Hi, I’m Debbie Koenig. You might know me from my blog. I write recipes for busy parents—heck, my cookbook is called Parents Need to Eat Too! But even if you’ve never changed a diaper, you probably share the same issue as busy parents – time. There’s never enough of it these days it seems. Still, lack of time isn’t a reason not to cook yourself a meal.

Many of my dinner standbys have Italian roots like these vacuum-packed gnocchi. It’s a godsend to busy cooks: boil some salted water, toss the gnocchi in, and they puff up in less than five minutes. Pour on a little sauce and dinner is ready.

Baked Gnocchi alla Puttanesca, while still pantry based, takes things up a few notches—with olives, capers, and a mysterious, sultry hit of anchovy paste. You’ll skip the boiling water for this one—baking the uncooked gnocchi in the sauce allows those potato-ey pillows to soak up all that deep, rich flavor. The dumplings peeking out from under the cheese acquire a crunchy-topped, slightly chewy texture that I adore.

And while the whole mess bakes, you can throw a quick salad together, or better yet, pour yourself some wine and relax.

Baked Gnocchi alla Puttanesca
Serves 4

Several elements here are naturally salty, so you might want to use no-salt-added tomatoes.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Generous pinch red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy food)
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2/3 cup pitted kalamata or other brine-cured olives, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
One 1-pound package vacuum-packed gnocchi (whole wheat if you can find it)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish and set aside.
1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When it shimmers add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the pepper flakes and stir, then add the anchovy paste. Cook, stirring, another 30 seconds to 1 minute, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the olives and capers.
2. Add the gnocchi. Stir and transfer the mixture to the baking dish. It should look quite wet, even watery—don’t worry, the gnocchi will absorb most of that liquid. Top with the cheese and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are bubbling and the cheese is nicely browned.

MAKE BABY FOOD: Olives, capers, and mozzarella can all be quite salty, so I wouldn’t serve this to the littlest eaters. For a slightly older baby, substitute a splash of hot sauce for the red pepper flakes (a flake on the tongue might be a bit much for infants!), or leave out the heat entirely. Cut up a few pieces of the gnocchi and serve with a little bit of chopped olives, capers, and a handful of (uncooked) shredded cheese.

© 2018 Olga Massov