Baked gnocchi with rustic tomato sauce
This is my go-to recipe when I need a quick dish with appeal for all age groups. The gnocchi are covered with homemade tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella and baked. Preparation time is less than 15 minutes, with another 10-15 minutes for baking.
For best results, shop for high-quality fresh potato gnocchi, readily available now at supermarkets in France, and probably elsewhere. Do not overcook the gnocchi – they are ready when they rise to the surface of boiling water, and this takes only a few minutes. Use the best possible mozzarella, preferably bufala (made from water buffalo milk).
For a simple meal, serve the gnocchi as a main course with a green salad like mesclun. For a more elaborate dinner, begin with a starter – for example, thinly sliced parma ham or a seasonal vegetable plate — before going on to the gnocchi, salad and a dessert.
You will need a small (4-cup) baking dish, preferably ceramic or glass, but a cake pan may also be used. The quantities below will serve 2.
2 medium tomatoes or 1 large tomato
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried herbs: thyme, basil or herbes de Provence
1/4 tsp. table salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound (500 g.) fresh gnocchi
2 tsp. sea salt
1 fresh mozzarella (about 4 ounces, or 125 grams)
fresh basil for garnish
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (350 F, 180 C).
Rinse the tomatoes and chop into cubes. No need to peel them.
Peel the garlic and mince finely.
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil to sizzling in a skillet or heavy-bottomed pot. Add the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and stir. Add the dried herbs, table salt and pepper. Stir again, turn the heat down to medium high and allow to cook until the tomatoes reduce into a sauce, about 10 minutes.
Place a large pot of water over high heat, add the sea salt and bring to a boil.
While waiting for the water to boil, slice the mozzarella in half and then slice both halves into thinnish pieces.
Prepare your baking dish, using 1 tsp. olive oil to coat the bottom and sides thoroughly.
When the water boils, add the gnocchi and cook until they rise to the surface, about 3 minutes. Drain through a colander, shaking to remove all the water.
Transfer the gnocchi to a clean bowl. Add the tomato sauce and stir to blend. Spoon the mixture into your baking dish. Cover with the mozzarella slices.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly.
Decorate with a few leaves of fresh basil and serve immediately. Serves 2.