Spinach Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce and Buffalo Mozzarella

Oh oh oh this has to be my all-time favourite! it is so good I am surprised it is even legal: fluffy little pillows of scrumptiousness sizzled in butter and bathed in a rich tomato sauce, enlivened by small creamy cubes of buffalo mozzarella and fresh herbs…It is hard not to dribble over my keyboard while I am writing this!


Gnocchi are rather fiddly to make, but if you make a big batch then they freeze perfectly, Do NOT be tempted to buy ready-made gnocchi; they are a true culinary horror! They have no taste except for that of the chemicals used to preserve them, they are so rubbery that chewing the will make your jaw ache,  and they will leave you feeling like you have eaten a breeze-block in tomato sauce.

But preparing fresh gnocchi will improve your life and make you a better person.

Serves 4

For the Gnocchi
500g mashed floury potato
110g plain flour
200g cooked spinach, squeezed dry
1 Egg
Salt, pepper and nutmeg for seasoning
50g butter
2tbsp olive oil

1. Boil the potatoes until soft, drain and warm gently to evaporate as much moisture as possible. Mash, or pass through a ricer and allow to cool.
2. Wilt the spinach, refresh in cold water, squeeze out as much water as possible (I like to retain this to use in stock, or to boil down and add to spinach as a vegetable), and chop really finely.
3. Mix the potato, flour, spinach and egg, and season with a salt, pepper and a grate of nutmeg. You can add more flour if the dough is too wet, but avoid the temptation to add too much as this will make the gnocchi stodgy. The ideal dough is actually quite difficult to work with.
4. To make the gnocchi, break off a lump of dough, and roll out till you have a long sausage about 75mm thick. Chop the roll into 3cm pieces and flatten each piece with a fork to create indentations.
5. To cook the gnocchi, drop them into a large pan of boiling salted water. They are cooked when they float to the surface, which will probably only take about 20 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and dry on kitchen paper. (it is at this stage you can freeze any surplus.)
6. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the olive oil, Fry the gnocchi in batches until crisp and golden.

Tomato Sauce
1 garlic clove
5tbsp olive oil
500g tinned tomatoes, or fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped coarsely
1 small handful fresh basil

1. Chop the garlic finely, and fry gently in the olive oil until soft. Do not allow to brown, or it will be bitter.
2. Add the tomatoes (if using fresh I think it is unnecessary to peel and de-seed) and basil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
3. Adjust the seasoning.

To serve:
50g Parmesan, freshly grated
150g buffalo mozzarella cut into 1 cm cubes
1 bunch of chopped fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano, lemon verbena

1. Divide the gnocchi between 4 pasta bowls, and sprinkle with Parmesan.
2. Ladle over the sauce.
3. Add the mozzarella.
4. Sprinkle with herbs.


© DAVEggie

Salade Nicoise – a Summer Classic from the South of France

Salade Nicoise (with or without the salmon) is a fabulous dish! Served with good crusty bread it makes a healthy and satisfying summer meal. If you are going to add fish I suggest fresh salmon rather than the traditional tinned. Do not be tempted to use tinned tuna!

The secret of success lies in a really punchy dressing, and plenty of fresh soft herbs – pretty much any combination work well together.

Serves 2
4tbs oil ( I like to use a mixture of sunflower, rapeseed and olive, but do not use virgin olive oil)
1tbs white wine vinegar
1tsp prepared French mustard
1/2tbs spring onions

1. Blitz the ingredients together the oil, vinegar and mustard.
2. Finely chop the spring onions and add.
3. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper.

¼ crisp cos lettuce
100g new potatoes
100g haricots verts
2 medium ripe tomatoes
2 eggs
150g fresh salmon (optional)
12 black olives
2 anchovies (optional)
3tbs fresh herbs (such as parsley, oregano, chives, chervil, tarragon, coriander, lemon verbena)

1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain, and add ¼ of the dressing while still hot. When cold enough, cut into 1/2cm slices.
2. Teat the lettuce into smallish pieces and lay in the bottom of a salad bowl. Toss with ¼ of the dressing.
3. Cut the beans into 3cm lengths, and boil until they are almost tender, Refresh in cold water and drain.
4. Boil the eggs for about 7 minutes, so they are still slightly runny. When cold enough, peel and slice into 6 wedges.
5. Cut each tomato into 8 wedges.
6. Chop the herbs.
7. If using, season the salmon and dredge in flour. Fry on one side for about 3 minutes (depending on the thickness), turn and fry briefly. The salmon should be slightly under-cooked in the middle. Allow to cool, then flake.

1. Lay the potatoes over the lettuce. Season with a little salt and pepper (to taste.)
2. Sprinkle over the beans, add a drizzle of dressing and ¼ of the herbs.
3. Add the salmon flakes, and season. Sprinkle some more herbs.
4. Arrange the egg attractively.
5. Do the same with the tomato and olives (stone first if necessary.)
6. Snip the anchovy if using, and sprinkle over the salad.
7. Mix the remaining herbs into the remaining dressing, and pour over the salad.


© DAVEggie

Spaghetti Bolognaise – No donkeys were harmed in the making of this recipe!

I am not in general a great believer in creating vegetarian versions of ‘meat’ classics, but with this vegetarian Bolognaise I make an unapologetic exception. The character of a good Bolognaise sauce lies in a deep and rich tomato sauce. This is traditionally flavoured with minced beef, although in rural areas of Italy whatever meat is available is used: mutton, goat, horse-meat, donkey meat…

I use chestnut mushrooms instead. However, tomatoes and mushrooms are not natural bedfellows in my opinion, so do not be tempted to overdo the mushroom-ness. Use vegetable stock, and avoid dried mushrooms such as porcini, as these will overpower. Do not be mean with the tomato purée. I also add tomato sauce; I forget now where the idea originally came from deep in the past, but believe me, it adds another dimension of flavour – omit it at your peril!

To make this recipe more substantial, I like to serve it with Salade Nicoise.

Serves 2
2tbs olive oil
1 stalk celery
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
200g chestnut mushrooms
1 vegetable stock cube
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2tbs chopped fresh parsley
50ml dry sherry
3tbs tomato pure
1/2tbs tomato sauce
250ml water

1. Blitz the celery, carrot, onion and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.
2. Fry in olive oil until nicely browned (about 15 minutes.)
3. Blitz the mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped. Then squeeze as much water out of them, retaining the liquid.
4. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 minutes (add more olive oil as necessary.)
5. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Oh, and of course spaghetti or spaghettini!

© DAVEggie

Stuffed Tomatoes

This is very a versatile recipe. You could use courgettes in place of tomatoes. And while I have chosen an Italian style stuffing, you could substitute it for Tabouleh for a Moroccan version, or use Indian spices for an Indian version.

Serves 2
4 beefsteak tomatoes
100g rice (basmati or long grain)
3 tbs olive oil
1 garlic glove, crushed
½ small yellow pepper
1 celery stick
½ medium carrot
1 small onion
25g mushrooms
8 black olives
15g pine nuts
2 thyme sprigs
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tbs chopped parsley
100g blue cheese such as Gorgonzola
75ml vegetable stock

1. Chop the tops of the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and core, and reserve (the easiest way to do this is to cut through the core with a small sharp knife, and then scoop out the remaining centre with a spoon.) Place upside down on kitchen paper and allow to drain for about 15 minutes.
2. Add the tomato tops and scooping to a pan with a splash of water, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
3. Add the rice to boiling salted water, and cook for about 12 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and allow the steam to evaporate.
4. Meanwhile but the vegetables into small even pieces, and sauté gently in olive oil, along with the thyme and crushed garlic clove, until soft.
5. Add the vegetables to the rice, add the oregano, pine nuts olives and parsley, season, and mix well.
6. Season the inside of the tomatoes well, and add the rice stuffing mixture to fill.
7. Top each tomato with cheese, and drizzle with olive oil.
8. Strain the tomato liquor and add to the vegetable stock. Pour into a shallow baking tray, add the tomatoes and bake at 180° for about 40 minutes.

Serve with good crusty bread.


© DAVEggie