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Thursday, February 9, 2023
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Thursday, February 9, 2023
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    A bowl of quick comfort

    Aaron Hutcherson

    THE WASHINGTON POST – Being a food writer, I sometimes (wrongly) assume everyone is familiar with certain ingredients and dishes.

    One such instance occurred with my recipe for corn soup with chilli crisp.

    Though the spicy condiment regularly appears on my social media feeds and articles have been written about it in various publications, I was surprised to receive emails and comments from readers who had no clue what it was.

    More recently, I was reminded that I should throw my food assumptions out the window when I inadvertently introduced my parents to gnocchi after testing this recipe while visiting them for the holidays.

    We never had gnocchi when I was a child, but I’ve been eating the Italian dumplings – and sometimes even making them from scratch – for the past 10 or so years.

    In my current world, gnocchi are everywhere: on restaurant menus, in food media and occupying significant real estate near the pasta section of the grocery stores I frequent.

    But my world is just that – mine – and I was reminded of that when shopping for ingredients to test this recipe.

    Gnocchi with creamy spinach sauce. PHOTOS: THE WASHINGTON POST
    For a less watery sauce, thaw the spinach and remove excess moisture by squeezing it in a dish towel or pressing it with a spoon or spatula in a mesh strainer

    Unlike the prominence and options I am used to, there was only one brand of gnocchi high on a shelf at the supermarket near my childhood home on Chicago’s South Side, a telltale sign of the ingredient’s lack of popularity in that neighbourhood.

    So if gnocchi are also new to you, let me extol its virtues.

    As I told my mother, the simplest way to think about gnocchi is like a type of pasta – they’re usually found near each other in the grocery store – in that it’s typically served with any manner of sauce.

    Once boiled or simmered, they transform into soft little dumpling pillows with an almost cloud-like texture. In sum: they’re sublime – and definitely worth throwing in your cart the next time you’re stocking your pantry. This recipe inspired by creamed spinach turns the classic steakhouse side dish into the main attraction.

    Nutmeg and cayenne pepper add warmth and heat to the creamy spinach sauce made from pantry-friendly canned evaporated milk (though you could use heavy cream instead) and the frozen vegetable.

    You can add the frozen spinach straight from the freezer (as I did initially), but beware that it will thin the sauce significantly.

    For a less watery sauce, thaw the spinach and remove excess moisture by squeezing it in a dish towel or pressing it with a spoon or spatula in a mesh strainer.

    Once the sauce is assembled, toss in the gnocchi to let them simmer. After just 20 minutes, this one-pot recipe is ready.

    When serving, you can add toasted breadcrumbs for texture or top with grated parmesan cheese to lean into the creamed spinach inspiration, but this dish is lovely and comforting as is. As my mother said, “This has a good taste to it.” From my mom who tends to stick to the familiar, that’s high praise.


    Each bowl is full of comfort and can be on the table in only 20 minutes.

    Two tablespoons virgin olive oil
    One large yellow onion, diced
    One teaspoon garlic powder
    Half teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
    A quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
    A quarter teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    An eight teaspoon cayenne pepper
    One package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
    One can evaporated milk
    One pound shelf-stable potato gnocchi


    In a large saute pan or pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers.

    Add the onion, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring regularly, until the onions start to soften and turn translucent, about five minutes.

    Add the spinach and evaporated milk and bring to a simmer.

    Add the gnocchi, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the gnocchi are soft and tender but not mushy, about five minutes.

    Divide among bowls and serve hot.

    Nutrition information per serving | Calories: 441; Total Fat: 15g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 27mg; Sodium: 867mg; Carbohydrates: 58g; Dietary Fibre: 8g; Sugar: 13g; Protein: 15g

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