This delicious gnocchi bake comes from the South of Italy. Potato gnocchi cooked in a meaty tomato basil sauce under a blanket of melted mozzarella and Parmesan. Easy, comforting and satisfying!
For another delicious but very different take on a gnocchi recipe, take a look at my Creamy Butternut Squash Gnocchi.
This recipe I am sharing today is inspired by our recent trip to Southern Italy. Campania region to be exact.
If doesn’t ring a bell, think of Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii and Amalfi Coast. That part of Italy is filled with glorious sunshine and breathtaking landscapes. It is also famous for its delicious food.
Even though the gnocchi themselves originate in Northern Italy, this dish was on a menu in almost every restaurant we went in the South. It is known as Gnocchi alla Sorrentina or Sorrento-style gnocchi.
It’s a very simple dish of potato gnocchi (usually made in house) baked in a sweet tomato basil sauce and topped with fresh mozzarella. Simplicity at its best!
How to make it
I’ve changed the recipe a tiny bit by adding ground beef to my tomato sauce to make it a bit more substantial and to satisfy the meat lovers in my family. The Italians will not appreciate it as they rarely add meat to their pasta dishes but we LOVED it.
I guess, we take the best bits and adjust the rest to our taste, don’t we? A creative license as they call it!
I’ve simplified the recipe as well. It’s great to make your own gnocchi when you’ve got the time but most of us won’t bother.
So I replaced the homemade gnocchi with a good quality store bought ones. I’ve used the Napolina brand as a nod to the place this dish came from.
Now let’s talk about the gorgeous meaty tomato basil sauce. You’ve got two options. You can easily make your own or buy your favourite brand of spaghetti sauce and add the ground beef to it. I promise either way this gnocchi bake is to die for!
Do I need to pre-cook gnocchi?
Yes, you do. Gnocchi are thick potato dumplings that need to be boiled first to achieve the soft and fluffy texture. They are extremely quick to cook and most brands take only 1 minute after they are added to rapidly boiling water.
You will know your gnocchi are cooked once they float to the top. Take them immediately off the heat and drain them. Don’t be tempted to give them another minute as they will continue cooking in the sauce!
It’s difficult to find tomatoes as sweet and delicious as they are in Italy, which changes the taste of the sauce. I recommend tasting your sauce at the end of the simmering time and adding 0.5-1 tbsp of sugar if the taste is too acidic. (An Italian cook gave me this little tip!)
You won’t need too much to round off this meal as gnocchi are very filling and a little goes a long way. I love serving this dish with a traditional green crisp Italian salad dressed simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
If you want to try something more interesting, go for our Warm Zucchini Salad or Roasted Parmesan Broccoli to compliment your Italian-themed meal. You can also explore our Italian salads and antipasti and pick your own!
More favourite Italian recipes to try:
- Slow Cooker Italian Beef Ragu
- Spaghetti Bolognese
- Sun-dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken
- Prawn Pasta in Tomato Cream Sauce
Baked Gnocchi in Meat Sauce with Mozzarella Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 5-6 leaves fresh basil, torn or 1 tsp dried basil
- 2X400g/14oz canned crushed tomatoes or tomato passata
- salt to taste
- 500g/1lbs prepared gnocchi
- 100g/1/2 cup grated mozzarella
- 25g/1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 1 tomato, sliced
- 2-3 basil leaves
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan, then brown the ground beef until no longer pink inside. Add crushed garlic, torn basil leaves, oregano, canned tomatoes or tomato passata and bring to a boil, salt to taste. Simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the gnocchi in a pot of salted boiling water according to package instructions. Drain and mix with the sauce once the sauce is done simmering.
- Transfer the meat sauce with the gnocchi into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with grated mozzarella and Parmesan, then top with a few tomato slices and basil leaves if desired. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the contents are hot and bubbly.
- Alternatively you can use store bought spaghetti sauce instead of making your own.