Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Pancetta in Cardamom-Scented Brown Butter

Not sure if y'all know this but...

I had a baby!

And holy shit.

I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS ACTUALLY IN FOR.

Born in June, she's now four months old and let me tell you - it's been a longgggggggg four months. Baby was colicky from the get go and spent the first ten weeks of her life crying and screaming CONSTANTLY. For no real legit reason.

Then one day,

she.

just.

stopped.

That morning, when I got up to get her from her co-sleeper, smiles were radiating from her face like sunshine.

It was magical.

And NOW, she's all 'Heyyyyyy look at meeeeee I'm almost laughing and almost rolling and I smile allll the time'.

I love her more than anything.

But you know what I don't love?

What I struggle with every day?

Missing my old self.

I mean, there are parts I don't miss at all. I've made some choices in my life that I'm not proud of and I feel like having the opportunity to teach my kid to be a decent kind person plays a big part in paving my road forward.

What I do miss though? The freedom to jump in my car, spend my time luxuriously walking through the aisles of grocery stores and markets, browsing ingredients, brainstorming recipes and then going home to play in my kitchen.

I miss scouring thrift stores for props, bringing home treasures, staining and painting wood for backgrounds, cobbling together a set, teaching myself lighting, using my camera.

I miss the thrill of getting the shot.

But you know what?

It's ok.

You see, I'm finally starting to regain my balance, like a sailor on rough seas whose ship is finally entering calmer waters.

I'm starting to carve out time to do things that make me ME again.

I'm starting to get the hang of this.

Like the other day when I spent an hour roaming the aisles of Pete's like I used to, admiring the vibrant extensive selection of fruit, vegetables, and herbs, stopping to pick up and read labels of items I'd never seen before, eyeballing the meat and cheese counters like a kid in a candy store.

I've had gnocchi on my 'to make' list for months, and well, with a new baby - it ain't happening. While at Pete's, I noticed that they sell their own brand of fresh gnocchi in the deli case so I got a couple of packages along with a butternut squash, a radicchio, a package of pancetta, a bunch of fresh sage, a pack of green cardamom seeds and a tub of Saputo's Ricotta di Campagna (Saputo's Campagna is a fluffy light ricotta with a touch of added cream).

*Side note - My plan was to roast the radicchio in the oven (to use in the pasta).

DON'T DO THAT.

Purple-burgundy leaves going into the oven were a putrid shade of blackish-greyish-green coming out.

Hey, you live, you learn. Am I right?

Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Pancetta in Cardamom-Scented Brown Butter (feeds 4)

1 med-large butternut squash (I freeze what I don't use for another time)

3 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 Cup brown sugar

10 slices pancetta

2 x 350g packages Pete's Fresh Gnocchi or 700g any other gnocchi

10-12 green cardamom pods

3/4 Cup butter

ricotta for garnish

fresh sage leaves for garnish

salt and pepper to taste (I like crunchy flakes of Maldon salt)

- preheat oven 400º

- pierce squash all over with a fork and place in microwave oven and cook 8-10 minutes - remove carefully from microwave - once cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to quarter and remove stem and outer skin - cut squash into cubes and toss with olive oil and brown sugar - toss well to coat and spread on parchment lined baking sheet - bake in preheated oven 30 minutes, turning once halfway

- lay pancetta out on a baking sheet - when butternut squash has 10 minutes left to cook, place pancetta in oven along with squash and bake until crispy (keep watch - should be 8-10 minutes) - remove squash and pancetta from oven and set aside - reduce oven temperature to 350º

- bring a large pot of salted water to a boil - add two packages of gnocchi and cook until dumplings float, about 3-4 minutes - drain

- heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat on the stovetop - crush cardamom pods with the backside of a knife and toast in pre-heated skillet until fragrant, about 2 minutes - add butter to hot pan with pods and melt - continue to cook butter until golden caramel brown in colour - do not burn - reduce heat on burner and add cooked gnocchi and as much cooked squash as you like for 4 people - toss everything to coat with butter - crumble cooked pancetta on top - place skillet in hot oven to keep pasta warm - when ready to serve, spoon onto plates and top each serving with a dollop of ricotta, a sprinkling of fresh sage leaves and salt and pepper to taste

note re: squash - I figure if I'm going through the trouble to pare a squash plus heat my oven to cook it, I might as well get a large one - once cooked, I divvy into small sandwich bags and freeze - they come in handy as an add in to other dishes or as a side veg for a meal