I seem to be building an Italian theme of recipes, having posted my pescetarian carbonara previously and now gnocchi but I do just love Italian food, and in fact, this dish is very similar to what I cooked as soon as we returned from our wedding in Sorrento last June.
Being vegetarian, I surprisingly didn’t cook with aubergine much before, but after being served grilled aubergine, courgettes and mushrooms in Italy, aubergine has become my favourite vegetable to cook with now – but I only really eat it griddled as I find it tastes best when thin and slightly crispy. Nobody likes a hard, bitter aubergine. Or “eggplant” as the Americans call it.
Gnocchi I find is another required taste – some people love it and others don’t. Like aubergine, I think it’s down to how it’s cooked. Being served a bowl of soft balls swimming in a thick cheese sauce is a bit bland and samey for me, but cooked in just oil and seasoning without a heavy sauce, I find is delicious and easier to cook!
400g gnocchi (fresh)
Extra virgin oil
2 finely chopped cloves of garlic (I often cheat and use Lazy Garlic which saves my hands from smelling of garlic!)
2 handfuls of spinach
100g baby plum tomatoes – cut into halves
Thinly sliced aubergine
30g fresh basil leaves (torn into smaller pieces)
400g chopped tomatoes (tin)
Optional extra: roasted sweet red pepper with feta cheese
1. Heat some oil in a small saucepan and cook the chopped garlic on a low heat until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and 3/4 of the basil leaves, season with salt and pepper and stir it all in together and leave to cook on a low heat, stirring now and again.
2. For the gnocchi, heat a frying pan then add enough olive oil to just coat the surface of the pan (tip: if you pour the oil in after the pan is heated, it doesn’t stick as much. Only just learnt this from watching Michel Roux Jr on Chef Protege!) and add the gnocchi. Cook for around 15 mins on a low to medium heat until the gnocchi starts turning golden brown.
3. While the gnocchi cooks, heat up a griddle pan and then add olive oil – you will need plenty for this pan as the aubergine really soaks it all up! Then place your aubergine slices into the pan and cook for around 5 minutes on each side on a medium to high heat. When you turn them over, add more oil if needed as they can burn easily without moisture. I like my aubergine cooked quite well so I let it go really brown and crispy on the edges, I find it has more flavour when crispy.
4. Push the gnocchi to one side of the pan and add the halved tomatoes, spinach and the rest of the basil leaves to the pan. You might need another drop of oil for the spinach, and you could move the pan off the centre of the ring so that the gnocchi isn’t on the direct heat. Cook for a few minutes until the spinach has wilted and is cooked, then simply mix the ingredients with the gnocchi to even it all out.
5. Serve the gnocchi and stack the aubergine slices onto a plate. Top the aubergine with just enough of the tomato and basil sauce, some grated parmesan and a few basil leaves.
Optional: as you can see in my photo, I’ve also added a roasted pepper on the side. For this, I bought sweet pointed red peppers, halved one length ways and placed feta cubes on the inside with a dash of oil and roasted in the oven for around 20 mins.
Wa-la! Bellissimo!Pin It