Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Love at First Bite: Baked Gnocchi in a Light Spinach-Pesto Sauce

Every once in awhile, I read a book so good it makes me sad to think of all the years I lived without knowing about it.  This is especially true when the book has been in print for a few years, and even more so if it’s been sitting around on a shelf in my house.  “This book has been in the world all that time,” I’ll think, “right there in front of me, and I didn’t even know how much I was going to love it.”

Today I had a similar experience with food.  Today, I made gnocchi for the very first time.

Obviously, the hand of God was involved here somehow.  I was browsing through the grocery section at Target, waiting for a prescription to be filled, when I happened upon a package of their Archer Farms gnocchi.  It looked interesting, and I was in the mood to try something new.  There’s no particular reason I should have picked up that package, or even wandered down that aisle–but I did, and I did.  And now my life has been changed forever.

Just in case you’re as ignorant as I was until earlier today, gnocchi are little pillowy pasta dumplings made from potatoes and flour.  The Archer Farms variety is vacuum-packed fresh, not frozen, so it cooks in just two or three minutes.   Although it’s high in carbs (like any pasta), the Archer Farms variety is virtually fat free.

So I decided to pair the gnocchi with a super-healthy sauce, since they’re a bit of a carb indulgence.  Evaporated milk made an appearance once again, this time in its non-fat form.  Add to that some fat-free chicken stock, a dash of jarred pesto sauce, a little Parmesan, a lot of spinach, and we were good to go.

The gnocchi were a hit with everybody–even Mr. Picky, who pronounced it “Totally gnawesome!”  The Girl took a look at the pan before it went into the oven and said “I love spinach, and I love pasta, and I love you for making that.”

Honestly, I don’t think it gets any better.  Little gnocchi, welcome to my world.

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Baked Gnocchi in a Light Spinach-Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

1 pkg. Archer Farms gnocchi (available at Target)
1 can fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups fat-free chicken stock
2 T. prepared pesto sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 10-oz. pkg. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray and set it aside.

Put a large pot of water on high heat to boil. While it's heating up, whisk together the flour and evaporated milk in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the milk warms and thickens, slowly stir in the chicken stock, pesto sauce and Parmesan. Let the sauce simmer until it's very thick. Stir in the spinach, then thin the sauce with a little chicken stock, if necessary, to reach the consistency you'd like. (Add the stock just a little at a time, but don't worry if the sauce seems a little thin. It will thicken while it's baking.)

When the water comes to a boil, add the gnocchi and cook for just 2 or 3 minutes, until they start to float. Drain the gnocchi and spread them across the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Pour the spinach-pesto sauce over the top, making sure all the gnocchi are covered. Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly.


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