Baked Gnocchi And Italian Sausage Casserole…

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.

Baked Gnocchi and Sausage Casserole

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...

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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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.

Rosemary And Sun Dried Tomato Artisan Bread…

My husband is a bread lover and consequently bread is part of every dinner at our house. Carbs aren’t a factor for him, he’s as thin as a rail.  He just loves to have a couple of slices of bread warmed in the toaster oven to accompany his meal. It is one of life’s simple pleasures for him.

Over the past year I’ve experimented with making bread in various ways. When I was growing up homemade bread was a special event, especially since it took nearly all day to make with lots of arduous kneading and several hours of rising time. Now we’ve figured out how to make bread more simply, calling it artisan bread and using various methods to produce loafs that don’t challenge your muscles in the process. Last year I published a blog about Artisan No-Knead Bread and if you haven’t tried that particular method I suggest you do. It makes wonderful bread. The only challenge with that recipe is you have to let the dough rest and rise for a minimum of 18 hours, so if you forget to mix the dough the night before you’re out of luck.

IMG_2809This particular recipe mimics the packaged bread mixes that are out there that promise to give a loaf of “homemade” bread in less than an hour. All you have to do is add water. And that’s great. I’m not sure of the last time I had homemade bread that included azodicar-bonamide or mononitrate. And in my quest to lessen the amount of processed foods in my life I am trying more and more to make things from scratch and not from out of boxes with hard to pronounce ingredients. But you have to admit it is tempting to use these products in order to make fresh bread quickly. And I think I have a recipe that can give you a great loaf of bread in as short of a period of time as possible without all of the processed food additives we want less of in our lives.

This recipe is simple and straightforward. It does call for allowing for the dough to rise twice, first for an hour and then for a half hour. But that’s nothing. The ingredients are so easy to assemble that you can be doing a lot of other things while the bread is rising. Thirty minutes in the oven completes the process and you have great tasting, non-processed artisan bread. Even the novice cook can be successful the first time making this bread.

Lesson Learned 1 – Let the yeast bloom: You need to make sure the yeast is activated in order for this bread to work. Take 2 Tbs. of active dry yeast (slightly less than one pouch) pour it into a bowl, add one cup of very warm water and then whisk the two ingredients together until combined. Let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes. You will see some bubbling action on the water and then you will see the yeast bloom (almost like mini chalky volcanic eruptions on the surface of the water). Once that happens you know the yeast has been activated and can add the rest of the ingredients.

Lesson Learned 2 – All that’s left is combining the remaining ingredients: It couldn’t be any simpler. Combine all of the remaining ingredients and let the yeast do its work.

pro-line-nonstick-baking-sheetLesson Learned 3 – Prepping the baking sheet: I use a professional grade baking sheet (picture on the left). I have to include a disclaimer that I work at Crate and Barrel which carries this particular baking sheet. I am not trying to sell this, but have found that if you invest in good housewares i.e., cookware, bakeware, gadgets, etc. it will pay dividends in the kitchen. This particular baking sheet is a non-stick baking sheet. It does not have a traditional non-stick surface but notice the groves throughout the bottom of the pan. That allows for heat to circulate underneath whatever is on the sheet and consequently it does not stick. To make this particular bread all I had to do was dust the pan with some cornmeal. When I took the bread out of the oven, I simply lifted it off the sheet with a silicone spatula. The bread did not stick. If you don’t have a pan similar to this you will need to grease a baking sheet with some vegetable oil and then dust it with cornmeal.

I guarantee if you try this recipe you will impress your family and friends. The end result is exquisite and no one will ever believe how easy it was to make. So throw away the box and say good-bye to processed bread mixes. You are now a “from-scratch” bread maker!

Rosemary And Sun Dried Tomato Artisan Bread

  • Servings: 1 Loaf
  • Difficulty: Easy
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2 tsp. active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes

1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 cups flour

cornmeal for dusting

vegetable oil for baking sheet prep

1 egg white (for an wash on the top of the bread)

1 Tbs. milk (for a wash on top of the bread)


In a medium sized bowl combine yeast and warm water. Whisk to combine. Let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes until the yeast starts to expand and bloom. Add the tomatoes, rosemary, salt and flour all at once. Use a wooden spoon to combine. If dough is too sticky add a little more flour. If the dough feels too dry add a little more water. The dough should be a bit sticky but capable of being formed into a ball. Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 hour.

After an hour either dust a non-stick baking sheet with cornmeal or, if not using non-stick, brush the sheet with some vegetable oil and dust with cornmeal. Shape the dough into a ball with your hands (or you can use a heavy duty silicone scraper to shape into a ball) and put it on the prepared baking sheet. Cover the dough with a dishtowel and let it rise for and additional 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After 30 minutes, bake the dough for 20 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and brush lightly with the whisked egg white and milk mixture. Put the bread back into the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the outer crust turns a nice light golden brown.

Bread Dough Ready To Rise On Prepared Baking Sheet...

Bread Dough Ready To Rise On Prepared Baking Sheet…


Fresh Out Of The Oven…




Rosemary and Sun Dried Tomato Artisan Bread…



Tips ‘N Tricks Brussels Sprouts…

Recently I posted a recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta. I have to admit I am not a big fan of brussels sprouts but my husband is, so I am always looking for ways to punch up the flavor. So here are a couple of tips I recently learned that can add even more flavor to that recipe:

lodge-cast-iron-skillet1. Use a cast iron skillet: I got myself a plain old cast iron skillet for the holidays and it is amazing how evenly it cooks everything. After I boiled the brussels sprouts until they just started to become tender, I sautéed  them with some garlic infused olive oil in the cast iron skillet and the brussels sprouts not only finished cooking but were also evenly browned with the edges wonderfully caramelized.

A cast iron skillet is relatively inexpensive and is one of the best sources for cooking with even heat. Just make sure you season the skillet according to the manufacturers instructions before you use it for the first time. A good seasoned cast iron pan can last for generations if you use it properly.

Also, be aware that cast iron heats up slowly. Give the skillet a little extra time to heat up. Once a cast iron pan is heated it holds the heat beautifully throughout the entire cooking process.

2. Add some shallots to boost the flavor: This time I caramelized some shallots in the skillet (two medium sized ones, sliced) and then took them out while I browned and continued to cook the brussels sprouts and pancetta (and btw, if you don’t have or can’t afford pancetta, bacon works just as well). I added them back in at the end with the sun-dried tomatoes (see next tip) so they would not overcook during the process. Worked like a charm.

3. Add some sun-dried tomatoes at the very end: I saw this in another recipe and thought I’d try it. It was fabulous and really boosted the overall flavor of the dish. I used sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained them, chopped them, added them at the very end and just let them warm through . All I can say is – delicious! The result – the best tasting brussels sprouts to date! This was actually the first time ever that I enjoyed eating brussels sprouts!