This is my emergency backup dinner. It’s for those nights when you realize at 6:30pm that your planned dinner for the night was supposed to be in the crockpot hours ago and you need to have the kids to bed on time tonight for everyone’s health and safety. Plan A went out the window along with Plans B, C, and D, and you’re scrambling just to come up with something anything so you don’t throw in the towel and go out for Chinese . . . again. This is my super-dad-saves-the-day meal that I keep in my back pocket. It’s half an hour from “What’s for dinner?” to the table. That’s faster than getting everyone’s shoes on and out the door to a fast food restaurant. The ingredients are all largely non-perishable and therefore easy to keep on hand. It has a reasonable amount of spinach so you can check the veggies box and the kids gobble it down. The one disadvantage is there’s almost never leftovers to take to work for lunch the next day.

Gnocchi Al Forno with Spinach

Adapted from Power Hungry

  • 2 lbs of pre-packaged gnocchi. That’s two packages. If you have a Trader Joe’s in the vicinity they usually have the best price.
  • 2 cans of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes.
  • 4-8 oz chopped spinach, frozen or fresh.
  • 6 oz cream cheese (about 3/4 a brick).
  • 3/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese.
  • Pinch of pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Olive oil, optional
  • Garlic (minced or powder), optional
  1. Turn on your broiler.
  2. Get some water salted and boiling and boil the gnocchi according to package directions. It usually cooks in 2-3 minutes and you know they’re done when they start floating to the top.
  3. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, if you’re using diced tomatoes, get a saucepan out, drizzle some olive oil in there and dump your tomatoes in along with some minced garlic or garlic powder and a pinch of red pepper flakes. This isn’t strictly necessary. You’re also welcome to just use the diced tomatoes directly in step 5 below.
  4. Now that you’ve got all that going, chop your spinach (as small as possible if you’re trying to be sneaky like I usually am), and if it’s frozen, zap it in the microwave for a minute or two.
  5. Drain your gnocchi and dump into a 9×13 baking dish. Pour in tomato sauce (either from a can or the chunky sauce you just made with the diced tomatoes). Distribute blobs of cream cheese throughout. Top with a layer of grated parmesan and broil for 2-3 minutes until the top is browned to your liking.
  6. Make sure to turn everything off. (Note to self.)

One more thing, you may have noticed from the recipe that there’s a lot of wiggle room. Please don’t weigh your spinach or cream cheese. Just eyeball it. Also, it’s generally okay to make substitutions. One year we had an abundance of arugula from our garden and used that in place of the spinach with delicious results.

Written by Noel


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