Sunday, 13 February 2011

Gnocchi Bake

in an attempt to prepare me for university life next year, and so that i don't end up only eating cakes and biscuits for a year, my mum has put me in charge of one meal a week, to do whatever i like with, as long as it serves five and is not a cake. this week, i went for warm comfort food in the form of cheesy tomatoy gnocchi bake. the sauce itself is an all purpose tomato pasta sauce, if you add beef mince, you can make bolognaise for use in spaghetti and lasagna, lamb for shepherds pie, or even just bacon for a simple pasta sauce. its a good base to have in the kitchen.
when i begin cooking, i start with all my ingredients out all in one place, not just for the photos, but so that i can make sure i have everything to begin with, and also so that i can make any tweaks and changes to how i feel the recipe should go.
make sure you chop up the base veggies nice and thinly, so they cook quickly and evenly, the last thing you want is burnt on the outside, crunchy on the inside. the mushrooms should be a bit chunkier, they need to hold their shape or flavour, as they might just disintegerate into the sauce otherwise.
fry them for a good ten minutes or so in a generous bit of sunflour oil, as they will take longer than you think to soften, and once you add the tomato, they won't soften any more. add the mushrooms about halfway through, so that they cook, but they don't go all horrible and mushy. you don't want the veggies to be mushy like mashed potatoes, but you don't want them to be crunchy, aim for soft vegetables that are still clearly veggies.
two cans of chopped tomatoes and about half a can of water should be enough liquid for the sauce, if it looks too watery, don't worry as it will reduce down as you simmer it away, but if it looks a bit dry before you start to simmer it, don't hesitate to add some more water, it won't affect the taste, and you'll end up with a better sauce to finish with. what i've forgotten to show in this picture is that i've added in one bay leaf to flavour the sauce, i can't pt my finger on the exact taste that it gives, but it doesn't taste the same without it anyway. don't season the sauce until you've finished, as the flavours will intensify and change.
cook the gnocchi according to the instructions on the packet and personal preference, there is no set standard to pasta cooking, as everyone will start off with different amounts of water, and different feelings of how they like their pasta cooked, but generally, the gnocchi will be done when they float to the surface.
i used mozzarella here, simply because i adore the stuff, but i know some people detest the stuff, so i think you could substitute it for just about any cheese that melts well.

2 packets gnocchi
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 medium sized carrot
2 small onions
2 sticks of celery
handful button mushrooms
2 balls mozzarella
bay leaf
salt and pepper

chop up the veggies nice and small using a sharp, large knife
fry the carrots, celery and onions in a large saucepan with a generous amount of oil for 5 minutes
add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 minutes, or until they're all soft
pour in the tomatoes, and half a can of water, and stick in a whole bay leaf.
simmer for about 10 minutes, until nice and thick and saucy
cook the gnocchi according to the instructions on the packet
mix with the sauce in a dish, and scatter across the mozzarella
bake in the oven at 180degrees for about 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and bubbly.

serve with a salad. nomnomnom.

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