Finding replacements for pasta is one of my favorite culinary challenges. Not because I don't love me some pasta. I just really need to not eat all those carbs. Stupid carbs. Why do they have to be so delicious and addictive? Annoying. But they annoy me much less when I find yummy things to eat that serve the same purpose and are much more nutritious. Zucchini ribbons and spaghetti squash are two of my favorite substitutes so far, but tonight I made a play on gnocchi with just spinach, cheeses, egg and some spices, and it did not disappoint at all. Try it and see what you think!
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz. ricotta cheese (I used light)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Wrap spinach in a lint-free kitchen towel and squeeze excess liquid out.
3. Throw into a bowl and add ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix until all ingredients are well-combined. Add egg and mix well.
4. Form mixture into small ovals (about a teaspoon each) and place into buttered baking dish. Bake 20-25 minutes or until gnocchi are firm and slightly browned.
For Red Pepper Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 red bell peppers, seeded and diced (yellow or orange would work fine too)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1. Melt butter in nonstick or cast iron pan. Add onions and saute until translucent.
2. Add garlic, peppers, cumin, garlic powder and Italian seasoning and saute until peppers become tender.
3. Add chicken broth and simmer until reduced and thickened.
4. Transfer mixture to blender and blend to desired consistency. I like mine to have just a bit of substance to it--not completely smooth, but it's up to you. (Also: you may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender.)
5. Once blended, pour sauce mixture back into pan and add cream. Combine well and simmer. Salt and pepper to taste.
1 pound turkey Italian sausage, browned and drained
additional Parmesan for garnish
To serve, either layer gnocchi, then sausage, then sauce, then Parmesan. Or you can just toss it all together. Hint: it's a prettier presentation separated, but there is nothing in the world wrong with soaking everything in that amazing sauce, and it definitely tastes better that way. If you don't trust your guests to make sure they get plenty of sauce in each bite, just go ahead and mix it all together. They'll be glad you did. :-)