Creamy Beef and Gnocchi

I absolutely love dumplings of any kind, and I’m pretty sure most of the world agrees with me.  Every food culture has a version of the dumpling, and gnocchi is Italy’s.  Gnocchi is a dumpling made with mashed potatoes (a great use of leftover mashed potatoes, by the way), egg and flour.  They’re super easy to make homemade (especially if you already have the leftover mashed potatoes), but they’ve become so popular in the U.S. in the last few years that they are also readily available pre-packaged  in most grocery stores.  They are usually found in the dried pasta section, but they can also be found in the refrigerated pasta section.

I always start by browning my ground beef with a diced onion and some salt and pepper.  I like to salt and pepper my beef while it’s cooking because the salt and pepper cook into the meat and give it a great flavor.  You can always add more salt and pepper later to your taste.  I add the rest of my spices when the beef is close to finished, and I always drain my grease.  I know some of you like to rinse your beef after draining the grease, so if you do this, wait until after you rinse to add the paprika and Italian seasoning so that you don’t rinse away the spices.  I grew up with a grandma who added bacon grease to everything, so I think a little leftover grease adds a ton of flavor!

Once the meat is drained, add the rest of your ingredients. Bring all of this to a quick boil, then lower your heat to medium or medium low  and let it all simmer together covered for about 5 minutes.  Remove your lid and give it a quick stir (this is the point where I sample my gnocchi) and simmer a few more minutes until your gnocchi is cooked through.  If you’ve followed me at all, you know I love cheese, so I add more parmesan to the top when serving.

Now, I want to give you some tips for saving money and time on some of these ingredients.  First, if you don’t have fire-roasted tomatoes on hand, you can certainly sub in regular canned tomatoes.  Fire-roasted tomatoes really make recipes pop, so I tend to get a few cans when they are on sale so that I have them when I want to use them.  If you have an Aldi grocery store, buy your spinach, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese there.  I would love to tell you that I grate my own parm, but I’m a busy dad and I need to get dinner on the table quickly, so I use the pre-shredded parmesan from the refrigerated cheese section, and it is significantly less expensive at Aldi than at Walmart.

My favorite part of this recipe is the spinach (I know…seriously?)!  Here’s why I love it, though.  When you add spinach to pasta dishes or soups  it’s almost flavorless, and it cooks down and just blends into the dish.  Spinach is one of a handful of vegetables that is actually healthier for you cooked than raw!  When I add spinach I know I’m getting a huge boost of green veggies without having to sit down and eat a salad.  If your kids can handle a little more green, go ahead and add an extra handful of spinach.  Between the tomatoes and the spinach, my kids are getting a serving of veggies that are masked in gooey dumpling goodness, and there are no dinnertime fights over eating vegetables.

Try this recipe at home and tell me what you think!  I guarantee it will become one of your family’s favorites, especially when you see how fast this comes together!

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