• Death by Baked Gnocchi (and Garlic Bread)

    I don’t know if this is just a thing in my family, but for as long as I can remember, Friday night has been pizza night. It makes sense, the last day of the work week deserves a comfort food treat, but here’s the thing: sometimes you just gotta switch it up. Tradition is great, but a little change never hurt anyone, ESPECIALLY when that change involves a slow-simmered tomato sauce, pillowy gnocchis (okay I know gnocchi is already plural but shhhhh), and bubbly melty cheese.

    This week has felt like seven in one, anyone else feel like that? I’ve truly never been more excited for a long weekend, and plan on doing nothing except maybe baking something with the blood oranges that I just had to have last week. Any suggestions? I’m leaning towards some kind of meringue pie maybe? Anywho, this beautiful dish was my reward to myself for making it through the week in one piece, and WOW was it worth it. It starts with the classic and decadent Marcella Hazan butter and onion tomato sauce. If you’ve never made this sauce, I almost envy you for being able to try it for the first time, because you will NEVER look back. It’s simple, a little sweet, and soo smooth. It’s also pretty foolproof, with a grand total of 3 ingredients, the hardest thing you’ll have to do is open the can of crushed tomatoes.

    I chose to use store bought gnocchi for this meal, for the reliability and to save time, but if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can make your own! Then it’s really all about assembly, and since each component is cooked on its own, the sole purpose of the baking is to make the cheese all bubbly and golden. Once that’s all done, serve it up with some garlic bread and prepare to lie on the floor in a food coma for approximately 4 hours.

    Let’s get cooking!!

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    A beautiful mess of cheesy goodness!!

    Makes: 6-8 servings
    Prep Time: 45 minutes
    Bake Time: 15 minutes
    Total: about 1 hour 15 minutes

    Gnocchi Ingredients:

    2 packages potato gnocchi
    1 can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano but don’t stress if you can’t find them)
    1 large yellow onion
    4 tbs salted butter
    2 balls of fresh mozzerella

    Steps:

    1. Add crushed tomatoes to a medium saucepan. Peel the onion and cut in half (that’s literally it), and drop the halves in with the tomatoes. Cut the butter into single tablespoons and mix everything together briefly. Simmer this mixture on low for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the softened onions before proceeding. Congratulations, you will never buy a jar of pasta sauce again!

    2. While your sauce is simmering, bring a pot of water to a boil. When you have about 5-10 minutes left on the sauce, season the water generously with salt and cook your gnocchi. They’re cooked when they float to the top of the water and remain there. Using a large slotted spoon or spider strainer, scoop the gnocchi out of the water and add them straight into the pot with the tomato sauce. At this point, preheat your oven to 350ºF.

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    The waiting for the cooking is the worst part don’t you think?

    3. Cut one ball of mozzarella into cubes and stir into the gnocchi and sauce so that it begins to melt, and transfer the whole delicious mixture into an 8x8in square baking dish. Cut several slices from the second ball of mozzarella and place on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes, and broil for the last few to make the cheese on top golden and perfect. Be careful not to look away with the broiler on, it goes from nothing to burnt REALLY fast.

    4. Serve immediately with one (or 6) pieces of garlic bread (recipe follows below) and a glass of red wine because you deserve it.

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    Garlic Bread Ingredients:

    1 loaf of ciabatta or italian bread
    1 stick salted butter, softened
    4 gloves garlic, minced
    3 tsp dried basil

    Steps:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, garlic, and basil.

    2. Slice the loaf of bread in half and generously spread the garlic mixture on both halves. Put the halves back together and wrap in tinfoil. Bake for 15 minutes, then unwrap and separate the halves, and bake for another 5 minutes. Slice the halves and serve warm!!

    Enjoy!! xoxoxo

     

  • The Best Minestrone Ever.

    This is probably one of my most important recipes, adapted from a Food52 article titled “How To Make Vegetarian Minestrone Soup without a Recipe”, which can be read here. I realize that it seems odd to create a recipe based off an article telling you you don’t need a recipe, but hear me out. While studying abroad in Florence during my junior year of college, my roommate and I ran out of money within the first 5 minutes (Italian leather and cornettos with crema, I literally couldn’t STOP myself), and realized that we were going to have to be able to cook more of our own meals if we were going to make it out of the country without being completely broke. Not wanting to venture too far away from the Italian flavors we were coming to know and love, I came across this article and got to work.

    The basic beauty of this soup is that you can basically just use whatever you have around the house, which makes it incredibly versatile. However, after one try, the following combination became such a staple to our friend group that, 2 years later, I still make it the exact same way at every reunion. A classic minestrone includes all the good stuff- veggies, pasta, lots of cheese (the best part really), and takes on a slightly different flavor with each adjustment. Soup can sometimes seem daunting, but it’s SO satisfying to watch it come together, and this is a great recipe for a beginner to start with, or for a more experienced cook to mess around with. A word of advice? If the whole quantity of soup is not being eaten in one sitting, you may want to cook the pasta in a separate pot and add it into the soup before serving, or else be prepared to add more chicken broth/ water the next time you heat it, as the pasta absorbs most of the broth overnight, making it much thicker and less of a soup consistency. P.S. If you do make changes/ adjustments, I would LOVE to hear how they turn out. Enjoy!! xoxoD

    Ingredients:

    3-4 tablespoons olive oil
    2 medium-sized yellow onions; diced
    5 (or 6) carrots; peeled and diced
    4 stalks celery; diced
    4 cloves garlic; minced
    3 red bell peppers; diced
    3 leek stalks; thoroughly cleaned and sliced into thin half-moons
    4-5 yukon gold potatoes; peeled and diced into chunks
    2 cans crushed tomatoes
    8 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth if you’re going vegetarian)
    2 cans white beans; drained and rinsed
    1 box dried pasta (Any short pasta will work, I like rigatoni or large shells)
    A few handfuls fresh spinach leaves; washed
    Salt & Pepper to taste
    Wedge of parmesan cheese; freshly grated (for serving)

    Steps:

    1. Add olive oil to a heavy-bottomed soup pot and heat on medium. Add onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and peppers, and cook until they soften and the onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute, until the garlic is fragrant but not brown. Season with salt and pepper.

    2. Next, add potatoes and stir briefly to incorporate with the rest of the veggies. Pour in both cans of crushed tomatoes, the chicken broth, and cover the pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (low heat), cooking until the potatoes are tender when tested with a fork, 20-30 minutes.

    3. Add the drained, rinsed beans, and heat through, about 5 minutes. If using uncooked pasta, toss in towards the end, until the pasta is al dente. Toss in spinach leaves and mix until they begin to wilt (the measurement is general because it’s totally up to you, and spinach shrinks up so a few handfuls always ends up being less than you’d think).

    4. Serve with a generous grating of parmesan cheese, and a large piece of crusty bread. Then lie on the floor for a while and wonder if you’ll ever not be full again!

    This recipe is dedicated to my Firenze family who I hope still want me around now that I have revealed this secret recipe.

  • TO START.

    First things first, time to introduce myself. My name is Deirdre, I’m 22 (almost 23) years old, and not even a year out of college yet. I work at a job in marketing but let’s be honest here, all I really care about is food. From my first box of Annie’s mac and cheese, to my first bread dough, all my cooking has been taught to me by me, my mom, and Ina Garten. Okay, and some other people too. As one of six children, I always cook for 8 even if it’s just me eating, and I never say no to late night brownies.

    I like to take recipes from people or books that inspire me, and then make them my own. Sprinkled in are some family recipes, as well as some stuff I make up, tested by the toughest critics, aka my family and friends. Thanks for reading and I hope you stick around!!   xoxoD