I made this recipe the other night and posted a picture of it on some of my Facebook groups and got quite a bit of positive feedback about it, actually much more than I expected. That got me to thinking that I should be sharing this recipe with my blog readers as well.
I didn’t take as many pictures as I normally do when I intend to post a recipe, but I’m thinking that’s not a problem as this really wasn’t a recipe I was planning on posting. The couple of pictures I did take more than show how delicious this recipe is.
This whole thing started when I looked in my pantry and noticed I had a package of potato gnocchi that I needed to use. I wanted to do more than just boil the gnocchi and add some marinara sauce and so I started rummaging through what I had in my refrigerator and pantry to see if I could embellish the recipe. And I think I did.
So let’s talk Baked Gnocchi and Sausage Casserole…
Lesson Learned 1 – If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, get one: Cast iron cookware is probably the most perfect cooking equipment you can buy. First, it’s inexpensive. Second, once a pan is heated, it retains an even heat throughout. Third, cast iron can go from stove top to oven with absolutely no worries.
So what are the drawbacks? First, cast iron is heavy. Many people don’t like using cast iron just for that reason. Second, you need to season the skillet. Once seasoned a cast iron skillet will clean as easy or even easier than any of your other pans. Seasoning instructions usually come with the skillet when your purchase it. I highly recommend using a cast iron skillet for this recipe. But if you don’t have one, any pan that can go from stove top to oven will do.
And one last thing, when I said a cast iron skillet heats throughout I mean throughout. That means the handle of the skillet will get equally as hot as the pan. Remember to use kitchen mitts when touching the handle or transferring the skillet from the stove top to the oven.
Lesson Learned 2 – For even better flavor marinate the mozzarella: I had some remnants of a fresh mozzarella ball in my refrigerator. I cut it into small chunks and poured some of the liquid from the jar of sun dried tomatoes over the mozzarella. I let the mozzarella marinate while I was preparing all of the other ingredients. Doing this increases the depth of flavor in the dish.
Lesson Learned 3 – For some extra punch add a small amount of red pepper flakes: Now I have to admit I didn’t add red pepper flakes to my casserole but after tasting it I thought it made a great candidate for adding additional kick. Just be aware that not everyone likes it spicy. It’s all up to you.
Lesson Learned 4 – If at all possible use fresh basil instead of dried: I still had some herbs from my patio garden and so I was able to use fresh herbs. A quarter cup as called for in the recipe is a lot of basil and if that becomes too expensive you can simply use 2 teaspoons of dried basil instead. But fresh is always better.
And that’s it. The recipe is pretty straightforward but in my experience often the simple things are the best. And this also makes great tasting leftovers, so you can’t lose. I know you’ll enjoy this one…
Baked Gnocchi And Sausage Casserole...
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried basil)
1 pound package of gnocchi
5 ounces small mozzarella balls
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs. sunflower oil, or use some of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes
Basil slices and freshly grated Parmesan for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring to boil a large pan of salted water.
Place the mozzarella balls in a plastic bag that seals. Pour some of the sun dried tomato oil from the jar over the mozzarella balls. Seal the bag and let marinate until ready to use.
Heat the oil in a oven-proof skillet. Add the sausage, break it up with a spoon and cook until just barely done. Add the garlic and saute for one minute. Add the sun dried tomatoes, diced tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer.
Put gnocchi into boiling salted water and cook until done. (gnocchi is cooked when it all rises to the top of the pot). Drain the gnocchi and stir it into the skillet. Add the mozzarella balls and stir to combine. Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven and let it stand for 3-5 minutes. Garnish with basil and Parmesan. Serve with a salad and crusty bread.