This creamy casserole is oozing with umami – a decadent mixture of melted nutty mature gouda, shitake mushrooms, baby spinach, pillowy gnocchi, herbs and cream with a hint of smoked paprika. It is a heavenly bowl of meat-free comfort food any day of the week, but can also serve as a posh vegetarian side dish at your next braai.
It pairs beautifully with the Perdeberg Endura Cape Blend 2020 – a smooth and elegant vegan/vegetarian-friendly red wine that stands up well to rich dishes. The wine forms part of their super premium Iconic Wines series. Perdeberg Wines are situated in the Windmeul area, Paarl. Shop the Endura Cape Blend online at R350/bottle.
Ingredients: (serves 4 as a main)
30 ml olive oil
300-400 g brown or mixed exotic mushrooms, sliced
3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves only (stalks discarded)
a few sage leaves, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
60 ml dry white wine (or chicken stock)
500 ml long-life* cream
a pinch ground nutmeg
5 ml (1 teaspoon) smoked paprika (optional)
200 g baby spinach
500 g store bought gnocchi
1 cup grated mature gouda cheese (or parmesan), plus extra
flaked almonds or toasted breadcrumbs
Place a pan over medium high heat, add the oil and fry the mushrooms, thyme and sage until brown, seasoning with salt & pepper. Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan, simmering until the wine is reduced by half. Add the cream, nutmeg and paprika, stirring. Bring to a slow simmer, then stir in the spinach. Before it is completely wilted, remove from the heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220 C. Cook the gnocchi briefly in a large pot of salted water, then drain. Add it to the creamy mixture in the pan, along with the gouda, stirring. Transfer to a deep baking dish/casserole (mine is 26cm), top with a little bit of extra cheese, then bake for 20 minutes until golden on top (or divide into 4 ovenproof wide bowls and bake the individual portions). Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving hot.
Garnish tip: Reserve a few panfried mushrooms for topping, along with a few crispy fried whole sage leaves.
*Note: I use a carton of UHT-process long-life cream for this recipe, because it is naturally thicker than fresh cream and yields a beautifully luscious sauce texture without the need to thicken it.
(This recipe was created in proud collaboration with Perdeberg Wines.)