15 minute European-inspired dinner

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Food & Fitness19 Comments

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Apron.  The first 50 readers to sign up for Blue Apron through this post will receive $50 off their first two weeks of meals, so you might want to stick around!  As always, all words and opinions are honest and my own.

France and Italy were inspirational in a myriad of ways, including their approach to food.  The meals weren’t low calorie, low fat, low carb, or gluten-free.  They were just simple, well prepared, tasty meals.  Bread and pasta were even in regular attendance at almost every table.  Gasp!

That experience has encouraged me to get in the kitchen more to bring that style of eating into my own home, especially when it comes to dinners.  I can make flavorful meals that include real butter and cheeses, starches, and creamy sauces.  They just need to be thoughtfully prepared with quality ingredients, in sensible portions, and paired with lots of food fuel, like fresh, seasonal vegetables.

In preparation for this shift from simple standbys, I have bought a couple of French and Tuscan cookbooks and I’ve already started thumbing through them, earmarking recipes I want to try.

Even with my enthusiasm for spending more time on meals, sometimes I need something quick.  There are violin lessons, Lego robotics club, and chess club (wow, we sound like a bunch of nerds).  Then we have all of our church commitments – small group, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, youth group, etc.  Jeff has a meeting or I have a meeting or one of the boys has a pile of homework.  Or it’s just been a busy day that has scattered the four of us in different directions.

We had a day just like this last week.  Jeff was working and then playing chauffeur for Marshall’s commitments.  I was cleaning the house, doing laundry, and helping Calvin on his 5th-grade bug project.  Dinner time snuck up on me and I just needed something quick, but I also wanted something delicious.

Fortunately, I had a couple of Blue Apron meals in the fridge, waiting for busy nights like this.  Since I was flying solo (Calvin opted for a bowl of cereal), I selected the vegetarian dish – Summer Vegetable Gnocchi.

The recipe appealed to me in its simplicity.  It was just a few ingredients – gnocchi, fresh tomatoes and zucchini, some butter and cheese, spices, and that’s it.

All of the ingredients were in their prime, so they smelled and looked delectable.

With fresh Italian gnocchi and a French-style cheese, Fromage Blanc, it offered flavors reminiscent of my trip.

And, best yet, it only took me 15 minutes from filling the first pot with water to boil to sitting at the table to eat.


While the pot of water for the gnocchi was coming up to a boil, I cut up the zucchini and tomatoes and put them in a pan to brown and soften with some olive oil.

One of the keys to good browning is to put something in a pan and leave it alone.  If you stir and fiddle with the food too much, it won’t get the rich flavor that is developed along with that yummy caramel color.


After a quick three minutes in the pot, I removed the gnocchi, reserving the salted, starchy water to use in the sauce.

The gnocchi went into the pan along with the vegetables, spices, cheese, and butter.  A few small spoonfuls of the gnocchi cooking water added to the pan brought the sauce together.

Doesn’t that looks scrumptious?!

I’ve been adding lightly dressed greens to at least two meals a day, so I mixed some up to serve as a side with the gnocchi.

I used a drizzle of the olive oil carried all of the way from Italy in my suitcase…

…mixed with some freshly squeezed lemon juice and a dash of salt to make the dressing.

I mix it all up with a fork and then turn the greens in it with my hands.

It’s a simple way to add more greens to your meals (and use up those bags of spring mix that might otherwise go bad in the fridge.)

And the meal was delicious.  I’m not a big fan of tomato-heavy dishes, so this one was just perfect.  The softened tomatoes added a fresh, delicate tang to the gnocchi, but they weren’t overpowering.  The cheese and butter lent their creaminess without being heavy.

It was the perfect quick, satisfying dinner and this recipe card is definitely a keeper.  This recipe can be made with endless seasonal variations and I’m excited to try some of them.

And, since this Blue Apron meal had two servings, the leftovers went into a container.

Sebastian volunteered to be the second person in this dinner for two, but I selfishly wanted it for lunch this week.

If you want to step up your dinner game on busy nights you can click HERE to sign up.  As I said at the top, the first 50 readers to sign up for Blue Apron will receive $50 off their first two weeks of meals!

In case this post is your first introduction to Blue Apron, here are a few more reasons you might want to give it a try…

  • All meals can be prepared in under 40 minutes, but many of them are 20-30 minutes, making Blue Apron a great option for busy nights.  Blue Apron delivers all the farm-fresh ingredients you need, right to your doorstep, in exactly the right proportions. No trips to the grocery store and no waste from unused ingredients.
  • Blue Apron has been a great way for me to try new recipes, flavor combinations, and cooking techniques.  They add new recipes all the time, so there are always new cuisines to taste and skills to add to my cooking arsenal.  I even keep the recipe cards of dishes we like the best, so I can make them again!
  • All of the perfectly portioned, farm-fresh ingredients are delivered in a refrigerated box so ingredients will stay fresh even if the box sits on your doorstep (or counter) for a while.

If you have a quick and tasty crowd-pleaser, use #EasyWeeknightMeals on social media, so we can find it!  Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments here as well.

15 minute European-inspired dinner

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19 Comments on “15 minute European-inspired dinner”

  1. Hi Marian I am interested in your brass top for your olive oil. I’d love to purchase one . Maybe you would share where you got yours? Thanks

  2. I have used Blue Apron for almost two years and made this same dish the other night. Your photos are lovely. I really appreciated the short prep and cook time for this one; be aware that the time to prepare stated on the recipe cards is often less than the time it will actually take. A few of the meals I’ve gotten have been quick like this one, but the average is 30 – 40 minutes. That hasn’t stopped me from keeping the subscription, I just want people to know. You can pick from a short list of selections each week, and you can take a week or more off if you don’t like the recipes or are not going to be home. I have found their customer service to be excellent, the food fresh, and most of the packaging recyclable, so it’s definitely been a win for me. You cannot beat the convenience and we have liked 95% of the dishes.

  3. Love your post! I am always on the lookout for new cookbooks. Could you share what French and Tuscan cookbooks you purchased?

    1. Yes! I bought Extra Virgin, which is an Italian/Tuscan cookbook. The French ones are The Cook’s Atelier and French Country Cooking.

  4. Sounds like the Mediterranean diet that they eat here except they eat more fish and meat. I on the other hand eat the Mediterranean diet but without the meat. Eating fish, bread made with olive oil, pasta and lots of veggies very healthy, my only bad habit is the coffee…i love Portuguese coffee!

    1. Sounds delicious! I am learning that if I allow myself some past at night, I am okay with saying no to other carbs during the day because I have that to look forward to. 🙂

  5. Love Blue Apron! I start & stop whenever I need and it works out well. I have some gnocchi I was trying to decide how to prepare. Your post was perfectly timed, I’ll be making this!

    1. Yes, I like that, too. Some subscriptions are a pain to stop or “pause”, but I get Blue Apron when it works for us or when there is a recipe I’m very interested in trying.

      And yes, I was inspired by how easy this gnocchi dish was as well. I think you could use a variety of cheeses and creamy products (creme fresh, cream cheese, sour cream, etc.) to make a yummy sauce. throw in some veggies and/or meat and you have a nice dinner!

  6. I signed up with Blue Apron the first time you blogged about it, and I’m still a patron. I love it. To be honest with you, this has saved on our grocery bills, there is less waste in the refrigerator that goes bad, and tossed, and we are trying meals way out of what we normally would try. And I appreciate them after a very long day, and a very long commute home. My husband and I enjoy the quiet chat time while prepping, and then cooking. And there are some meals that just blew us away and we make frequently. I’ve learned many techniques and thinking I was this great cook before, think I’m even more confident at the stove now. Thanks Marian! 🙂

    1. I completely agree about how much this helps food waste and how nice it is to know what’s for dinner at the end of a busy day(and knowing all of the ingredients are there!) I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying it. My parents have subscribed to it and it even has my dad cooking! (His specialty when I was a kid was microwave chili dogs, so he’s come a long way!)

  7. Marion, you should check out Mimi Thorisson’s blog Manger and her cookbooks- A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse and French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards. She also has an Italian cookbook yet to be released. I think you will be inspired by her the way she shares her food and recipes. But the photography of her home and land along with 6 children (and 2 grown) is a veritable feast for the eyes!!! It’s hard not to float away to a dream world every single time you look at her blog!!

    1. I’ll have to check out Manger, but I do have French Country Cooking and it’s excellent!

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