This is something new, but also something very old.
My first ever cookery book was published in 1971. Called 'How To Cheat At Cooking', it was a book for people who didn't want, or didn't have time, to cook. Three decades later, there are still such people – you want to eat well, you want more than a straight ready meal, yet you would like your friends and family to think you spend some time on the meals you prepare. To start with, all you need is to quickly whiz round to the Italian ready meals section, then to the dairy and cheese aisle and finally the Continental meat section. Just five ingredients – or seven, if you want to grab some tomatoes and basil for an accompanying salad.
This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury's Magazine. Serves 4
Preheat the grill to its highest setting, then put the kettle on to boil.
Next, heat a medium frying pan (without any oil) and tip the pancetta straight into the pan when it's really hot. Turn the heat down to medium and the pancetta will cook in its own fat – all you need to do is move it and toss it around now and then. It should take 5-6 minutes to turn golden and release all its fat. Meanwhile, pour the boiling water into a medium saucepan, add the gnocchi, along with a little salt, and when it has returned to the boil give it 3 minutes.
In the meantime, empty the sauce into a small saucepan, add some freshly milled black pepper and bring it up to a gentle simmer, and while that's happening, grate the Parmesan and chop the Mozzarella into small cubes. Next, drain the gnocchi and tip them straight into the buttered dish, followed by the Mozzarella and fried pancetta (you will need a draining spoon for the latter). Quickly mix it all together, then pour the sauce over as evenly as possible. Finally, sprinkle the Parmesan over the top, place the dish under the hot grill (about 3 in/7.5 cm from the heat) and let it stay there for 6-10 minutes, or until it's golden brown and bubbling. Let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving on hot plates.
A side salad of sliced tomatoes and torn basil leaves sprinkled with a little extra virgin olive oil and even less balsamic vinegar would be just the right accompaniment.
How To Cheat Hero Ingredients
1 x 500 g pack gnocchi di patate
1 x 300 g tub fresh carbonara sauce
You will also need a 2½ in (6 cm) deep baking dish measuring 10 x 6 in (25.5 x 15 cm), well buttered.