The first posting on cooking for men who don’t do cooking, for ages and ages. It’s based on what used to be my least favourite pasta, the rather filling gnocchi, and it includes three varieties of cheese (one mild, one smelly, one salty), plus unloved spinach and some prosciutto. It sounds totally unpromising but this is my wife’s signature dish and trust me fellahs it’s simple to cook and if your guests are hungry and kind of have a hankering for things that look and taste utterly Italian, they’ll love it…and you. So fill up a glass of cool wine whilst I take you through the ingredients.
First off, of course, the gnocchi. Let’s assume you’re cooking for say 4. You’ll need a packet of 400 or 500 gms of good potato gnocchi. All supermarkets sell the stuff these days. For the three varieties of cheese – you’ll need a tub of marscapone (250 gms) and a lump of nice, soft but stronger tasting cheese. We use taleggio because its got a strong aroma but a nicely mild taste. Soft blues like dolcellate or even brie are good substitutes. You’ll need a little bit of parmesan or any bit of grated cheese to sprinkle. You’ll also need a bag of fresh baby spinach, some spring onions, some prosciutto or streaky bacon (but try and keep it Italian if you can). We often serve it with a fresh salad and sometimes some baked garlic mushrooms or focaccia/any crusty bread. Take a slurp guys as you get things prepared.
Wash and prepare all the veg etc you’ll need for the meal. Do the salad and put in a bowl in the fridge. You know what you like best but don’t forget to try/add some fried pine nuts done at the same time as some fried mushrooms if you don’t fancy the garlic mushrooms. If you fancy the latter get some nice 2”-sized mushrooms, peel the skins and take off the stems and insert into a baking dish. Add a generous mix of butter and crushed/finely-sliced garlic. Stick in a hot oven. have a slurp, things are hotting up.
Into a largish frying pan add a tiny touch (literally) of oil/butter and lightly fry the cut spring onions. Add the prosciutto and lightly fry off and set both aside. Put a pan of water on the boil for the gnocchi. Into the warm empty frying pan add the marscapone and wait until it starts to melt. Stir. Add the taleggio and stir as it all melts over a medium heat.
Experts say add salt to the pan of water but your call. Add the gnocchi once boiling. Keep an eye on the gnocchi – it’ll rise to the surface after a short while and will be cooked inside 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat at this point.
Meanwhile add the spinach to the cheese mix in large handfuls and stir until it starts to wilt (it won’t take long). Drain and add the gnocchi and then the already cooked prosciutto and spring onions and stir. Gently fry for half a minute then transfer all to a baking dish. Sprinkle on your grated cheese of choice and bang into the hot oven alongside some focaccia bread if necessary to freshen it up. Almost there fellahs, take another slurp and re-fill the glass. Guests will be salivating at the aromas coming from the kitchen.
Serve when all’s ready. It really shouldn’t take long.
If this isn’t a success for you I’ll eat my hat. You’ll probably be accused of stealing one of Jamie’s Italian recipe’s – which it’s not – and let’s face it, he’s only stealing recipes from the locals himself. Enjoy fellahs!