Tag Archives: Basil

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


  • 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


  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?

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

It’s still winter! Can you believe it’s still winter?! Not to worry, there’s still plenty of comforting soup to make it all better. And this one is a belter, if I do say so myself. It does take a little extra effort, but it’s so worth it.
Roasted tomato and basil soup

You will need:

1 onion

5 carrots

1 leek

4 cloves garlic

A glut of tomatoes. I used 4 punnets of vine tomatoes (they were half price) and 2 punnets of cherry tomatoes for sweetness

4 peppers, red, yellow or orange

3 chicken stock cubes (or vegetable if you’re vegetarian)

1 tsp mild chilli powder

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp oregano

Pinch sugar

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Salt and black pepper

A handful of fresh basil and parsley

Olive oil

A stick blender and a sieve are also handy!

which tomatoes make the best tomato soup
1. Preheat the oven to 190c and prepare three baking trays, lined with foil. Cut each larger tomato in half and place face up on the trays, then add the cherry tomatoes in the gaps. Drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven. how to roast vegetables for soup

2. Top and tail the leek and cut it in half lengthways. Place it cut side down on the third tray and add the garlic. Core the peppers and cut them in half, removing any seeds and so on. Place face down on the tray and drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven on the highest shelf. The trays will each need around half an hour to get the vegetables roasted and packed with flavour. vegetable base for soup

3. Meanwhile, chop the onion and carrots and prepare the stock.  Heat a little oil in a stock pot and toss in the chopped onions. Sweat then down and add the carrot. The leek can be chopped and added once it has roasted to a sweet and tender state.
how to roast tomatoes 4. When the tomatoes are starting to catch, they’re ready and can be removed from the oven. One tray may take a little longer than the other depending which shelf it’s in but just remove each when they’re ready.how to roast peppers

5. The pepper tray will be ready when the peppers’ skins have blackened considerably. Allow them to cool a little while you chop the leek and add it to the soup pot, then squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin, then add to the soup pot. Allow everything to sweat down a little, but not brown.

how to skin roasted peppers6.To get the peppers to this stage of glorious lusciousness, simply pinch the blackest part of the skins where they will have come away from the flesh and peel off the papery skins.  Roughly chop them up the add to the pot and stir them into the rest of the lovely vegetables.

how to use peppers in soup 7.  Dissolve the stock cubes in around a litre and a half of boiling water (if you haven’t done so already) then pour it into the pot.  Add the tomatoes, just as they come off the tray, and pour in any tomatoey juice which has leaked into the tray.
tomato soup recipes

8.  Add the dried herbs and spices, liquid seasonings and a few cracks of black pepper (everything bar the fresh herbs and some last minute salt).  Let everything cook out with the lid on for around half an hour.ideas for using up tomatoes  9.  Get ready to blitz!  Turn off the heat and (if you have a non-stick pot you’re sensitive about like I have) decant the soup into a large bowl.  Please don’t do this all at once by pouring it straight from the pot to the bowl as you’ll be in danger of scalding yourself or at least being splashed by boiling liquid.  Use a ladle! basil recipes 10. Add the fresh herbs and blitz with a stick blender.  You could, of course, do this in a blender in batches – just be careful to put the lid on.
how do you remove seeds from tomato soup?  11.  Here’s the time consuming part!  Make sure your soup pot is free of any lumps of onion and so on and place a sieve over it.  This uses to take me much longer when I was using my terrible, flimsy Joseph Joseph sieve (it came in a set with bowls I’ve never used), but I invested in this sturdier sieve at TKMaxx which saves a bit of time. Add a few ladles at a time to the sieve and push the soup through with a wooden spoon, scraping hard to get as much through as you can, leaving the seeds and skins behind.  You could blanch and skin the tomatoes before they go into the oven, but I think leaving them on throughout the process really turns up the volume and colour. Repeat until it’s all sieved, and discard the pulp.  Make sure you scrape the underside of the sieve clean into the soup pot, as that’s where the thickest parts tend to linger.

Tomato, red pepper and basil soup recipe

12.  Add a few more leaves of basil and parsley, stir through and serve up or portion up for lunches and the freezer.

Let me know if you try this – I’ve been making soup for years and this is honestly the best I’ve managed it so far – It tastes a bit like Heinz cream of tomato but without the cream and with a bigger, fresher flavour.  It’s a bowlful of vitamin C.  Enjoy!