baked gnocchi with spinach & prosciutto

i fancy myself as more of a baker than a cook. mincing onions and garlic and searing meat will never have the same appeal as crumbling streusel topping over cake batter or swirling chocolate and cream together to make ganache. i don’t like eyeballing amounts and adding salt to taste nearly as much as i love teaspoons and tablespoons and cups and very precise directions.

 


but if there is a class of savory dishes that i take pleasure in making, it’s those of the bake-until-browned-and-bubbly sort. i guess that makes me a casserole kind of girl – though this one is no ordinary casserole.

it comes from a little booklet of recipes that came free with a magazine i bought when i went to australia. three months it had sat unnoticed, tucked among some other magazines stacked in my bedroom, but today the cover photo caught my eye. it seemed just the thing for dinner, with a cold glass of sparkling wine.


it is unbelievably fast to assemble, and the brief time it spends under the high heat of a broiler is actually what allows for the dish’s wonderful play of textures. plump, squidgy gnocchi (a pasta made with mashed potatoes) is coated in rich mascarpone cheese; fresh tomatoes – only slightly cooked – still pop with juicy sweetness; the spinach wilts just barely in the heat and keeps its vibrant green color; and salty ribbons of prosciutto twirl throughout the dish – a perfect companion to the crust of peppered parmesan on top of everything.

.

[this is just the kind of meal you could put together on a weekday work night, fit snugly between your drive home from the office and the time when friends start showing up to gather on your couch and watch a favorite tv show. (personally, i’ve been missing my weekly dose of community.)]

note: i was able to find all the ingredients at my local trader joe’s.

Baked Gnocchi with Spinach & Prosciutto
adapted from a recipe in a free supplement to
Australian Good Food, April 2010
Serves 4


17.6 oz. package gnocchi
8 oz. tub mascarpone cheese
2 to 3 oz. prosciutto, cut into strips
6 oz. baby spinach
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Cook gnocchi according to directions on package. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add mascarpone to hot pasta and stir until melted.
  3. Add prosciutto, spinach, and tomatoes and toss to combine. Transfer mixture to a 6-cup capacity baking dish (that will fit in the broiler). Season with pepper and top with parmesan.
  4. Cook in broiler about 3 inches from heat source for 4 to 5 minutes, until top is golden. Serve.
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cheater’s pizza

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i don’t have much tolerance for pizzas that replace the crust with some non-crust material. english muffins, split and smattered with sauce and cheese and given a run through the toaster oven – they were fun as a kid. but a good yeast dough will bake up to be crispy, tender, and chewy in the oven – a perfect platform for whatever you decide to strew on top – and you really shouldn’t mess with it.

however.

there may come a time in life when you welcome a meal that can be toasty and tasty in five minutes flat. and so you realize you’ve got to swap out the yeast packets and floured hands and rising time for something a bit more efficient. when you’re ready to make such a compromise, back up from the english muffins; grab a package of flatbread instead. after a short time in a hot oven, each round gets browned and crisp around the edges and – with enough choice ingredients layered on top – you forget to be a snob about it and just bite, chew, and enjoy.

i got to eat this gourmet-ish dinner nearly every evening this week thanks to a friend who, instead of showing up to dinner with a bottle of wine for the hostess, handed me a printout of this recipe.


note: while getting all the ingredients from trader joe’s may not be wholly necessary, it sure adds to the whole “easy” part of it.

also: you will end up with some extra prosciutto and cheese after you make the pizzas, but i’m sure you can find a way to “take care” of the leftovers.

and: there will be sauce left too. that’s just annoying. i apologize.


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Easy Goat Cheese & Prosciutto Pizza
Makes 8 small pizzas


1 package Trader Joe’s Middle Eastern flatbread
1 jar Trader Joe’s pizza sauce
1 package Trader Joe’s string cheese (For real.)
1 package prosciutto (about 5 oz.)
5 oz. goat cheese with herbs
balsamic caramelized onions*
several leaves of fresh basil, sliced in chiffonade (for pretty!) or torn into small pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On one flatbread, thinly spread 1 ½ teaspoons of pizza sauce. Distribute one string cheese on pizza, crisscrossing shreds for even coverage. Tear half a slice of prosciutto into small bits and distribute on pizza, followed by small chunks of goat cheese and caramelized onions. Repeat process for each flatbread.

Bake for 6 to 7 minutes (closer to 5 if using a toaster oven), until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Sprinkle with basil and serve.

*To make the balsamic caramelized onions: Melt a few tablespoons of butter (2 to 4 depending on the size of your onion) in a pan over high heat. Cut an onion in half, remove skin, and slice into half-moons. Throw onion slices into pan and let them brown over high heat, stirring or shaking the pan only occasionally. When the onions have gotten soft, brown, and caramelized (about 10 minutes), pour in a few glugs of balsamic vinegar (about 2 tablespoons, or to taste). Continue to cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the vinegar has reduced and coats the onions (a few seconds more). Remove from heat.