It’s December and you know what that means, the holidays are upon us. Now, depending on who you are, that could be a very good thing or a kind of crappy thing. And if you’re like me, it can be either or depending on the day. I am currently wrapping up my holiday shopping, so I’m a little lukewarm on the subject. But even my post-Black-Friday sour mood can’t spoil the joy I get from planning festive menus. Cocktail parties, cookie boxes, and lavish feasts – I love dreaming them all up. Today I’m bringing you a holiday-ready main – this Gnocchi Stuffed Squash with Spinach Artichoke Cream. A vegetarian offering that I think is grand enough to hold its own next to a standing roast and decadent enough to make omnivores jealous. So let’s talk about it!
I’m not a full-time vegetarian but I’m getting pretty close. But still, I haven’t fully committed, which means I can indulge in the prime ribs, hams, and turkeys that are nearly commonplace at this time of the year. But I would imagine the holidays must be fairly isolating for the strictly veg set. This is a time of year when our collective meat consumption rises considerably. Many of our traditions are centered around meat or are generally meat-adjacent. And yet I’m sure more than a few of you will have a vegetarian sitting at your holiday table this year if you aren’t one yourself.
Now, I suppose it’s not entirely necessary to have a separate main for your veg guests. Holiday tables are generally groaning with a wide variety of sides. And as long as you resist the urge to put bacon in everything, your vegetarian pals will likely find more than enough to eat. But I think at this time of year when everything is about abundance and extravagance everyone should have a piece of that. That’s why this Gnocchi Stuffed Squash is well worth the little extra effort. It gives your vegetarian option that air of holiday decadence. Plus, this dish would be great as a side as well. So everyone can have a bit.
You’ll notice I said a “little extra effort” and I said that because it’s true. This is not a difficult dish to pull off. It’s fairly hands off and if you can make a bechamel you already have all the essential skills required to make this. So let’s talk this through. This recipe starts with a buttercup squash. Kabocha would work beautifully as well. Carefully remove the top of the squash as you would if you were carving a pumpkin. This might take a little elbow grease, buttercup squash have pretty tough skin, which is why they are such a great candidate for stuffing – they readily hold their shape when introduced to heat.
Once you get the top of the squash free, scoop out the seeds until the squash is clean. Pour a little olive oil into the squash and rotate it to ensure the oil coats the entire interior. Pour the excess oil onto the flesh side of the lid. Sprinkle both liberally with salt and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Transfer the squash to a 350°F oven and roast for over an hour or until very tender. I purposely chose a low temperature, so you could bake cookies or continue to roast a turkey alongside the squash. Oven space and time are at a premium during the holidays.
While the squash is roasting, you can prep the filling. The gnocchi comes together in less than 30 minutes and personally, I prefer to stuff the squash with it when it’s fresh from the stove. So I usually don’t start this process until the squash is halfway through its roasting time. But you can make it earlier. I would reheat it on the stove though just prior to stuffing it into the squash.
To make the gnocchi stuffing, we’re going to start by sauteeing the onions and wilting a lot of spinach. Now, it will look like there is too much spinach but bear in mind spinach decreases in volume considerably when it’s introduced to heat. Once the spinach is wilted, take it out of the skillet and set it aside. Add butter and flour to the pan and make a roux. Slowly stream in white wine and milk and there’s a cream sauce. Add goat cheese, Dijon mustard, and cayenne, and the sauce is done. Reduce the sauce to a simmer and add the gnocchi, spinach, and artichoke hearts to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the gnocchi is heated through. And that’s your stuffing done.
Take the squash out of the oven and fill it with the gnocchi stuffing. You really want to pile it on. Don’t worry if the squash overflows a little. Cover the gnocchi with shredded vegetarian parmesan cheese and shredded mozzarella. Return the squash to the oven and turn on the broiler. Broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly. This is why you should stuff your squash with warm gnocchi stuffing, it’s not going to be in the oven long enough to bring cold stuffing up to temperature. If you are hell-bent on using cold stuffing, you can keep your oven temperature at 350°F and bake the squash for 15-20 minutes.
Finish your Gnocchi Stuffed Squash with fresh parsley and carefully transfer it to a serving platter. This is the most difficult step in the recipe. And it can be a totally unnecessary one if you want. Now, obviously, I was photographing my squash, so I moved it to a pretty plate. And yes, it was a little stressful. The squash is pretty soft and malleable once it comes out of the oven and if you don’t move it with the utmost care, it can split. The other option is to plunk a trivet onto the table and serve the squash in the pan it was roasted in. So if you would prefer to go that route, make sure you select your prettiest roasting vessel for the occasion. I think the bottom half of a tagine, for instance, would work very well.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Gnocchi Stuffed Squash with Spinach Artichoke Cream. A showstopping holiday main that just so happens to be vegetarian.
Gnocchi Stuffed Squash with Spinach Artichoke Cream
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 baking sheet
- 1 large buttercup squash
- 3 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 227g (8oz) spinach
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 cups milk I used 2%
- 150g (5oz) goat cheese
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard heaping
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 300g (10.5 oz) potato gnocchi
- 170ml (6 fl oz) quartered marinated artichoke hearts drained and coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup Vegetarian Parmesan shredded
- ⅓ cup mozzarella shredded
- ¼ cup fresh parsley coarsely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside. **
- Remove the top of the buttercup squash and scoop out the seeds. Pour half of the olive oil into the squash cavity. Rotate the squash to ensure it's evenly coated in the oil. Pour the excess oil onto the flesh side of the lid and sprinkle both liberally with salt.1 large buttercup squash, 3 tbsp olive oil
- Transfer the squash to the oven and roast for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the squash is fork-tender.
- When the squash has been in the oven for an hour, make the stuffing. Pour the remaining olive oil into a large skillet and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Saute until just translucent. Add the spinach in batches, only adding more to the pan when the previous addition wilts. Once the spinach has wilted transfer it and the onions to a bowl and set them aside.1 yellow onion, 227g (8oz) spinach
- Add the butter to the skillet and melt. Once the butter is foamy, whisk in the flour to make a roux. While whisking constantly, slowly stream in the white wine followed by the milk. Add the goat cheese and stir until it melts. Stir in the Dijon and cayenne. Taste and season with salt accordingly.2 tbsp unsalted butter, 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, ½ cup white wine, 2 cups milk, 150g (5oz) goat cheese, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the gnocchi, spinach, and artichoke hearts. Simmer for 10 minutes. Take it off of the heat and taste and season accordingly once again.300g (10.5 oz) potato gnocchi, 170ml (6 fl oz) quartered marinated artichoke hearts
- Take the squash out of the oven and fill it with the gnocchi mixture. The squash should overflow slightly. Cover the gnocchi with the parmesan and mozzarella and place it under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes.¼ cup Vegetarian Parmesan, ⅓ cup mozzarella
- Garnish the stuffed squash with fresh parsley and let stand for 10 minutes prior to serving.¼ cup fresh parsley