Gnocchi Sausage Bake

This is a cracking little recipe we just devised.  Delicious fresh, and even better reheated, it’ll warm your bones in cold weather, which we’ve been experiencing a lot of in the Scottish Borders recently.  It’s got everything you’d want from a quasi Italian supper: tomatoes, basil, garlic, protein, a bit of stodge, a bit of spice and, of course, as much cheese as you dare.  Oh, and it’s also really easy to eat from a plate on your knee when your house isn’t quite ready yet! Go on, give this little gnocchi sausage bake a try!

Gnocchi Sausage Bake

Gnocchi Sausage Bake

Ingredients

  • 8 pork sausages
  • 1 packet gnocchi (there's a time and a place for homemade gnocchi and this isn't it!)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 pepper - we used red
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 4 tbsp red wine (if you have a bottle open - don't waste a new bottle if it's not a good excuse to drink it!)
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tin plum or chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small carton passata
  • 1 beef stock pot
  • fresh or dried herbs such as parsley, oregano, thyme and basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano (in addition to the fresh)
  • 6 tsp mascarpone
  • plenty of parmesan to grate on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat an oven to 180c and place a large saucepan on the hob at a high heat.
  2. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins, breaking it up with your fingers as you do so. This meat should be nicely seasoned so it won't need anything else adding to it at this stage.
  3. Put the sausage meat into the pan and let it brown on both sides, breaking it up with your wooden spoon as you do so, so that you're left with uneven chunks (you're not aiming for mince though!). You'll probably find that the sausages release quite alot of fat and water, so drain some of it off if it's impeding the sausages' browning ability. This bake will be tastiest if you can get lots of crispy bits onto your sausages. When they're ready, pour onto a plate or into a bowl and set aside for the time being, then put the pan back on the hob, turning the heat down a couple of notches, but leaving in any remaining fat (or as much as you prefer) for cooking the onions in. Fat is flavour, remember!
  4. Slice the onion and chop or grate the garlic. It isn't imperative that the garlic in this recipe should be absolutely finely milled, so feel free to chop away with your knife if you don't like grating or want to save on the washing up - if the pieces are larger or more uneven than is ideal it won't matter too much as the flavour will have time to break down and disperse, meaning there's not too much risk of biting down on a bitter chunk of raw garlic.
  5. Let the onion and garlic cook out for five minutes or so on their own before adding anything else to the pan, but be careful not to let the garlic burn.
  6. Slice the pepper and add in, followed by the spring onion.
  7. Next, spoon in the tomato puree and stir it vigorously into the vegetables, letting it cook out for a few minutes to mellow and sweeten, before adding the wine and vinegar (if using them). Cook out until the liquids have reduced almost completely, then add the tinned tomatoes and passata. A helpful tip we like to follow is to swill out the tins with a little water and add this to the sauce as it will be quite thick and will thicken even more as it cooks and the moisture in the pan evaporates. You can of course add water from the tap or gnocchi pot later on, but we like to add extra at this point to loosen everything up, and it also means not wasting any tomatoey residue on those cans!
  8. Add the stock pot (or a stock cube dissolved in only a small amount of water) and then the dry herbs and spices, salt and pepper.
  9. Add the sausage back into the saucey pan to let them cook all the way through and add to the flavour of the sauce.
  10. Leave the sauce now to cook for 20 minutes to half an hour, stirring occasionally.
  11. During this time, you may wish to start the washing up and prepare the gnocchi, as it can take much more time than the 2 minutes the packet suggests, unless you're happy to use a very big saucepan and have mighty fast reflexes, as you need to scoop it out as soon as it floats to the top to avoid it becoming rubbery, so I find it easier to boil it up in small batches to avoid any panicking, splashing and risk of rubber gnocchi. Leave it in a colander to steam off.
  12. The next stage is somewhat optional, which is frying off the gnocchi in a little olive oil. Optional but I like the little bit of crunch and toastiness it adds.
  13. Add the fresh basil to your sauce, check the seasoning, and now you're ready to put it altogether.
  14. Stir the gnocchi into the sauce and put the whole lot into a large casserole dish.
  15. Next, spoon on as much or as little mascarpone as you would like (remember that it's very creamy).
  16. Then add a few basil leaves to the top, and grate on your parmesan.
  17. Bake uncovered in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mascarpone has started to gild on the top.
  18. Serve up with green vegetables and crusty bread if you're feeling generous!
  19. Buon appetito!
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If it’s a special occasion – why not make our chocolatiest chocolate cake for pudding?

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