Gnocchi in a Creamy Asparagus Sauce

I have previously mentioned my love of potatoes, and being a big fan of carbs, a plate of gnocchi really hits the spot.  Today we´ll be using a packet of ready made gnocchi, as this is a speedy dish that looks gourmet, and we all like those.

Would Madam like a lifejacket with her sauce?

The sauce is enough for four.  Of course, rather than save half for another day, we used it all and had our gnocchi swimming in a delicious creamy sauce.  Shame on us.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet gnocchi
  • 200ml of pouring or single cream
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons of soft blue cheese (optional but highly recommended)
  • Fresh parmesan for grating
  • Some chopped cooked lardons, bacon or jamon for sprinkling over the finished dish (or leave these out if you want to keep it vegetarian)
  • Seasoning

Start by finely chopping the asparagus, leaving the aside the tips.  Cook in salted water (not the tips) until tender and remove with a slotted spoon. Now cook the tips, drain and set aside, keeping warm if possible. You can always save the cooking liquid to add to vegetable stick or soup.

In a blender jug put the cream, milk, blue cheese (if using), asparagus (again, not those tips!) and plenty of black pepper.  Blitz until you have a smooth thick cream and put into a small saucepan.

Boil the water for your gnocchi, add salt, and cook until they float to the top.  While they are cooking, gently warm the cream sauce, taste and add salt if necessary.

When the gnocchi are done, drain and mix the cream sauce in, place into warmed serving dishes. Sprinkle over the asparagus tips and jamon or bacon (if using) and grate over some fresh parmesan.  Speedy, luxurious, delicious.

For some other wonderful suggestions of what to do with asparagus, check out RaeDi´s Pizza recipe here and Greg´s Lemon Asparagus here.

On Thursday Big Man and I are heading to London for a week to catch up with family, friends and food. My parents are probably one of the few families on the planet who don´t have internet, so although I may post again before Thursday, I won´t be able to read blogs or comment from Wednesday evening until we get back when I will do a big “catch up”.  Hopefully we´ll come home with lots of lovely foodie goodies and some good eating experiences to share with you all.

Update – I have added this recipe to Greenslove´s recipes, check out Linda´s link here at Savoring Every Bite for more info

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Speedy Pasta with Aubergine and Tomato Sauce

When I lived in London my life was, as you can imagine, very different from life Up The Mountain.  For a start I had a Proper Grown Up Job. And I travelled a lot, sometimes spending weeks living out of a suitcase or briefly stopping at home for a pit stop to repack the case.  At times like this my best friends were the local take away menus.  Luckily, I lived in an area that boasted an amazing amount of pretty good quality restaurants who could get something tasty to my doorstep within about 30 minutes of me placing a call.

When I moved to Spain, it took me a while to adjust to the fact that when I didn´t feel all that much like cooking it was either Big Man´s special fried eggs, or jamon, cheese and melon to eat. The nearest take aways or delivery services are, I imagine, in a town a 45 minute drive away.

Finally I realised that I could still have something tasty to eat in about the same amount of time as it would have taken me to decide what to order from the take away menu, make the call and wait for the delivery guy to show up.

This is one of my speedy suppers.  In the time it takes for a large pot of water to come to the boil and the pasta to cook, I have a delicious sauce made to serve with my favourite pasta, plenty of grated parmesan and I even get to swig a glass of wine while it´s cooking.  Well, I need a dash of wine for the sauce.

Per person you need half an aubergine finely diced, two cloves of crushed garlic, two medium tomatoes peeled and chopped, a large slug of wine, a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (I used a mixture of parsley and basil), seasoning and olive oil. I also use a crushed dried chili as I like my sauce spicy, but this is up to you.

Put the pot of water on to boil and sauté the aubergine until brown.  Now add the garlic and once it is softened add the tomato and seasoning and the chili if using.  Let the tomato cook down a little by which time you will probably be ready to put the pasta into the pot.  Add your wine and herbs to the sauce and let it bubble away gently until the pasta is cooked and ready to be drained. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

The sauce is a little like the one used in Pasta alla Norma  (ChgoJohn has a fine example of it here and Linda at Savouring Every Bite here).   These recipes give you a deeper tasting, richer sauce as it´s cooked for longer. Yum!

Now all you need to do is mix the sauce into the pasta, grate or shave over plenty of your favourite cheese, pour another glass of wine and think about how you are putting the fast food delivery services out of business.

Pesto – with an Andalucían twist

All lined up for a Family Portrait

Basil grows like crazy here.  Well, it does if the slugs don´t get the first batch that you put into the ground in Spring.  After replanting, I finally got my usual lovely crop of basil which I was using for salads, soups, seasoning and many other things beginning with the letter “s”.

There comes a point when you have to cut it back, as it starts to want to flower and the stalks begin to get a little tough and woody.  This is one bit of greenery my chickens are not going to enjoy as a treat…it´s going to become my annual batch of pesto.  I always make plenty (and I´ll probably make at least one more batch) as something mysterious always seems to happen to my little jars of pesto.

It works like this….visitors come from the UK.  They discover my despensa (that´s a walk in larder) and start to disappear for longer and longer.  When they leave to go home, their suitcases are strangely heavy.  I go into the despensa and find greatly reduced stocks of marmalade, jams and pesto!  It´s a funny thing…. I still haven´t worked out what is happening in there.

Anyway, as to exact measurements, it´s hard to say as much will depend on the strength of your garlic, the pungency of your cheese, the fruitiness of your olive oil.  The little twist to my pesto is nothing that exotic or mysterious…but it´s hard (and expensive) to buy pine nuts here, and as we have a couple of almond trees in our little olive grove, I just substitute almonds for pine nuts.

My food processor seems to have worn down its blade slightly, so this year´s pesto was a little chunkier than usual as I couldn´t grind the almonds down to a fine powder.  That said, it tastes amazing, and a day after taking the photos the sauce is a beautiful vivid green colour.

You´ll need basil leaves, salt, a hard cheese such as parmesan (I also used some hard sheep´s milk cheese as the parmesan I had was nothing too special) which you need to grate, olive oil, and garlic.

For about 8 cups of basil I used 3 large cloves of garlic, about 3 cups of grated cheese, 2 cups of ground almonds, 3 teaspoons of sea salt and 1 litre of olive oil.  This gave me just over one and a half litres of pesto.

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You can make it in a food processor, although I had to switch to doing smaller batches with my hand blender because of my ineffective blade.  Taste and add….more salt, go for it….now more cheese….too thick, add more oil.  You get the picture.

Put into sterilised jars when you are done, it will keep for a year.  But only if you put a lock on the larder door.