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more to serve
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Arugula, for garnish

Directions: Start by making the sauce. Plan a sauté over medium-low heat. Add butter and onion. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent. Add the cream. Raise heat to medium-high. Reduce until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add Parmesan and stir to combine. Finish with nutmeg, sage, and nuts. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a spoon. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until very tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool then scrape the flesh out. Mash well. Stir in the cheese, salt, and nutmeg. Add more salt if desired. Fold in the flour. Transfer dough to a floured surface. Knead gently, gradually adding more flour until the dough is soft. Divide into four pieces. Roll each piece into a long tube about 3/4-inch in diameter. Cut the tubes into 3/4-inch pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in gnocchi in batches. When the gnocchi rise to top, they are cooked. Remove with slotted spoons and repeat until all are cooked.

Toss gnocchi in sauce and serve immediately. Garnish with arugula, and serve with extra Parmesan.

* For a quicker meal you can use PC Butternut Squash Gnocchi, which is available at Atlantic Superstore locations.

Wine Selection

Caparzo Sangiovese (Bishops Cellar, $18)

When I want a simple red wine for an Italian-inspired meal, it’s hard to resist the bright cherry fruitiness of this Tuscan red.

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