27 June 2011

Eats: gnocchi with spinach

You might remember from the 30 by 30 list that I planned to prepare more vegetarian meals. Probably not, but that’s okay because I just reminded you! It’s going... okay. I am typically eating a meatless meal once a week, but not necessarily mindfully. Mostly by accident. I am getting better though! And because this goal doesn’t have a set completion it will just always be in progress.

So, I made this recipe partly to fulfill the meatless quota for the week, but also because there was this bag of frozen spinach in my freezer that frankly was driving me crazy. See, I am an obsessive meal planner. Every week I decide what to cook based on what we want and what we need to use up, and I write out the ingredients for them, and finally I make a shopping list for what we need for specifically those meals AND NOTHING ELSE. I do not grocery shop spontaneously.

Mr. P does. Although he claims he has a mental list. I have learned to at least control the twitching when he puts something in the cart that was on “the list in his head”, though I’m still working on the judgy looks.

Anyway, this bag of frozen spinach was one of those things, and I decided the statute of limitations on his mental meal plan had passed. Pretty soon it was going to start tasting like the freezer and we all know how gross that is. Rather than throwing it out like a normal person, though, the crazy meal planner decided we needed to eat it.

The problem? I do not love spinach. I very nearly don’t like spinach. So I decided to pair it up with foods I adore and hope the spinach didn’t ruin it for everyone, as it is wont to do. So I chose this:

And this:

Yes, real food blogs make their own tomato cream sauce with a roux and tomatoes and cream and their own freshly grated parmesan and cook it down and chop up their own sundried tomatoes. I can also do that, but I am not a real food blogger. So I have no shame in showing you my jarred sauce shortcuts.

To pair with the delicious sauce and questionable spinach, I chose gnocchi, pronounced NYO-kee. They are little Italian potato dumplings and a nice, filling alternative to pasta. As you might guess, I also did not make my own gnocchi. Instead I boiled the store-bought gnocchi per the box’s directions and threw the spinach in there to cook with it.

Again, I’m sure I’ve offended a bazillion food bloggers by not appropriately wilting my spinach, but we are talking about a nearly-freezer-burnt bag of generic brand spinach. Come down to my level.

After draining the liquid after boiling, I transferred the gnocchi and spinach to a baking dish and sprinkled (YES STORE-BROUGHT GRATED THIS IS NOT HIGH-BROW CUISINE) mozzarella cheese on top.

I let that sit while I briefly heated the tomato cream sauce, a few spoonfuls of sundried tomato bruschetta, and wine on the stovetop in the same pot I cooked the gnocchi and spinach. The wine comes from this habit of mine: every time I empty a jarred sauce, I “rinse” the jar by pouring in a bit of wine (less than a half cup), re-capping the lid and shaking the jar around, and pouring that in with the rest. It adds just a hint of flavor – barely noticeable most of the time – and it helps get the rest of the sauce out of the jar. For red (marinara, tomato-y sauces) I use red wine and for cream sauces I use white wine. In this case I used white.

I let the sauce heat up just a bit and then poured it over the gnocchi and spinach in the baking dish. I admit: looking at this soupy mess, I had my doubts. In a fit of “oh no I hope we have peanut butter so we can have sandwiches for dinner” I sprinkled more mozzarella on top. And probably some pepper and stuff. Because why not?

Then I popped it in the oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes at 400°F. Remember, everything in there was already cooked, so this was just to let it reduce and thicken the sauce and let the flavors “marry” or somesuch.

When I took it out it looked much more promising:

Holy moly, it sort of did what I wanted it to! Wonder of wonders! The sauce got thicker and tastier with the baking just as I’d hoped. I happily canceled the peanut butter sandwich idea.

This paired excellently with Mr. P’s delicious homemade garlic bread, which sopped up any extra liquid:

The verdict? Through no talent of my own, this was delicious. And that’s coming from someone who’s iffy on the subject of spinach. Somehow those particular store-bought sauces worked beautifully with spinach (which is why I showed you the brands) and made it something better than the sauces by themselves. So I not only ate this but enjoyed it. I will most certainly be making this again! But this time the spinach will be on the real shopping list.

Since I didn’t refer to a recipe elsewhere on the web, here’s how I made this:

1 16-oz package potato gnocchi (I used Delallo brand, available at Kroger)
8 oz. frozen spinach
1/2 cup mozzarella, divided
1 15-oz jar Bertolli tomato cream sauce (I used Four Cheese Rosa)
~3 Tbsp sundried tomato bruschetta (Delallo) or cut up your own
1/2 cup white wine
various seasonings that I threw in automatically without thinking, like pepper and garlic powder, but probably aren't actually needed

Prepare the gnocchi in salted boiling water as directed and add spinach to cook simultaneously. Drain and place in greased 8x8 baking dish. Sprinkle 1/4 c. mozzarella cheese over gnocchi and spinach. Heat tomato cream sauce, sundried tomatoes, and wine in same pot, then pour over gnocchi and spinach. Sprinkle remainder of cheese on top. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, uncovered. Enjoy!


Miranda said...

Looks yummy! Yay for vegetarian meals! :)

Mary Beth said...

Ok, I've just read approx 8 of your most recent blogs in a row because I've been out of town and am just getting caught up, but I decided to stop and take this opportunity to tell you how much I LOVE reading your blog! You are hilarious and organized and SUCH a good writer. I just really enjoy it. Ok that's all. Oh and this recipe looks AH-MAZING! K bye!