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Baked Gnocchi with Sausage Ragu

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Baked Gnocchi with Sausage Ragu is a robust, rich, hearty and comfortingly delicious dish that will have everyone coming back for seconds!

A small bowl of gnocchi with tomato sauce and mozzarella next to a cast iron skillet filled with more gnocchi.

Why You’ll Love Baked Gnocchi with Sausage Ragu

For starters, this recipe uses ready-made potato gnocchi. Time saver! We’ll toast them up front so they stay soft little pillows through the bake.

Second, even though the homemade pasta sauce cooks up in about 40 minutes, it’ll taste like you spent all day on it…thanks to robust ingredients.

You can cook several steps in advance to save yourself from scrambling at the last minute. Whether for busy weeknights or when company’s coming, you’ll be ready for hungry diners!

This gnocchi recipe can stretch to feed six to eight people making it great for big families or entertaining. Just pair it with a simple salad and garlic bread and everyone will be happy.

And, this is a one-pot meal, so it’s easy clean up…who doesn’t love that?!

A cast iron skillet filled with gnocchi and sausage ragu with melted mozzarella and shredded basil on top.

Gather Your Ingredients

You can find exact quantities in the recipe card at the bottom. In addition to olive oil, kosher salt + fresh cracked black pepper, you’ll need…

  • Potato gnocchi — the shelf-stable variety. You can find this in the pasta aisle of many grocery stores.
  • Sweet Italian sausage — Italian sausage links or bulk. Feel free to use pork or chicken sausage.
  • Unsalted butter — for sautéing the vegetables.
  • Veggies — yellow or white onion, carrot, celery, fresh garlic
  • Dry red wine — to deglaze the pan and reduce for concentrated flavor.
  • San Marzano tomatoes — canned whole, peeled in tomato puree. 
  • Calabrian chili paste — this is optional, but provides just a touch of smoky heat. You can use red pepper flakes instead.
  • Heavy cream — adds a luxurious quality to the meat sauce.
  • Fresh basil — for the sauce and garnish. 
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese — tops the dish and melts beautifully when baked.
  • Parmesan cheese — for serving.
Raw ingredients for baked gnocchi and sausage ragu on a wooden table.

How To Make Baked Gnocchi with Sausage Ragu

  1. Toast the gnocchi with some olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Remove to a dish.
  2. If using links, remove the sausage skins and discard. In the same skillet, cook the sausage meat until no longer pink, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a paper towel to drain.
  3. Melt butter in the skillet, then cook the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until soft.
  4. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, then reduce for a few minutes. Return the sausage to the skillet along with the tomatoes (hand crushed) and their puree. Season to taste. If using, add the Calabrian chili paste or chili flakes. Simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Off heat, stir the heavy cream, basil and gnocchi into the sausage mixture. Add sliced fresh mozzarella on top of the saucy gnocchi, then bake in a 400°F preheated oven.
Diced carrots, celery and onion sautéing in butter in a cast iron skillet.

Helpful Recipe Tips

What kind of pot or skillet should I use?

I use a 12” cast iron skillet for this recipe. It’s the perfect size. Any oven-safe large pan should work. If you don’t have one, prepare the sauce in a large pot and transfer it to 9” x 13” baking dish to finish in the oven.

Do I have to toast the gnocchi? And, does it have to toast in the skillet?

You don’t have to toast the gnocchi. In fact, you don’t have to precook the gnocchi at all. I do feel that toasting it improves its texture for the bake. I would not boil it for this recipe. To shave a few minutes off the overall cook time, you could toast the gnocchi (tossed with olive oil) on a sheet pan in the preheated oven while the sauce simmers.

How should I store leftovers?

Place leftovers in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. This is excellent leftover…a couple of minutes in the microwave and you’ll have piping hot gnocchi with gooey cheese.

A cast iron skillet filled with baked gnocchi and sausage ragu topped with melted mozzarella and basil.

Substitutions

Mozzarella — instead, you could dollop ricotta cheese on top of the gnocchi. Doctor it up with some garlic + basil first. Or, you could tear fresh, room temperature burrata on top as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Sweet Italian sausage — if you love a spicy meat sauce, use hot Italian sausage instead. You probably won’t need the chili paste or flakes if you do.

San Marzano tomatoes — these prized Italian tomatoes are sweet and absolutely divine in tomato sauces. I have made this sauce with canned crushed tomatoes, thinking I was saving myself some work, but the end flavor was…meh. So, do yourself a favor and go with the whole San Marzano tomatoes. Crushing them by hand lets you control how fine or chunky you make your sauce.

What to Sip with Baked Gnocchi + Sausage Ragu

You’ll need wine for the sauce anyway, so pick up a bottle you can enjoy with your meal. Think Italian reds like Primitivo, Sangiovese, Barbera. For domestic wines, Zinfandel (which is the same as Primitivo) is easy to find. Because this is a robust dish, try it with a full-bodied red that can hold it’s own.

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A small bowl of gnocchi with tomato sauce and mozzarella next to a cast iron skillet filled with more gnocchi.

Baked Gnocchi with Sausage Ragu

Linda Feller
Baked Gnocchi with Sausage Ragu is a robust, rich, hearty and comfortingly delicious dish that will have everyone coming back for seconds!
Prep time.10 minutes
Cook time.1 hour 20 minutes
Total time.1 hour 30 minutes
Course.Main Course
Cuisine.Italian
Number of servings.6 to 8
Calories per serving.764 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pound potato gnocchi, shelf-stable variety
  • 12 ounce sweet Italian sausage, pork or poultry-based, remove casings
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 28 ounce whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, crush by hand, use tomatoes + juices/puree
  • kosher salt + fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Calabrian chili paste, or red pepper flakes, optional
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon fresh basil, sliced into ribbons, plus more for serving
  • 8 ounce fresh mozzarella
  • fresh grated parmesan, for serving, optional

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the gnocchi and brown for 10 minutes until light golden. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  • Crumble the sausage into the skillet, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break the sausage into smaller bits as it cooks. Once no longer pink, use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  • Add the butter to the skillet to melt over medium-low heat. Once it bubbles, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often for even cooking. (The goal is tender, but not browned veggies.)
  • Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen up any stuck bits. Reduce the wine for about 5 minutes. Add the sausage back to the skillet along with the tomatoes and their juices; season with salt + pepper. Add Calabrian chili paste or red pepper flakes, if using. Simmer on low heat, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F while the sauce simmers.
  • Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the heavy cream and basil. Taste and adjust for salt + pepper as needed.
  • Stir in the gnocchi to coat with sauce. Slice or tear the mozzarella into pieces and scatter over the gnocchi. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Top with more fresh basil and optional grated parmesan to serve.

Notes

  • To shave a few minutes off the overall cook time, toss the gnocchi with the 2 tbsp of olive oil and toast it on a sheet pan in the preheated oven while the sauce simmers.
  • Place leftovers in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. 
  • You can also prepare the sauce in a large pot and transfer it to 9” x 13” baking dish to finish in the oven.

Nutrition

Calories: 764kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 105mg | Sodium: 1401mg | Potassium: 511mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2278IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 298mg | Iron: 8mg
Keywords.make ahead, oven, stove top
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