There seems to be a general myth that bike racers are perpetually fretting about their weight, and what foods to allow into their finely balanced bodies. Admittedly that’s probably true to an extent, but there are those of us whose problem is not avoiding foods, but trying to get enough of it.

During periods of heavy training or racing it can become a chore trying to consume enough fuel to keep going. And for us skinny climbers we haven’t got a whole lot of resources to call upon when too few calories are hitting the system.

When getting home from a hard ride the last thing I want to do is fiddle about in the kitchen preparing something complicated. But then again, a frozen pizza isn’t going to fill the massive whole in my belly either! So this recipe is great – full fat, no holds barred, and easy to prepare in advance. A vegetarian version can be made by leaving out the pancetta and swapping the mascarpone for Gorgonzola.

Baked gnocchi with spinach and pancetta

Makes 4 Servings
½ tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
140g packet pancetta cubes
500g packet gnocchi
150g chopped chestnut mushrooms
350g chopped frozen spinach
100g sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
250g tub mascarpone cheese
50g grated parmesan

Boil the gnocchi in a large saucepan of salted water over a high heat – you’ll know it’s cooked when it starts to float to the surface. Heat the olive oil in a large pan (I use a wok) and soften the red onion for about 3 minutes. Add the pancetta and turn up the heat slightly – fry for 3 minutes until brown and crisp. Your gnocchi is probably about done so drain it and put aside.

Add the chopped mushrooms, followed by the spinach and tomatoes to the pancetta and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes. Spoon in the Mascarpone and stir in until melted. Season with black pepper, and whatever dried herbs you have to hand such as oregano. Mix the gnocchi in with the mascarpone. Pour everything into a dish and grate over the parmesan. I like to put it into the oven for a few minutes then finishing it off under the grill, but you could probably get away with just grilling for about 5 minutes.

Serve with some rocket or green salad. And even some garlic bread to reward yourself for winning the club run sprint or beating your Box Hill PB.

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