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Baked Gnocchi with Bolognese Sauce

There is not a finished photo for this dish. That’s because Kyle and I did not eat it, nor will we see this one baked and eaten. This dinner went to my friend and her family. They just welcomed their brand new baby girl into their lives, so I figured they could use all the help they could get! I got to meet her the other day and she is the sweetest little pea. I am so happy for my friend, and glad to see her and her loved ones so healthy and full of joy. Congratulations to you all & WELCOME Baby A!!

There’s really nothing to this dish … and if done the super-simple way (jarred sauce) there would be no need for any recipe. I’m sure some people will be put off because of the use of packaged gnocchi. Yes, light, fluffy home-made gnocchi can’t be beat, but the packaged stuff is handy at times when you want to throw together a hearty meal in a hurry – and since I was cooking for two families at once, I figured packaged was perfect for a day like this. (stay tuned for some recipes for gnocchi … I make a killer sweet potato version)

I also had to keep in mind that this had to be child-friendly. I’m not used to cooking like this – there are no little nuggets running around our home. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I appealed to younger palettes. I made the bolognese myself, so the first thing was to dice the veggies really small (especially the onion & garlic), no need for picky eaters to see these. Then I left out two things I always put into my bolognese: Red Wine and Fresh Herbs. I figured the red wine is not very child appropriate. So instead I added a teensy bit of balsamic vinegar. As for the fresh herbs, I thought that the little bits of green herbs may make children a bit suspicious of the food they are consuming. Here’s hoping I succeeded at feeding a family of 4 – well 5, but the little one doesn’t count yet!

Baked Gnocchi with Bolognese Sauce

2 packages (500g) fresh gnocchi
2 Tbsp parmesan, grated
1/2 – 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Bolognese Sauce
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled & finely diced
1 celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 lb hot italian sausage (casing removed)
3/4 lb lean ground beef
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
28 oz canned crushed or diced tomatoes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper

To prepare the bolognese sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan or pot. Add the onions, carrot, and celery, plus 1/2 tsp of salt. Saute the vegetables for 5-10 minutes until they are soft. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and basil and saute for 1 minute. Add the sausage, beef, remaining salt, and pepper. Saute until the meat is brown, approximately 5-8 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour (as much time as you have). Check on the sauce every once in a while, if you feel it’s looking a bit dry, add a bit of water or beef stock. Add the 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Taste the sauce, add more salt and pepper if necessary.

If preparing this meal to eat right away, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare gnocchi as per package instructions – make sure not to overcook the gnocchi or they become mushy. Once the gnocchi are ready, toss them into an oven-proof dish large enough to fit all the gnocchi, plus some sauce (an 8 x10 should do the trick, but use whatever you have). Pour over as much sauce as you like and stir it through the gnocchi (any leftover sauce can be refrigerated or frozen). Top the gnocchi with the parmesan cheese, then the mozzarella. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly and the cheese is melted.

* If you are preparing this to eat later, wrap the dish in foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Place the dish into the cold oven, then turn it on to 400 degrees, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and the cheese is melted.

If you like your cheese a bit brown on top, turn on your broiler for 3-5 minutes – and make sure you don’t forget about the gnocchi!

Serves 6-8 depending on appetites and what is being served with dinner.

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