Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Simple Supper - Gnocchi Pasta Bake

Sometimes in my life when preparing a meal for loved ones, I have all the time in the world, and can lovingly and leisurely prepare dishes that I’m quite proud of and which demonstrate the passion that’s have gone into them.Other times I might get home from work on a Friday evening, realise that dinner-making duties have fallen on my unwilling shoulders, and have very little motivation or energy for it. On these days I rely on my ‘simple suppers’, which basically do exactly what they say on the tin. They’re not time consuming, take little effort, fill a food hole, and fill it well.Last week I called on an old favourite – a Gnocchi Pasta Bake - which I adapt according to what’s in the fridge at the time – a crowd pleaser, that’s filling, comforting and damn-right yummy. But the real beauty of this dish is that it literally is completely changeable dish that can depend exactly on what’s already in stock – it’s also a very cheap dinner, so perfect for the end of the month, before pay-day when money might be tight.

This time I made the very easy sauce by sautéing chopped spring onions, (can use any type!), a little crushed garlic (optional), and some chopped smoked bacon. For ideal results I would use pancetta, but bacon was in the fridge and meant I didn’t have to leave the house, so bacon was used, and it gave a nice smoky flavour. I also chucked in 2 mushrooms, chopped – which again were left in the bottom of the fridge.

Once this was nicely cooked I added a tub of crème fraiche and cooked for about five minutes. While all of this was going on I cooked some fresh Gnocchi – or pasta potato dumplings – which only take a couple of minutes in boiling water and drained. I broke up a couple of fresh mackerel fillets that were in the fridge and mixed all in together with some chopped parsley and placed into an ovenproof dish.

It goes without saying that this must be seasoned to taste as you go along with salt and ground black pepper.
I have made this with chicken before and it’s just as tasty – but I do love oily fish at this time of year.Finally I grated on some Cheddar (again a fridge essential – but other cheese would work just as well, especially a Mozarella or Emental which have that nice melting quality). This was then baked in the over for 25 minutes until the cheese was lightly browned and et voila – dinner was served.

I served with a simple salad thrown together. And in the 25 minutes the dinner took to cook I had time to clear away, lay the table and most importantly open a bottle of cold Pinot Grigio and pour myself a generous glass as a reward for all that hard cooking. Simples!

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