This baked dish of gnocchi with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella is simply heaven on earth. It is the ultimate comfort dish. In Italian, we call these types of dishes pasta al forno – “baked pasta” and they are typically prepared in this manner – layers of pasta, sauce, mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese. This Southern Italian dish swaps out typical pasta forms, such as ziti or shells, and replaces it with soft and tender gnocchi. This is not a family recipe, just one I saw frequently in my adventure of cooking and quite frankly, couldn’t get out of my head.
Though gnocchi is often prepared using potatoes, it can also be made using only flour and water. In this recipe, we’ll use boiling water and 00 flour, a very fine wheat flour, to create incredibly soft and easy to prepare gnocchi. This hot water softens and slightly cooks the flour, producing an incredibly tender pasta – a far cry from the prepared ones you find at the supermarket.
This is an incredibly easy dish to assemble, but to amplify the flavors and textures of this amazing dish, I would highly recommend using scratch made sauce and gnocchi – this will ensure a restaurant quality final product! Find all the details in the recipe below. Buon appetito!
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
- 1 32 oz jar of Passata, or 1 28 oz can tomato puree with no salt or other seasoning added
- 14-16 oz water
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- Red Pepper flakes to taste
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 500 grams 00 flour
- 500 grams water
- pinch of salt
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella, diced into 1/2 inch – 1 inch cubes
- 2-3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Homemade Tomato Sauce
For the Sauce:
- Set a saucepan over medium-high heat and heat for 1-2 minutes. Add extra virgin olive oil and heat, about 1 minute. The oil is ready when it thins and swirls easily around the pot. Add red pepper flakes and sliced garlic and cook until starting to brown and fragrant – about 1 minute.
- Add your passata or tomato puree, then rinse out the jar or can by filling it halfway with tap water. Add the water to the sauce and stir to combine.
- To the sauce, add all the seasonings – salt, oregano, parsley, and basil. Stir to combine. Allow sauce to come to a vigorous boil.
- Once the sauce is boiling, turn the heat down low and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes. In the meanwhile, set a large pot of salted water to boil on another burner and prepare your gnocchi.
- Dust a large sheet pan with flour and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Add the water to a medium saucepan with a generous pinch of salt and allow to come to a boil. When the water is boiling, turn off the heat from the burner, add the flour and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. Once the water and flour is combined, overturn the mixture onto a clean work surface. Continue to work the dough together with a wooden spoon until the dough is cool enough to handle with your hands. Knead the dough for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and supple.
- Cut the dough into 6-8 even portions, covering the unused portions and you roll out the gnocchi. Roll each portion into a ball and then use the work surface and your finger tips to roll the ball out into a rope. The rope should be able 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with all of the portions of dough.
- Cut the ropes into pieces approximately 1 inch wide. You can roll the gnocchi with a gnocchi board, on the back of a fork, or leave them in their pillow form. Place your cut gnocchi onto the floured sheet pan while you roll the remaining gnocchi.
- Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water until they float to the surface – about 2-4 minutes. Remove with a strainer and set aside.
- In the bottom of a baking dish, add a ladle full of sauce to coat the bottom of the dish, followed by about a tablespoon of parmesan cheese. Add gnocchi in an even layer, top with fresh mozzarella, and another tablespoon of parmesan. Continue to layer in this manner until you have used all of your gnocchi, allowing the final layer to be mozzarella cheese.
- Cover the dish and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the mozzarella has melted fully. Serve and enjoy immediately.