The delights of Easter are only one short week away and I can't wait to celebrate with a little cheese indulgence. In our house, the effort of abstaining from meat during great lent is not too hard a chore - given that Greek cuisine has honed so many wonderful vegetarian dishes over thousands of years. However, when it comes to cheese, its a different story. Abstaining from cheese in all its forms during lent is a true and honest act of sacrifice.
After what seems like one hundred weeks sans cheese, dairy and eggs, I'll be savouring these soft pillowy morsels - made with homemade mizithra and kefalograviera. They are simple to prepare and then baked in rich, spicy tomato based sauce - irresistible!!
When making the tomato sauce, I like to use the "Sparoza herb and spice blend for tomato sauce". It has the most amazing aroma - it takes me straight to the spice shops of Athens (which I am looking forward to visiting later this year!!). The other bonus in using the Sparoza spice blend is that it all comes in one handy packet, which means I don't have to completely ransack my spice draw. You can purchase this beautiful spice blend online from Homer St, my favourite online food store, which stocks a beautiful range of Greek Food and Hampers.
Baked mizithra and kefalograviera gnocchi with spicy tomato sauce
For the gnocchi
500g homemade mizithra or you can substitute ricotta
1/2 cup of finely grated kefalograviera (you will also need a little extra for baking)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup plain, all purpose flour
sea salt and cracked black pepper
For the sauce
1/2 kg fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled halved and grated
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of parsley, very finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon of Sparoza herb and spice blend for tomato sauces
Pinch of sugar, to taste
Pinch of salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
To make the tomato sauce
1. Add the oil to a medium sauce pan or pot and cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes. The add the spice mix and stir gently through the oil. Finally, add the remaining ingredients and and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, make the gnocchi.
For the gnocchi
2. Place the mizithra, kefalograviera, eggs, flour, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix gently to combine.
3. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured board or surface and roll into ropes. Cut the ropes into short lengths of about 2 cm and press onto the back of a fork (or a special Italian board, if you have one).
4. Cook the gnocchi, in batches, in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook them for about 2-3 minutes and they should rise to the surface when ready. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in oven safe gratin dishes (or one large baking dish if you prefer).
5. Spoon the tomato sauce over the gnocchi and top with a little more finely grated kefalograviera. Cook under a preheated hot grill until the cheese melts and is golden. Serves 4.