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Sam Linsell’s Cheesy baked gnocchi with creamy tomato & spinach

A quick and easy midweek vegetarian meal. There is very little hands-on cooking as these bakes in the oven until bubbling and golden

By House & Garden South Africa | February 9, 2022 | Recipes

I’m just over here adding spinach to every dish I can think of, especially if it’s a creamy tomato sauce. This is also the first gnocchi recipe I’ve ever posted on my blog. To be honest I have always been quite fussy about gnocchi and if I’m not making my own or getting it in a good Italian restaurant, I’m not eating it. It’s dreadful when it’s too hard and or stodgy and it’s absolute heaven when it’s light and fluffy.

With this recipe for cheesy baked gnocchi with creamy tomato sauce and spinach, I’ve used good store-bought gnocchi which I found to be perfectly acceptable in this baked rendition. What’s not to love about a bubbling pan of potato dumplings blanketed with cheesy baked goodness? This is so easy and so delicious, it pretty much cooks itself.

It’s up to you to find the best available Gnocchi or better yet make your own. I’ll get around to posting a recipe, or two for homemade gnocchi soon. In the meantime, I have a lovely gnocchi Gnudi recipe in my latest eBook called Comfort. You could substitute it with pasta if you prefer. I would say 250 – 300 grams of short pasta such as penne or rigatoni would replace the gnocchi. A vegetarian-filled ravioli would also work perfectly well with this recipe, and tortellini too.

More about the tomato sauce

For the tomato sauce, I love Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce here because it’s my absolute best. I have reduced the butter quantity though as I’m adding all the other things. I normally always make a full batch (2 tins) but you only need half of a batch for this recipe. You could halve the quantity, but I suggest rather keeping the second half of the sauce and either freezing it for later or using it with another dish. I find it just works better when you are making it with more tomatoes and tends to dry out and scorch the pan if you are doing less. I have taken to blending the cooked onion into the sauce at the end. It’s too delicious to take out.

What you’ll need:

  • Tomato sauce: (You will only use half to 3/4 of this sauce for this recipe, but freeze the rest.)
  • 2 small 400gm (14 oz) tins of good quality tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 30gms butter
  • Baked Gnocchi:
  • 500gms store-bought Gnocchi or short pasta or ravioli or tortellini)
  • Half to 3/4 of the above sauce
  • 8 basil leaves finely sliced (or 2 Tbsp basil pesto)
  • 200gms baby spinach leaves (a few extra for garnish)
  • ½ cup cream or crème fraiche
  • 1 ball of fior di latte (fresh mozzarella)
  • A handful of grated Parmesan (plus more for serving)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F so that it’s ready when the sauce is done.

Get the tomato sauce on the go by putting all the ingredients into a medium pot and bringing it to a low bubble. Simmer for 45 mins then blend the onion back into the sauce adding salt & pepper as necessary.

When the sauce is nearly done, cook the gnocchi as per the manufacturer’s instructions in salted water until they are floating to the surface. About 1 – 1.5 minutes before it’s done, add the spinach to the water and cook until it’s wilted. Drain the gnocchi and wilted spinach in a colander and then decant into an oven-proof baking dish.

Stir the cream or crème fraiche through half to 3/4 of the blended sauce and add the shredded basil (or pesto) and fold this through the gnocchi and spinach. Slice the Mozzarella into as many pieces as you can and dot these over the surface of the gnocchi. Sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese and bake for around 25 – 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Serve straight away with a salad or crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Words by Sam Linsell, recipe developer and cookbook author. Find more recipes by Sam at drizzleanddip.com

Photographs by Sam Linsell