Thursday, March 2, 2017

Easy Weeknight Gnocchi Skillet Dinner for Two

Someone recently asked me what my favorite cuisine would be. That was a tough question. I love so many different foods from so many different cultures, and I'm always trying new things and falling in love with new ethnic foods. To try and narrow it down to just one was difficult. Of course I love American foods, what's not to love about burgers and fried chicken and comfort foods? I'm part German so of course traditional German foods are part of my childhood and have a spot in my heart. French food is a part time obsession of mine, and so is Chinese/Asian food. Yes, I had considerable difficulty pinning just one down, but in the end, I went with........Italian. 

Italian cuisine is a lot more varied than many people realize. Sure, marinara sauce is a big part, but different regions of Italy feature many different foods and preparations. The Lombardy region is the "meaty" region- lots of beef and pork, along with rice and polenta. Gorgonzola and taleggio cheese hail from this region. You might find rich stuffed pastas, like squash filled ravioli and rich risotto. Calabria showcases a lot of Spanish influences in dishes. You will find seafood very prominent here and Calabrese pizza with sopressata. Campania is the pasta region, and relies heavily on vegetables in their dishes. Spaghetti alla puttanesca was created in this region, and has become a favorite around our house. Coastal Marche is another region where seafood features prominently in their dishes. Puglia brings olive oil to the world, and Tuscany uses many different types of legumes in dishes and you can find white truffle in many foods. 

With a name like Riccio, of course The Chef also loves Italian foods and given the choice, he would live on pasta. We prepare a lot of Italian dishes at home. Red sauce is pretty much a staple, and it's so versatile, why not make lots? Tossed with pasta, ladled over roasted meats and spread on dough and baked into pizzas, it's not very often that red sauce goes to waste here. Even Louie the Bulldog is a fan of pasta and pizza days. Louie gets his own serving of pasta and always gets a few bites of pizza. For myself, I prefer meaty marinara sauce dishes with beef, sausage, meatballs, or even just mushrooms, and The Chef's favorite sauce is filled with clams and seafood like shrimp or mussels. 

Sometimes we get a craving for pasta but maybe don't feel like making, or don't have time to make a pot of red sauce so we look for other ways to get our pasta fix. The Chef makes a mean creamy Gorgonzola sauce....... and it's prefect on top of a juicy filet. We also really like making our own homemade pasta. Pasta dough is a snap with a stand mixer, and a pasta machine makes rolling it perfectly thin so easy you'll want to make it again and again. 

Of course, special equipment is not required to make gnocchi- delicious little dumplings of dough. Usually made with cooked potato and flour, gnocchi can be made with all kinds of things- herbs, ricotta cheese, fruits or vegetables, to give the little dumplings a color and flavor to liven up any dish. They are super easy to make from scratch but most grocery stores also carry ready to cook gnocchi in the pasta section, vacuum packed with no refrigeration needed, and are awesome to have on hand for quick dinners. Whip up some sauce, boil some water- the gnocchi cook in about three minutes, drain, toss and voila- dinner in minutes. They are great as an entree or side. Today we are going to use the gnocchi in a super quick entree that's perfect for busy weeknights when the last thing you want to do is stand over a hot stove for a couple hours. Brown some sausage, add broccoli rabe and garlic, a handful of Parmesan, toss with cooked gnocchi- done!

For the Italian sausage, I used locally produced Graziano's traditional Italian sausage. I used mild- use as hot as you like. If you buy links, just remove the casing and crumble the sausage into the skillet. The broccoli rabe is perfect in this dish but it's not always available. If you can't find it, just buy a couple stalks of broccoli and cut into broccolini-like pieces. It will be just as delicious. 

The olive oil in my dish is Sinful Food garlic olive oil. It makes a big difference in the flavor of the dish to use a high quality infused oil. Get your Sinful Food oils by clicking HERE.

Gnocchi and Sausage Skillet

1 package store bought gnocchi, one pound
1 Italian sausage link, about 1/2 to 3/4 lb.
olive oil
small bunch broccoli rabe or broccolini, cut into bite sized pieces
4-6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup butter, softened
pinch of crushed red pepper, optional
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to full rolling boil. Add gnocchi and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.

Remove the casing from the sausage and crumble into a large skillet with the olive oil. Cook until sausage is browned and cooked through. Add the broccoli rabe to the skillet and cook, stirring often for about three minutes until wilted. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute. 

Remove from heat and stir in the softened butter and the pasta water. Add the gnocchi, crushed red pepper and Parmesan. Toss to coat the gnocchi. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle additional Parmesan over if desired. Serve immediately.

This pasta dish is so comforting and delicious and comes together so quickly you will want to keep this in your rotation. Just throw some garlic bread in the oven and whip up a salad if you like. It's even good enough for guests.

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