Ricotta gnocchi pasta bake
Italian is the cuisine I always fall back on when cooking at home. Vanessa, my wife, has a background in Italian kitchens. This baked ricotta gnocchi is a favourite dish of hers.
Rainbow chard and ricotta gnocchi bake. Photo: Marcel Aucar
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For the sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
½ fennel head, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
700g tomato passata
salt and pepper
For the bake
400g rainbow chard, leaves removed from stems and washed
4 tbsp parmesan, grated, plus extra for the top
4 tbsp plain flour
½ tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180C. For the sauce, heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan on a high heat, add onion, fennel, garlic and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low and cook for about seven minutes or until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the passata, season, then simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve for later. For the bake, bring a large pot of water with a good pinch of salt to the boil, blanch the chard leaves for five minutes then drain.
When cool, chop them finely. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan, flour, eggs and nutmeg then season well. Mix the chopped chard with the ricotta mix, then pour into a piping bag without a nozzle. Spread half the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 30 x 20-centimetre baking tray.
Pipe 4 to 5-centimetre-round balls in rows on top of the sauce until all the ricotta mix is used (don't worry if it looks a bit rustic, it will taste great). Pour the rest of the sauce over the top of the balls, making sure that they all get some sauce; it will not totally cover everything. Grate a light shower of parmesan over the dish then bake for 40 minutes.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.