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.

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[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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linguine & company

i think there should be a cuisine called “classy comfort.” is there already? [update: google that, and you’ll be led to a frightening website for adult diapers.] i don’t mean the kind of thing where you take a comfort food staple like mac ’n’ cheese and upgrade it with truffle oil and whatnot. i mean the opposite, where a seemingly elegant dish somehow tastes like home. kind of like this one that i had posted about earlier.

well, in any case, i’ve found another contender: linguine with gorgonzola, potatoes, green beans, and sage. what makes it seem fancy? it has a long name, for one. and also the fact that it’s meatless (except that i made it with some diced pancetta thrown in, oops) and that it calls for “gorgonzola dolce.” i couldn’t find any at trader joe’s, by the way, which to me basically means it must be nonexistent. so i responded accordingly: tossed some regular blue cheese into my basket and adjusted the amount of butter when i got home to cook, as recommended by the recipe. still tasted damn fantastic.

you know what else is neat about this recipe? it has linguine and potatoes. maybe you think the pairing would be strange, but when i read that in the recipe title i got starry-eyed. two starches, together at last. double-carb time. and it’s a lovely thing, really. the pasta is al dente and forktwirl-worthy, and the soft chunks of potato absorb and exude beautiful flavors from the sage and butter and blue cheese.

it was so satisfying to cook, too: you lift the noodles and potatoes steaming out of the pot, and then let them settle down with the cheese, butter, and sage. stir, stir, stir, and a sauce comes together as everything melts. it reminds me a lot of this recipe for spaghetti with spinach, goat cheese, and sweet little tomatoes. they’re both good weeknight quickie meals: a summery version and this cold-weather one, which was just about perfect this week, as our season’s first storm set in.


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Linguine with Gorgonzola, Potatoes, Green Beans, and Sage
adapted from Sunset, October 2007
Serves 6

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (I couldn’t find any at the store that weren’t green, so I just used three white potatoes, each about palm-sized)
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound linguine
6 fresh sage leaves
6 ounces blue cheese
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bag (10 oz.) frozen cut green beans

Peel potatoes and cut into 3/4-in. pieces. Put in a large pot, add 2 qt. water, cover, and bring to a boil. Add salt and linguine. Stir, cover, and return to a vigorous boil. Uncover and cook until linguine is tender to the bite, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop sage leaves. In a large serving bowl, mash cheese, butter, sage, and pepper together. Set aside.

Add green beans to pot, and bring back to a boil. Cook briefly, just until green beans are crisp-tender. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta and vegetables, shaking off as much water as possible. Pour pasta and vegetables on top of cheese-butter mixture. Toss to combine until cheese melts and coats pasta. If resulting sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water, 1 tbsp. at a time. Serve hot, garnished with additional sage or pepper if you like.