I haven’t said goodbye to cozy comfort food yet and I’m glad I haven’t because the weather has changed quite a bit over the past few days. I’m typing this as I’m late for my run – it’s really cold and windy outside and I don’t feel like it today. I’ll go, but want to be a little warmer…
Today’s dish is a twist on my Vegan Gnocchi Bake with Mushrooms and Broccoli, a favorite of many of you. This time, I made it with staple winter vegetables: Brussels sprouts and leeks. A friend of mine (thanks Shelly!) gifted me with some leeks left over from a veg delivery box and some discarded Brussels sprouts in the back of my fridge. I was racking my brain on how to put them to good use until I came up with this idea. I tested it for our dinner and it was an instant hit.
It’s an easy dish to make and doesn’t require much effort, but it’s worth the effort. Since I’m a (recovering) perfectionist, I felt compelled to add an extra ingredient to give this dish another dimension of flavor and texture. I made a tray of vegan bacon (or facon) bits that bake in the oven while you crack on with the baking and finish the dish itself. They add a delicious pop of flavor and a slightly different texture. Although I think they are worth the effort, this dish is still delicious without them. If you like the idea but don’t want to use tofu for whatever reason, use flaked almonds like in this recipe.
This winter gnocchi bake is really easy to make and only requires a few, easy to find, ingredients. During the winter you can find them in any well-stocked supermarket. Let’s get to the basics…
More about ingredients
tofu: This is an optional ingredient, only needed if you want to make vegan bacon bits (although they’re worth it!) You’ll need firm or extra-firm tofu (I used Dragonfly brand this time). You need to press it well to extract excess water from it and let it absorb the marinade.
Gnocchi: Store-bought, vacuum-packed gnocchi work well here, just be sure to check the packet ingredients as some brands contain egg or milk powder. Be sure to buy a brand without wheat flour for a gluten-free version of this dish. I didn’t test this dish with homemade gnocchi as I was after a quick dinner, but I suspect they might be a little too brittle for this application.
Brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts (aka baby cabbage) are so cute, aren’t they? And good for you. I cut them in half, char them a bit and then finish cooking them in the oven.
Leaks: Leeks become beautifully creamy when baked in a sauce and they add so much flavor. The only trick with leeks is to rinse them thoroughly (without disturbing the layers) as they hide a lot of grit.
flour: The flour needs no introduction, it is used to make a roux (thick creamy sauce). I use all-purpose flour, but if you’re gluten-free, chickpea flour (besan/besan) works well too.
plant milk: Any plant milk will work here. I’ve used soy, sometimes oats, sometimes almonds. Use any plant milk flavor you like except coconut milk – that would be weird, I think…
Thyme: A little fresh thyme adds flavor here. Rosemary would make for a lovely substitute. If using dried herbs, crush them well between your fingers and use sparingly as they are more potent than fresh (unless they are stale of course).
MISO: White miso paste, a less robust cousin of red miso paste, is used here to add umami and flavor to the sauce. It’s widely available these days, but you can skip it and add another tablespoon of nutritional yeast if you have it on hand. If you’re making this dish gluten-free, look for miso based on chickpeas, brown rice, millet, etc. instead of wheat.
DIJON mustard: Dijon mustard adds a hint of heat to the sauce, which helps cut through its richness.
Nutritional Scream: Nutritional yeast, a staple vegetarian condiment made from inactive yeast, gives sauces depth and a hint of cheese-like flavor.
garlic: I use a few cloves of garlic to flavor the roux. They are fried in oil before any flour is added.
HAZELNUTS: I add some halved hazelnuts at the end for a lovely crunch and to keep the texture of this dish varied and interesting. Pine nuts, walnuts or almonds will also work.
My recipe includes an optional topping of vegan bacon (fcon, if you will) bits. It’s totally optional though as it adds another layer of texture and flavor, plus it’s low effort and only uses pantry staples so I recommend making it if you have the time. It just requires some planning as the tofu needs to be marinated at least 2 hours in advance, a few hours in advance is even better.
I bake the marinated tofu just before I’m ready to bake the gnocchi and spread it over the gnocchi bake for the last 10 minutes of baking.
Start by preparing your vegetables, washing them well and drying them. Once clean and dry, gently fry in a little oil in the pan you’ll be making your bakes in, until just charred – they’ll end up in the oven.
Make the sauce in the same pan you sauté your vegetables in – I didn’t wash mine, all the charred bits fell apart after adding the milk. When the sauce is ready, add the raw gnocchi, charred Brussels sprouts and leeks. Cover and bake, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
Scatter the hazelnuts and pre-baked bacon bits (if making) over the top of the bake for the last 10 minutes of baking time and bake until everything is golden and the gnocchi are cooked through. Divide between plates and enjoy!
Vegan ‘bacon’ bits (optional, marinate ahead)
- 30 ml/2 tbsp all-purpose soy sauce (or tamari if GF)
- 1 tablespoon/15 mL maple syrup (or soft brown sugar)
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (or a few drops of liquid smoke)
- 5 ml / 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 10 ml / 2 tsp tomato puree / paste
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 400 g / 14 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, well pressed
- 15 ml / 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 30 ml / 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- 12 g / 1½ teaspoons all-purpose flour (or chickpea flour for the GF version)
- 500 ml / 2 cups soy milk (or any other neutral flavored plant milk)
- 10 g / 2 tsp white / shiro miso paste*
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, more to taste
- 1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast powder
- approx. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or rosemary leaves, chopped)
- approx. ¼ teaspoon black pepper (for whole meal)
- approx. ½-1 teaspoon salt flakes (for whole meals)
- 15 ml / 1 tablespoon lemon juice, more to taste
- 500 g / 17.5 oz store-bought gnocchi** (gluten-free if desired)
- 15 ml / 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 250 g / 8.5 oz Brussels sprouts
- 125 g / 1 liq
- 20 g / 2 tbsp hazelnuts, halved
- Bits of vegan bacon (optional), store-bought or see above
Vegan ‘bacon’ bits (optional, marinate ahead)
- Combine the first six ingredients in a small tin.
- Cut the pressed tofu into 1 cm / 0.4″ dice, I kept a few pieces twice the size for varied texture.
- Coat the tofu in the marinade and let marinate as long as possible. Overnight is best, 2 hours will work.
- Just before you are ready to bake your gnocchi, preheat the oven to 200° C / 390° F and spread the marinated tofu on a large baking tray.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then coat with olive oil and bake for another 10 minutes. We will finish baking it, keep the oven on for baking.
- Cut off the dark green part of the leek and discard (or use in homemade stock). Cut the remaining leeks in half lengthwise, gently cleaning them with water between the layers, trying to nestle them together. Dry well and cut into 2.5 cm/1 inch pieces.
- Trim Brussels sprouts, remove outer leaves and discard. Clean the sprouts trimmed under the faucet if dirty, dry really well and cut in half lengthwise.
- Preheat a medium ovenproof dish (I used a 26 cm / 10.2 inch cast iron casserole dish) on the stove, over low-medium heat.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and when it’s hot, top with halved Brussels sprouts and leeks (cut on the side). Drain the vegetables, remove from the pan and set aside. Allow the pan to cool slightly before the next step.
- If you are skipping the tofu bacon bits, preheat the oven to 200° C / 390° F (otherwise your oven should already be on).
- Heat the olive oil in the dish you roasted the vegetables in (I don’t wash between stages). Add chopped garlic and keep stirring constantly on low heat.
- When the garlic seems cooked, add the flour. Mix it into the oil with a spatula and let it cook for a full minute (it should bubble gently). Don’t let it brown, we just want to cook off the taste of raw flour.
- Next, slowly add the plant milk while stirring the whole time. Let the mixture simmer on low heat until it thickens.
- Season with miso, mustard, nutritional yeast, thyme leaves, salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon to cut the richness. Combine flavors and spices keeping in mind that vegetables and gnocchi go out of season.
- Add raw gnocchi to the bechamel. Arrange charred Brussels sprouts and leek halves between gnocchi.
- Cover the dish with a lid or tightly with a piece of kitchen foil and let it bake undisturbed for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, uncover and bake for another 10, then scatter the hazelnuts and bacon bits (you’ll have some left over) on top and bake for another 10 minutes until everything is nicely browned and the gnocchi is knife tender. Divide between bowls and enjoy immediately.
*Gnocchi: Make sure your store-bought gnocchi is vegan as some supermarket brands add milk. I haven’t tried making this dish with homemade gnocchi, but I believe it would work just as well.
*1 in every 4 portions (except tofu bacon)