How to recover from (insert catastrophe here)

How does one recover from getting bad news regarding a shoulder injury, i.e. you find out you are going to need surgery?  Take home made sweet potato gnocchi in the freezer that you had left over from a previous nights effort and make baked gnocchi with sausage and spinach.  (Ok, I get it.  Some people insist on calling them yams which is probably scientifically correct as sweet potatoes are actually white and WAY sweeter then their garnet colored doppelgängers but dang it I am still going to call them sweet potatoes no matter what so there science be damned!! sighhh….)

What makes sweet potato gnocchi even better?  Brown up some spicy Italian sausage (about 1 lb for 22 oz of gnocchi) and set aside to drain on plate a paper towel.  Use one package frozen spinach or steam some up fresh, being sure to drain as much of the liquid out as possible, then rough chop it.   Gnocchi can go mushy quickly and you don’t want that extra water in there.  No one likes a mushy gnocchi.  Set aside.  The spinach that is.  While you are at it, set aside the notion of mushy gnocchi as well. Blech!

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  To make the sauce, take 2 tablespoons of butter and melt in a saucepan.  When melted, stir in 4 tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly with a whisk for a minute or two until lightly browned.  Slowly stir in your dairy, 2 cups of it.  Most recipes call for heavy cream, but I’m more or less lactose intolerant (bummer huh?) so I used skim no lactose milk.  Not so exciting, but after you add the cheese you won’t miss a thing.  I know – cheese is dairy but I can’t give it up.  Sue me.  Slowly poor in the milk (or heavy cream if you insist) while whisking so the liquid incorporates into the butter and flour (aka the roux) and doesn’t go all lumpy.   If it does, no worries – you can always strain it! (I might have done a bit of that tonight…oops.  My mind was elsewhere, on my shoulder.)  Cook, stirring often, until the liquid thickens to the desired consistency.  Add about a 1/4-1/2 cup each of shredded parmesan and mozzarella cheese.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a bit of nutmeg.  Fresh ground nutmeg is best!  Just get a few “nuts” and microplane grater and break it out for occasions like this.  Best “investment-slash-gift” I ever done did got!  When the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth and seasoned, add spinach and sausage and stir to coat and distribute evenly.   Add more milk if the sauce thickens too much.

If you are using frozen gnocchi, let them thaw for 20-30 min on the counter.  Mix gnocchi with the sauce gently, and put into a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  I like to use olive oil spray.  Top with more shredded mozzarella and parmesan.  I used individual gratin dishes, but you could put it all together in a larger baking dish and do it all together.  It’s probably a good idea either way to whatever dish you use on a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch and cheese or sauce that boils over, lest you start a fire and set the alarm off which is tied directly to the fire department, causing good looking firemen to come immediately to your house, ready to douse a fire…  Huh…that’s either a good idea or a different blog.  🙂

Before being baked off

Bake for 20 min until golden brown on top and nice and bubbly.  You can switch on the broiler if the sauce is bubbling and you just need to brown the cheese a bit more.  These dishes will be SCALDING HOT when you take them out the oven, so WARNING – LET THEM SIT FOR 10 MINUTES!!  Trust me, it will not go cold.

Now if this food doesn’t comfort one over the fact that they are going to have to have arthroscopic surgery on their shoulder, followed by eight weeks of recovery, I don’t know what will?!  Wait – strike that.  Add a bottle of red wine and a good friend to share the meal (and maybe the wine), and NOW you have the perfect recovery recipe.  Cheers!

Oh yeah…!!
I can imagine few things more comforting that baked pasta smothered in cheese! It doesn’t hurt when the pasta (aka gnocchi) is homemade.


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