Thursday, 3 March 2011

Gnocchi with Tomato & Mozzarella Sauce

This is a quick one for when you're in a hurry. We needed to put something together before picking up some friends and driving out to a board games evening - Snatch, Hacienda, Through the Desert, and Web of Power, if you were wondering! I had some tomato juice left over from the laksah, a couple bunches of spinach and a ball of mozzarella I hadn't been able to resist buying at the weekend. So! Instant Italian-style supper for two.


  • 3 large shallots or a medium white onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 4-5 large fresh tomatoes or a 400ml tin, diced
  • two bunches or a bag of spinach
  • a large ball of mozzarella
  • half a bunch of basil
  • fresh gnocchi, or pasta of your choice

In a deep frying pan (not necessarily non-stick), gently fry the onion or shallots in a little olive oil, until golden. Crush the garlic into the pan and cook for a further minute. Add your tomatoes and stir together, then bring to a simmer - you can cover the pan to bring it to temperature faster. Simmer uncovered until the tomatoes lose their shape and the sauce just transitions from liquid to paste-like. This is why I use a frying pan: the water evaporates faster from the larger surface area.

Meanwhile, rinse the spinach, and place it in a deep saucepan. Cover and place over a moderate heat, stirring after two minutes so the spinach doesn't stick. Allow it to steam in its own water and remove as soon as it has collapsed. You can reuse the pan to cook your pasta according to its instructions (gnocchi are done when they float to the top like cheerful clouds). Leave the spinach to drain, then squeeze out the liquid when it has cooled, and roughly chop, adding half a teaspoon of salt as you do. Tear or slice the mozzarella into bite-size pieces.

When it is cooked to your liking, drain the pasta. Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and tip in the mozzarella and spinach. Stir gently through, season with black pepper, and leave off the heat, covered, for two minutes. Serve your pasta in shallow bowls and tip the sauce over: the mozzarella will have softened and become a tiny bit molten, and the flavours will have mellowed together.

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