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SQUASH THEY'LL GO OUT OF THEIR GOURDS FOR

I love late fall Italian dishes. It is a time for porcini mushrooms, truffles and different types of squash.

Butternut Squash Flan with Spinach and Fonduta Sauce

Flan:

1 butternut squash

1/2 cup onion, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 pound grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano

6 eggs

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 cups heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Non-stick baking spray
Cut the squash in half, seed it and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. When cooled, scoop out the pulp (about a pound) and pass it through a sieve.

Saute onion in olive oil. In a blender, puree squash pulp and onions. Add Parmigiano Reggiano and blend, then add eggs and nutmeg, and blend again. Add heavy cream and blend for 2 minutes at medium speed. The mixture should be liquid but not thin. Season to taste.

Spray individual molds with non-stick baking spray and fill with the mixture. Bake at 300 degrees in bain marie (water bath) for 40 minutes.

Spinach

1 tablespoon butter

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 pound spinach, leaves cleaned

Salt and pepper to taste
Saute garlic in butter, add spinach and season with salt and pepper. Braise until the spinach is wilted.

Fonduta Sauce:

1/2 pound Fontina or Swiss cheese, cut into cubes

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter

3 egg yolks
Soak cheese in milk for 2 hours. Over a double boiler, begin to whisk cheese and milk. Add butter until the mixture becomes smooth. Add egg yolks and whisk until the mixture becomes smooth. To serve the flan: Line plates with spinach. Place each flan on top of the spinach and decorate with the sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Gnochhi di Zucca

1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups flour
Starting the night before, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Halve the squash, wrap it loosely in foil, place on a baking sheet and bake until tender when pierced, about 35 minutes.

Scoop out and discard the seeds. With a large spoon, scoop the pulp from the skin directly into a fine sieve. Set the sieve over a bowl to catch the liquids, cover and allow the squash to drain overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, puree the squash in a food processor, transfer the puree to a large bowl, and add the eggs and salt. Mix well, add the flour and blend thoroughly. The dough should be soft and quite sticky.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a teaspoon, scoop up some of the dough (about a walnut-size piece) and use a finger to slide it into the water. Cook the gnocchi in batches of 10 to 15, poaching them for 2 minutes after they rise to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon. Set them aside to drain and repeat the process until the remaining dough is used up. Makes 4 servings.