Small, Sardinian Gnocchi with Lentils & Leek
There are so many pasta shapes that this here Sicilian guy likes to eat- who knew that one of them would be known as "Sardinian" gnocchi? Oh, I have no idea where the names actually originate from- probably clever marketing ploys of the pasta manufacturers, as these are basically just smaller versions of Sicilian "Cavatini"... but I digress! The cavatini I will make by hand some time ... once I am over my cold! But for this evening, these store bought little beauties went to make a fine and comforting meal with a lot less hassle...
The other stars in this suppertime show are lentils... don't groan now! Lentils are wonderful, nutty and so flavorful- and surprisingly people who are not Vegans can eat them too! Just kidding there- but lentils do often, rather unjustly, get relegated to a position of being something to joke about, some health-food for dietary deviants... but I say nay! They are just plain delicious!
This is another great one-pot meal, easy to make and of course comforting on a snowy evening- especially if you are still trying to get over a cold like poor me! So less work and more enjoyment are a part of the deal here- and that's got to be good!
I started off with a fine dice of onion, celery and carrot, which I sautéed in olive oil, with a little garlic and plenty of parsley- including the stalks which hold much more flavor than the leaves! I always groan when people throw them away... don't!
Once the onion and celery had become translucent, I added the lentils, which were in this case the little Pardina variety- but you can use any brown or green lentils that you have handy or may prefer. Red lentils are also nice, but cook much too quickly for this preparation. As soon as the lentils were also coated with the olive oil and juices from the vegetables, I added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and stirred that in, then immediately deglazed the pan with enough water to cover the lentils. I added a few celery leaves, seasoned with salt and pepper, turned down the heat to a low simmer and let them bubble away for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes the water was mostly absorbed by the lentils, but it was at this point that I added the gnocchi- just a handful or so for one serving, and again, enough water to cover everything. And a little bit more! You see, I wanted to cook the gnocchi together with the lentils, not separate, so that as they cooked, the starch they would release into the water would thicken it up, combining with all the flavor of the lentils and vegetables and change it into a silky, soupy consistency. So, back went the lid and down went the heat and I let it simmer for 10 minutes more.
10 minutes later, the water was yet again absorbed by the lentils and the gnocchi... so I topped it up one last time, adjusted the seasoning- a little more salt, a little more pepper... and back it went for the final 10 minutes. This is not a dish where you want to aim to have the pasta al dente- although these little devils are almost impossible to over-cook anyway! No, it needs to be thoroughly cooked through and soft and unctuous... trust me- you're going to love it!
I served it up with a scattering of fresh, tender celery leaves, a sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil- yum yum! Good and healthy food can be so cheap and easy! Enjoy!