Ligurian Basil Gnocchi with Broccoli, Spinach and Creamy Cheesy Sauce

This beautiful dish is perfect for these early autumn days because, although it’s comforting, it is ultimately still light and delicious. The recipe is a little more complicated than you’re used to from me but it all comes together quite quickly in the end. If you don’t fancy making the gnocchi, you can always replace them with large white beans or thinly sliced cooked potatoes. There you go, three recipes in one. You’re welcome!! 

Basil Gnocchi


For the gnocchi:
400g floury potatoes (such as Maris Piper), washed, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
50g plain flour
30g bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste

For the gratin:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 heaped tbsp plain flour
350ml semi-skimmed milk
280g light cream cheese
200g spinach
200g Tenderstem® broccoli, trimmed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 whole nutmeg (you will use around half of it)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
4 slices of sourdough breadcrumbs (you can also use panko)
100g Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

How I make it

To make the gnocchi, place the prepared potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water and bring them to the boil. Cook for around 15 minutes until they are tender. Drain through a colander and allow them to steam dry for a few minutes.

Place the potatoes into a large bowl and mash well. Add the basil and season to your taste. Tip the mixture onto a clean chopping board and, using your hands, mix in the flour and then divide into 24 small slightly elongated balls.

Fill a large shallow pan with water and bring it to the boil. Carefully tip in the gnocchi and allow them to simmer for 1-2 minutes. When they float up to the surface, they are done. Drain through colandar and set aside.

Fill the same pan with water again and bring to the boil. Add the spinach and cook until it has wilted – literally a couple of minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and leave to drain through a sieve. Once the spinach has cooled, roughly chop it and set aside

Add more water to the pan and bring back up to the boil, add the broccoli and allow it to simmer for four minutes exactly so it is cooked but has retained some crunch. Drain though a colander.

Place the gnocchi, the chopped spinach and the broccoli into a large oven proof dish, gently mix together and set aside.

Heat an oven to 180C.

Using the same pan – we’re really making it work here – heat the oil and gently fry the onion for five minutes. Add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the milk little by little and, stirring all the time, allow the sauce to thicken. Add the cream cheese and mix in thoroughly. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice and a very generous grating of nutmeg. Season to your taste, pour the sauce over the gnocchi mixture and gently mix.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the grated cheese and sprinkle over the top and place in the oven for around 30 minutes. You’ll know the gratin is done when it’s golden on top and hot in the middle.

Remove from the oven and leave it to settle for around five minutes. Serve with crunchy salad leaves dressed with a simple lemon vinaigrette.

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