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Roasted Butternut and Pesto Gnocchi Bake

Roasted Butternut and Pesto Gnocchi Bake

© Recipe courtesy of Annaliese Jones

(naturally gluten-free)

"This delicious baked dish is healthy comfort food perfection. Spinach gnocchi is paired with maple-roasted butternut pumpkin, juicy pops of cherry tomatoes and topped with crunchy toasted cashews - you can’t go wrong.  Did you know that the antioxidant lycopene doubles when we cook tomatoes? or that cashews and almonds contain more protein than eggs? Butternuts (and all pumpkins in fact) contain exceptional amounts of both vitamins A and C. Add in the spinach, olive oil and garlic and we’ve ticked half a dozen health boxes! It’s also very 'make-ahead' friendly. It can be prepared ahead of time and baked just 20 minutes before you require it. Great for a dinner party! You could also assemble it up to the point of baking and freeze the whole dish (covered). Let it gently defrost before cooking, not more than 3 weeks after freezing. Perhaps make a double batch and freeze half." Annaliese Jones

Serves 4

250g butternut squash, diced
1 Tbsp Escuminac maple syrup
Sea salt

1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVO)
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Giusti balsamic vinegar
1 jar Sabato basil pasta sauce
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
100g Spinach
4 Tbsp Sabato pesto alla genovese
1/3 cup whole, raw cashews, Marcona almonds  or Pinoli pine nuts
60g Mozzarella di bufala  (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Lay the diced butternut onto a baking tray and drizzle with maple syrup. Make sure it’s coating most of the pieces before adding a pinch of salt and baking for 10 minutes in a hot oven. 

Meanwhile heat a little EVO in a pan and fry onion until translucent and soft. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute then add balsamic. After another minute or so add the pasta sauce and cherry tomatoes. Turn the heat down low and cover, making sure it doesn’t burn.

Check the butternut, give it a toss and bake for a further 10 minutes. You want it to be lovely and caramelised. 

Blanch spinach in a pot of boiling, salted water for 20 seconds until limp. Remove with tongs so you can keep the water. Add spinach to the dish you're using for the bake. I like to divide it into five or six lovely green mounds. 

Use this same water to cook gnocchi for 4 minutes (less than the packet instructions since we are continuing to cook it in the oven). Drain and add to your baking dish.

Take the now slightly reduced tomato, onion sauce off the heat and gently stir through the pesto. Spoon sauce over the gnocchi and spinach. Dot the lovely, sweet butternut throughout, before tossing some cashews or almonds and olives (if using) on top and lastly tear over your fresh mozzarella.

Turn your oven down to 180˚C and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serve with a healthy amount of a green side like rocket or lightly cooked broccoli.

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