The inspiration for last night's dinner came from Cathy at Noble Pig and the Gnocchi Mac & Cheese she whipped up from Cuisine at Home. I saw it and thought darn, that looks tasty but since we'd had macaroni cheese ourselves not that long ago I knew I had to make something just a little different.
I don't know if you've noticed but I haven't exactly been cooking with a lot of vegetables lately so I figured I'd best get some vitamins into us PDQ but to counteract their healthiness, I just had to add a ton of cream, sour cream and cheese too. The only thing missing was the MEAT and boy did I hear about that last night. Although the resident carnivore liked this cheesy dish, he kept mentioning how much better it would be with sausage or hanger steak on the side. Dahhh ya! At least he's consistent.
Just a note before you read the recipe: as with most baked pasta casseroles, this one does take a little time to put together but it makes it easier when you organize your time at that big pot of boiling water and get all your ducks in a row before you start. The first thing I did was prep all my ingredients, then cooked the cauliflower for 4 minutes, fished it out of the pot and added the tomatoes. They hit the hot tub for 1minute and were removed to be followed by the gnocchi. After it hit the boiling water and started to float, I set the timer for 2 minutes and then drained the whole lot and moved on to making the cheesy cream sauce and sauteeing the vegetables.
Is it worth all the steps, you ask? Believe you me once you taste the finished product you'll be plum happy you took the time to make it. Healthy - not so much. Delicious - oh ya!
Cheesy Baked Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Tomatoes (Inspired by Noble Pig)
1 medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1 inch florets
2 large Roma tomatoes
1 16 ounce package prepared gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s Potato Gnocchi)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 Tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups half and half
2 cups grated cheese (I used a 4 cheese blend of provolone, fontina, mozzarella and parmesan)
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated asiago or parmesan
Salt and course ground pepper
1/3 cup Ritz cracker crumbs or buttered bread crumbs
In a large pot of boiling water, cook cauliflower for 4 minutes until crisp-tender. Remove from pot and set aside. Add tomatoes to pot and cook for 1 minute. Remove from pot, peel, chop and set aside. Add gnocchi to pot and when they start to float, cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
In a medium sized saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add half and half slowly, whisking constantly. Cook stirring until mixture thickens (about 4 to 5 minutes). Whisk in grated cheese and stir until cheese has melted (sauce will be very thick). Remove from heat and mix in sour cream and mustard. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add onion and garlic and cook until vegetables are soft. Add cauliflower and sauté until cauliflower is golden brown. Add peeled and chopped tomatoes. Cook for one minute then remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a gratin dish or casserole with cooking spray. Place cooked gnocchi on the bottom, then add sautéed vegetables. Top with cheese sauce, sprinkle fresh nutmeg, then sprinkle with grated asiago or parmesan and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until casserole is bubbling and top is golden. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.