20 July 2015
Bacon & tomato gnocchi bake
I've only made it twice (so far) and I'm sure it will appear on the menu again before too very long.
The first time, I added some veggies such as green and red pepper to the mix because I had them there and needed to use them up. This time, I went with just the mushrooms and we all loved it on both occasions.
I would point out that the dish isn't, strictly speaking, a "bake" but more of a "grill" as you simply grill the sliced mozzarella to melt it and give it a little colour. However, it really is by the by - I just thought I'd clarify in case you were puzzled by it.
I must be getting old, as the guilt over the calories involved (bacon, cream, cheese ... need I say more?) resulted in my serving it with a side salad instead of the garlic bread we had previously. You know what? I actually preferred it with the side salad. At which all the men in the audience may now take a sharp intake of breath - salad being an anathema to the majority of man-kind, as I'm given to understand. The majority of the laydeez may take this opportunity to nod wisely.
It was the contrast in textures, though. The richness and softness of the gnocchi beside the freshness and crunch of the salad ingredients, just worked beautifully for me.
Not that it wasn't extremely good the first, garlic bread accompanied, time. No, it was pretty darned horny (if you'll excuse the expression - borrowed from my husband, you understand) then, too. In fact, I think it'd be fairly irresistible no matter how or when you served it. I'd even give it a go for breakfast, it's that good.
Plus - and this is a big plus - it is another from the age-old and much favoured school of "chop and peel, put into a pan in order and serve" cooking. Perfect for when you've spent all day chauffeuring your progeny around from school to concert hall, or just plain worn yourself out doing some retail therapy. Assuming, of course, that the gnocchi is either already made and in your freezer, or already made and in a bag in your fridge. Don't tell anyone, but mine was made by Mr Asda. Their fresh gnocchi is very acceptable indeed.
If you've got any teenagers in the house, don't expect there to be any leftovers for lunch. Even after a perfectly adequate serving with salad alongside, they will still find a corner for a little bit more. I'm not sure, but I think son & heir may even have licked the plate.
As for COOK'S TIPS, it really is so simple that there aren't many.
Firstly, it is as well to use the best ingredients you can afford with this one. The simplicity of the dish is such that if you use cheap tinned tomatoes (for instance), it's going to show. For the sake of the few pence that's involved, go for the best you can afford. It really is worthwhile.
Lastly, don't be tempted to use double cream. Not even if you've got some left over in your fridge without a home to go to. Buy some peaches and use it on them, if you must. Single cream won't leave you with the clagginess that double will, when used in this context. It really is a very rich tomato sauce - and extra fat is neither required nor welcome.
Either saladed or garlic breaded, this is a great one for a weekday dinner. Your menfolk will thank you, either way.
BACON & TOMATO GNOCCHI BAKE (serves 3-4)
1 tbsp olive oil
340g back bacon, diced
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
half a tsp smoked sweet paprika
6 good sized chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 large tasty tomato, chopped
400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar
half a tsp finely ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp single cream
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
500g fresh gnocchi
2 balls of mozzarella cheese, sliced.
1. Heat the oil in a large deep sided frying pan and once hot, add the bacon pieces. Fry until the fat has begun to render and the pieces have begun to caramelise. Do not allow to burn.
2. Add the shallot and garlic and continue to fry until the shallot has softened and turned transparent.
3. Add the two types of paprika and stir to combine. Fry for another 30 seconds.
4. Place a large saucepan of slightly salted water on to boil.
5. Add the mushrooms and the tomatoes in all their guises, the Worcestershire sauce, water, sugar and black pepper. Stir well, then allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavours to combine and the sauce to thicken and reduce.
6. Once the sauce has reduced to a thick, chunky texture, remove from the heat and add the cream and parsley.
7. Put the gnocchi into the boiling water. Once they float to the surface (3 minutes, no more), they're done. Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and add them to the tomato sauce. Stir them in gently, making sure each gnocchi is coated with sauce.
8. Place the sliced mozzarella over the surface of the gnocchi/sauce mixture and place under a hot grill. Once the mozzarella has melted and begun to colour, you're ready to serve.
I served mine with garlic bread and on the second occasion, with a side salad. The choice is yours!