Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pesto Gnocchi with Sundried Tomatoes and Broccolini

After so many salads and light meals lately, I was ready to make something hearty and satisfying for our dinner a few days ago. Paired with some roasted garlic bread, this creation was absolute perfection!

I saw a package of whole wheat gnocchi in the store the other day and impulsively bought it. I have never even heard of whole wheat gnocchi, and I've definitely never prepared a gnocchi dish. I think I always thought gnocchi wasn't vegan...maybe it isn't always, who knows, but this one was. I set out to make my first gnocchi without a very clear idea of what I was going to do with it. This dish kind of just came together as I was making it and turned out to be a happy surprise. Let's start with the pesto.

A few weeks ago I bought one of those huge basil plants that they are selling everywhere these days. It was starting to die because of my famously black thumb (a trait I inherited from my mother). I can pretty much kill any plant I come in contact with. I figured I'd better use the rest of it before it withered, so why not pesto? I hadn't made pesto in quite a while but this time reminded me that I should make it much more often. It's sooooo good. My vegan pesto recipe is this:

1/6 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp lemon juice
a whole bunch of fresh basil (two handfuls or so)
1 tsp lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

Just blend the whole mess in a food processor and you are good to go. If you aren't familiar with nutritional yeast, you are missing out big time. It's this funky yellow powder that is supposedly really good for you. A lot of vegetarians eat it as a sort of supplement because it has all kinds of goodness and vitamins including B12 in it. Read more about it here. I love it because it adds a sort of cheesy flavor in recipes like this one. I also use it in my vegan lasagna recipe and others. Sprinkle it on steamed broccoli or on popcorn for something super-yum. You can buy it at any health food store or Whole Foods. Trust me, if you leave it out of any of my recipes on this site you are really missing an important flavor. Give it a try!

I prepared the gnocchi according to the package directions which included boiling it in salted water for about 8 minutes or so. Drain the gnocchi but don't rinse it as that will remove the starch which is what makes everything else stick to it in a good way. The other ingredients which made it into this dish are:

8-10 sun dried tomatoes, cut into slivers
1 small onion, quartered and sliced
1 bunch broccolini
1 15-oz can of chickpeas

First steam the broccolini for a few minutes until tender but not quite done. Next saute the onion until tender, then add the sun dried tomatoes, chickpeas, pesto, and steamed broccolini. Simmer until warmed through, then add the gnocchi and stir to incorporate.

I couldn't have asked for a more satisfying meal or a better was to use pesto. We loved the texture of the whole wheat gnocchi which was smooth but chewy with a little bit nutty flavor. The idea to add the chickpeas to this dish came from a Vegetarian Times recipe on which
this was roughly based. The original recipe sounded a little boring which is where the pesto etc. came in. I'm sure you could use all kinds of other vegetables in this instead, especially broccoli raab or regular broccoli. All in all, this was a delicious restaurant-quality meal if I may say so. And it hit the spot on another cold summer night in SF. In fact, I'm getting hungry just writing about it. I need to buy some more gnocchi!

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