I am a huge fan of bright, fresh and tastebud-tingling dishes. It’s true what they say, you eat with your eyes first and if something looks appetising then it’s more inviting as a meal because of the heightened senses of sight, smell and taste. Here I’ve put a modern vegetarian summer twist on a traditional gnocchi dish.
I prefer to use basic ingredients in my dishes so that I know what goes into my food, instead of a jar of processed sauce packed with salt and sugar, I much prefer to create a sauce of my own. I start my sauce by heating a couple of spoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan, to which I slice a few babycorn, cloves of garlic and a sweet yellow pepper on a medium to high heat. After lightly browning the vegetables so that they are crunchy and still fresh I add a generous splash of lemon juice and leave them to sizzle before adding the tomato. Passata is a traditional Italian tomato sauce which you can buy in cartons or jars from every supermarket and is most commonly used with gnocchi. I choose not to use passata as I prefer to make my sauce with a tin of chopped tomatoes instead.
Tinned tomatoes have far greater nutritional value than fresh tomatoes which due to their carotenoid pigment lycopene which can help prevent prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. Tomatoes provide significant amounts of bone-strengthening vitamin K, and research suggests that it also supports bone health. Antioxidant vitamins C and E also help to slow down the processes that can lead to heart disease so tommies are truly superhero’s in a tin. I use a whole tin and empty it into the frying pan over the vegetables, stirring once a minute to mix the sauce through and reduce it to a thicker consistency which takes around five minutes.
Whilst the sauce is reducing I bring a pan of water to the boil and add a pack of potato gnocchi for three minutes. Gnocchi is little more than mashed potato and flour made into small sausage like shapes and is usually found in the pasta and rice area of a supermarket packaged air-tight. You only have to heat it through, so a few minutes of bubbling away in an open saucepan does the trick.
Finally I strain the water from the gnocchi, rinse it with cold water to remove the starch and then add it to the pan to reheat with the sauce. I stir it through to ensure it’s all coated evenly before spooning onto a place. Here I’ve used sunflower seeds and fresh basil as a garnish, as the crunch of the seeds, juiciness of the sweet pepper, succulent gnocchi and citrus zing from the lemon cause a celebration for the tastebuds. You could also add mozzarella cheese or aubergine and rosemary for a richer taste, but here I’ve gone for light and fresh.