Time for Heart Warming Comfort Food: Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash & Italian Sausage

March 24th, 2020 § 2 comments § permalink

Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Optional Plant-Based or Regular Italian Sausage

Winter weather returned to New England this first week of Spring, and I’m about warm up some of last night’s left-over gnocchi to fuel some heavy shoveling. Something about spring snow makes me crave comfort food, and this dish warmed me right up inside. Bright green and orange colors help cheer things up on the table too!

Snow-Dusted Daffodils in the Garden

Although homemade gnocchi is delightful beyond compare, the shelf-stable version is a handy pantry staple and one of my favorite quick bases for a meal (if you’ve never tried it, you can usually find gnocchi in your grocer’s pasta aisle). Instead of boiling, I prefer to pan-fry the fluffy little pillows in olive oil or butter until golden brown and then add a bit of liquid (stock, wine or water), near the end to preserve a bit of the firm texture.

Lightly browned Brussels sprouts and butternut squash (a versatile vegetable that I love to use in everything from soups, salads, chilis and stews —like this tasty favorite— to roasted sheet pan suppers and pastas), are the star players in this one-pan dish. And although this vegetable-forward dish stands well on its own, the addition of a bit of sweet Italian sausage (plant based or regular), really hits a delightful, savory-sweet spot and adds some protein! Easy to adapt, you can eliminate one of the vegetables from this dish or try a different one; frozen vegetables, such as spinach, will also work in a pinch. Use honey instead of maple syrup and try different warm spices. Feel free to improvise if you are missing an ingredient or two. Be sure to select a large pan to make things easier. A 12″ Lodge Cast Iron Skillet is my go-to pan for making bigger meals. Experiment and share what you discover in comments!


Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash & Italian Sausage


2 Tbs Olive Oil (1 Tbs is optional for plant-based or regular sausage)

1 Pound Plant-Based or Regular Italian Sausage, casing removed. (optional)

1 Pound Brussels sprouts cleaned and sliced in half lengthwise

1 Pound Butternut Squash, cubed

1 Small Yellow Onion, peeled and diced

4 Cloves Garlic, minced

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 Tsp Nutmeg

4 Tbs Unsalted Butter

1 Tbs Maple Syrup

1 Cup Broth (Vegetable, Homemade Chicken or water if you are in a pinch)

1 Pound shelf-stable potato gnocchi

Fresh chopped herb of your choice; sage or thyme leaves work well

Freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese for the table


If using plant-based or regular Italian sausage: In a 12″ or larger skillet (I like my Lodge Cast Iron Skillet for this), heat the oil over medium high and crumble in the Italian sausage. Break up sausage with a spoon to loosen and distribute in an even layer. Cook approximately 5 minutes or until lightly browned, then stir and cook an additional minute or two. Remove golden brown sausage to a plate with slotted spoon and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil to pan and swirl to evenly coat. Add Brussels sprouts, cut side down, and cook on medium for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir and cook a couple minutes longer. Gently push sprouts to the sides of the pan. Add onion and butternut squash. Continue cooking on medium for another 5-8 minutes. Add garlic, nutmeg, salt, pepper to taste (no more than a 1/2 tsp salt if you are using sausage). Stir and cook another minute.

Push vegetables gently to one side of your pan. If you are using a smaller pan, you may prefer to remove the vegetables to a plate. My pan is high and wide enough to hold everything. Add gnocchi to the open side of your pan, breaking it apart as needed to form an even layer. Add the 4 Tbs of butter and cook, allowing the butter to foam. Watch carefully. It will have a nutty scent when browned. Add the maple syrup. Cook for a minute, stirring to coat the gnocchi. Toss and stir to combine all ingredients. Add the sausage back in, if using and stir to combine. Pour in stock and reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the vegetables are fork-tender. Remove from heat and add your herb of choice. Toss again and allow the dish to sit for 5 minutes for the flavors combine.

Serve warm in shallow, warmed bowls with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.

Springtime Snowfall Coats the Seed Pods and Branches

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Toward a Bigger Brussels Sprout: Special Guest Post by John Miller…

September 21st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Hands up to all whose first reaction was: “Why brussels sprouts at all?”. And now a tip as to how to make them bigger? I can not think of another vegetable so reviled. They also seem to be the poster child for unimaginative marketing; having been promoted as an unappetizing vegetable, forced upon us by mothers and nutritionists. Of course, I may be genetically pre-programmed to like them. Growing up in the U.K., where 1% of the world’s population consumes over half of the world’s brussels sprout production, the enjoyment of this vegetable may simply be in my blood. I am, however, completely unapologetic in my taste for them!

Recently, research has shown that brussels sprouts have even higher amounts of the same beneficial compounds found in kale, which have made that leafy-green (as well as the other brassicas) so popular of late. And even if you don’t care for the flavor of brussels sprouts as a side dish, they can be easily combined with other ingredients or cooked in ways which make them more palatable. If you haven’t experimented with the wide variety of dishes that include this vegetable, perhaps now is the time to give it a go (see hearty soup recipe posted below)!

Top growth of plant, before removal

The tip itself? Botanically, brussels sprouts are buds found in the leaf axils of the upright stalk. The lower ones come to size first. This is due to the physiology of the plant —indeed of many plants— where the top growing point suppresses growth of the lower buds. This influence declines as the distance between buds increases. By nipping out the growing point (top of the plant) the remaining high buds will come to size more quickly. This technique is very helpful in areas with shorter growing seasons. I remove the growing point on my brussels sprout plants about three weeks before the anticipated date of the first autumn frost (check with the Farmer’s Almanac for this date in your area). By controlling the plant’s production in this way, I am able to clean-pick each four-foot-tall plant by early November, just before the nights dip below twenty degrees in Vermont…

After topping the plant (note the tiny buds, now visible)

Cut brussels sprout tops on the way to the steamer (Yes, they are edible too!)

My favourite Brussels sprout recipe, taken from the Sunday Express sometime in the mid 1970’s. Regrettably I did not cut out the by-line so cannot acknowledge the author of this wonderful dish. I have carried the recipe around with me since then, even crossing an ocean with it.

Leek and Brussels Sprout Soup


1/2lb of Brussels sprouts,  trimmed* (see note below) and cooked al dente (very important)

2 small leeks (or one larger one)

2 pints of stock (homemade vegetable or other choice)

1 Tbs of butter

1 Tbs of flour

Pinches of nutmeg and curry powder ( I add a big pinch of both!)

Salt and pepper to taste

A few drops of lemon juice


Cook leeks in butter until soft but not brown. Stir in the curry powder, sprouts and flour. Add stock and bring to boil. Simmer two minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Blend everything together, then add lemon juice and adjust the seasonings. Enjoy.

*Note: it is a matter of heated debate in the U.K. whether a cross should be made in the bottom of each sprout prior to cooking.


Article and noted photos â“’ 2010, John Miller of The Old Schoolhouse Plantery

Thank you John, for your contributions to The Gardener’s Eden! In addition to operating The Old Schoolhouse Plantery, the Millers also grow and sell gourmet produce, including many heirloom vegetables. The Miller’s produce may be found in Vermont at The Brattleboro Farmers Market.


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