Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
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Bubbly, golden and so delicious! Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is my favorite way to celebrate the southern coast of Italy! Made with a slow-simmered house Pomodoro, delicious nuggets of tender baked gnocchi, and lots of melty mozzarella!
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina takes me right back to my favorite holiday of all time.
Every time I think of the words ‘Gnocchi alla Sorrentina’ I’m transported back to the southern coast of Italy where we spent a few days before making our way through other parts of Italy! It was magical and I think it’s safe to say, I ate about 20 pounds of pasta (and roughly the same weight in tomatoes, too.)
And since being back, I’ve spent at least an hour a week daydreaming about going back. For now, I’ll have to do with homemade versions of my favorite Italian dishes. Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is a dish that I tasted in Italy and have been trying to recreate for the last three years.
It’s finally ready, and I can’t wait for you to try it!
What is Gnocchi alla Sorrentina?
“Alla sorrentina” means Sorrento-style. It’s basically gnocchi in a quick homemade Pomodoro sauce with tons of grated parmesan and melted mozzarella cheese on top.
What ingredients do you need to make gnocchi in Pomodoro with mozzarella?
- Tomatoes: I prefer to use canned San Marzano tomatoes for this recipe. If you’re making this recipe in the thick of summer, you can also use fresh tomatoes as well, see FAQs for full directions.
- Olive oil: You’ll need good quality olive oil for this recipe. The flavors really shine through in the sauce.
- Garlic: You’ll need several cloves of smashed garlic to help flavor the Pomodoro sauce. We’ll start by infusing the garlic flavor into the olive oil so that it simmers and flavors everything beautifully.
- Red Pepper Flakes: Just a pinch to brighten the Pomodoro. Feel free to omit this ingredient if you prefer to make the sauce very mild.
- Onion: I like to use an onion that been quartered to help flavor the Pomodoro. Since we want the onion flavor to be more mild, like the garlic, we’ll just use it to infuse into the sauce but leave it large so that it’s intact and can be fished out before serving. If you prefer a stronger onion flavor, I suggest grating roughly ¼ cup of onion and adding that in. That’s exactly what I do for my homemade pizza sauce.
- Cheese: You’ll need two different kinds for this recipe. The first is parmesan. You’ll want to add grated parmesan to the dish as well as the rind of the parmesan while the pomodoro sauce simmers. You’ll also need mozzarella to put on top before baking. I like to buy a block of mozzarella from the deli counter and then shred it at home. I find that preshredded mozzarella doesn’t melt as well because it’s often coated in potato starch (and other ingredients) to keep it from caking and sticking together. In this case, a wedge (or block) of mozzarella tends to melt the best.
- Basil: Fresh basil is a must! We’ll use some to flavor the Pomodoro, the rest will be used on top right before serving this.
- Gnocchi: I usually buy gnocchi from the pasta aisle. Most grocery stores carry it in either the Italian section (in the international aisle) or the pasta section. You’ll need a 17.5 ounce container and for the purpose of this recipe, you don’t have to boil the gnocchi separately. It’s a one pot meal; it’ll all cook to perfection in the sauce in the oven.
How to make Baked Gnocchi alla Sorrentina at home:
- Smash the tomatoes. Start by pouring the entire can of tomatoes into a medium bowl. You want to use your hands to really breakdown the tomatoes until they are crushed.
- Infuse the olive oil and make Pomodoro. Add the garlic and red pepper to a cold dutch oven along with the olive oil. Slowly heat the olive oil over low heat until the garlic starts to simmer gently in the oil. This will take time, so be patient! Once the garlic simmers, place the onion quarters in the oil, cut side down and let it sear in the oil for 1 minute. Pour the smashed tomatoes on top and tuck the parmesan rind in the sauce. You’ll also want to add half of the basil in at this point. I like to break the basil with my hands before adding it to release of of that aroma and flavor. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then cover and reduce until thick.
- Bake Gnocchi alla Sorrentina until golden and bubbly. You’ll want to preheat the oven during the last 20 minute that the sauce is reducing. Once the sauce is done, fish out the onions and basil (you can remove the garlic too if you’d like) Then season with kosher salt and stir in the gnocchi as well as the parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust with more salt if it needs it. You’ll want to dollop the casserole with mozzarella and then pop it into the oven to cook covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid for the remaining 15 minutes until the cheese melts and becomes golden and bubbly on top. I like to let it sit under the broiler for the last 45 seconds or so to really develop the color further. Serve topped with fresh basil and more parmesan cheese if you’d like.
FAQs about Gnocchi alla Sorrentina recipe:
Can I use fresh tomatoes?
Yes, you can. I suggest scoring the tomatoes with a paring knife and boiling them in hot water until the peels loosen and you can remove them. Shock tomatoes in an ice water bath, peel, and squish as directed in step 1. You’ll also want to add about 1/2 cup of store-bought passata (or homemade tomato sauce.)
Where can I find Parmesan rind?
It’s the back waxy portion of a wedge of Parmesan. Some grocery stores also sell them so talk to your cheesemonger, they may have the rind separately for purchase. I usually just stash mine in the freezer when I buy a block of parmesan!
Where do you find diced mozzarella?
I usually ask the deli attendant to just cut be a half-pound of mozzarella in a block. Then I just dice the mozzarella at home. I find that it melts much better than preshredded mozz.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Homemade Pizza Sauce
- Eggs in Purgatory (Italian Shakshuka)
- Weekend Braised Beef Ragu with Pappardelle
- Best Ever Arrabbiata Sauce
- Roasted Garlic Focaccia
- 1-28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 small onion, quartered
- Rind of parmesan (optional)
- 1 cup basil, loosely packed
- 1 (17.5-ounce) prepared gnocchi
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more
- 1 ¼ cup cubed mozzarella cheese (or shredded)
- TOMATOES: start by pouring the entire can of tomatoes into a medium bowl, using your hands (a potato masher or kitchen shears) squish the tomatoes until they break down into a ‘crushed’ consistency; set aside for now.
- POMODORO: Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to a cold 3-quart (or larger) dutch oven (or any oven-safe pan) pour the olive oil on top. Heat the garlic over the lowest heat setting until it starts to slowly sizzle and the aroma hits the whole kitchen; this could take up to 10 minutes. Then place the onion quarters, cut side down in the pan, and sear for 1 minute. Pour the tomatoes on top, tuck the parmesan rind into the sauce and stir in half of the basil leaves (torn with hands.) Kick the heat up to medium, allow the mixture to reach a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to just above low so that the sauce simmers very gently; cook for 30 minutes.
- FINISH: During the last 20 minutes of cooking time, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Fish out the onion and parmesan rind (basil and garlic cloves too if you wish.) Season with ¾ teaspoon kosher salt. Stir in the gnocchi and parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust with additional salt if desired (keep in mind the sauce will reduce and become slightly saltier so if it's pretty close, don't season it any further.) Dollop the casserole with mozzarella. Bake, covered for 10 minutes then uncover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted. I like to broil it for the last 30-45 seconds to get it extra delicious.
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