Garlic and kale creamy gnocchi bake: Bec Thexton

This post is part of a new segment where I recreate the recipes of those around me. I am forever curious about the homecooked food my friends and family subsist on and nourish themselves with – what are their lazy day go-to meals? What do they turn to when they feel like making a splash in the kitchen? What is their definition of comfort food? I will explore these questions through my histamine-intolerant lens, but will include the original recipes for those who don’t get bloated off everything.

What: A perfect wintery pasta dish where I cook kale, and gnocchi, for the first time

Who: Lana Del Napoli i.e. Bec Thexton

Bloat score: 0 – Living the dream

Lana Del Napoli, of food blog Dancing Through Sunday fame, knows me too well – she knew I’d have neither the desire nor wherewithal to make gnocchi from scratch, so if you’ve come for that, please go elsewhere! I refuse to embark on any such arduous social iso project. Instead, this is a recipe that draws on store-bought gnocchi; the great superfood of 2012, kale; and the zing of mustard, notes of which I absolutely loved in the béchamel that I whipped up for this recipe.

Lana Del Napoli’s idea of comfort food lies in the realm of cheesy mashed potato and the cheesy jacket potato skins she learned to make at seven (I’m pushing 32 and have literally only started to cook properly two months ago). Only, in this recipe, she opts for mashed potato in tiny rolled dough form instead.

“The béchamel dijon sauce and garlic kale in this gnocchi dish is like the fancy, upmarket older sister of a mac and cheese. Then we have the addition of a crispy panko crumb, ooh la la. The addition of a crumb gives the gnocchi the texture required for an intriguing dish. Yet the flavours of dijon mustard, garlic and a cheese béchamel are so familiar and simple. The kale works perfectly, giving the bake a deep earthy flavour, a garlic vessel and some much-needed nutrition.”

I half-followed my intolerances for this recipe – I bought regular gnocchi because it was only 30% wheat, something I judged as not being wheat-y enough to inflame my gut. I used Nuttelex and gluten-free flour to make the béchamel but stuck with regular milk because I figured one cup of milk spread across four serves as not being enough to make me rush for the toilet. And lastly, I used panko breadcrumbs instead of gluten-free breadcrumbs because nothing quite crisps up like panko. I seemed to have gotten the juggling act right because I escaped with zero bloats, but please substitute ingredients according to what you can tolerate.

Like me, Lana Del Napoli cooked gnocchi for the first time when she made this dish (although, unlike me, it was probably when she was ten):

“This dish was my first foray into baked gnocchi, and certainly isn’t my last. It’s codified into my repertoire for the first crispy nights of autumn and the deepest of winters. Those nights when the only way to soothe your soul is with white carbs, from the inside out.”

(Oh I got it wrong, it was her first foray into baked gnocchi).

This garlic and kale creamy gnocchi bake was pretty simple to make and other than my terrible sad rental oven that inflated the cooking times, pretty quick as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do as the months turn cooler and dusk visits us earlier.

I’ve included Lana Del Napoli’s original instructions below, with my additional comments in italics.

Garlic and kale creamy gnocchi bake (an original recipe by Bec Thexton)
Serves: 4

1/2 a bunch of kale leaves stripped, rinsed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
400g gnocchi
2 tablespoons olive oil

Dijon béchamel sauce:
2 tablespoons butter (I used Nuttelex)
3 tablespoons flour (I used gluten-free flour)
2 tablespoons mustard (I use dijon, which I think is the best for this dish, but wholegrain or English works too) (I used wholegrain mustard which was sitting in my fridge)
1 cup milk (soy or oat milk works here)
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 cup shredded melty cheese (mozzarella, colby, edam or gruyere) (I used mozzarella)

Panko crumb topping:
1 cup panko crumbs
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup parmesan cheese

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Strip the kale off the stalks, rinse in a colander, drain water off and roughly chop into strips. Set aside.

In a medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil and fry crushed garlic for 1–2 minutes until fragrant. Add kale and cook for further 3–4 minutes, sautéing until kale has turned bright green. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Now to make the béchamel. In the same pot, melt the butter until bubbling. Whisk in the flour until a gravy/paste starts to form.

Stir in the mustard, then whisk the milk and stock in. Stir until the sauce thickens over a low heat. This should take around 5 minutes. It may seem like nothing is happening but once the milk heats up, the flour will thicken and the béchamel will become nice and gooey.

Once the béchamel has combined and thickened, add half of the cheese (slowly) and continue to stir so the cheese starts to melt together. Turn to the lowest heat and keep warm until ready to mix

While keeping the béchamel warm, bring another pot filled with salted water to a boil for the gnocchi. Once water is boiling, add the gnocchi and cook for 2–3 minutes. Once all the gnocchi floats, it is ready to strain and set aside. (My packet gnocchi instructions told me to wait a further few minutes after the gnocchi had started floating, but I knew they would cook again in the oven so I removed them. Nothing like soggy gnocchi!!)

Combine all ingredients and get ready to bake! Add the gnocchi, kale and béchamel into a baking dish. Stir so the gnocchi, kale and béchamel are evenly combined in the dish. Top with the remaining cheese, breadcrumbs, thyme and parmesan.

Bake for 10–15 minutes (mine took half an hour or slightly more). The edges should begin to bubble and the top should be golden and crispy. Remove and enjoy!

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Author: Sonia Nair

Sonia Nair is a Melbourne-based food writer who persists with her love of everything deep fried and spicy, despite being diagnosed with a histamine intolerance and lactose intolerance after incorrectly thinking she was fructose-intolerant for several years.

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