THIS is the recipe I make when I have zero time and we need to eat a good meal – my Bolognese Gnocchi Bake! It’s such an easy casserole to whip up on a busy day, complete with vegetables, soft gnocchi and ground beef.
Ever since my oldest started school, mealtimes have become even more hectic than before. I have a fussy baby, a hungry kindergartener… and an attention-seeking middle child, ha!
This is the recipe I whip up on a weekly basis these days. I’ve tried to make it more complicated – with cooking the entire sauce before baking, pre-cooking the gnocchi and adding more complicated seasoning.
But at the end of the (very long) day, I reverted back to the simplest form of making this: Brown the beef, throw everything into your casserole dish, top with cheese and bake. It turns into a soul-warming, bubbly bake filled with tomato sauce, beef and pillow-y gnocchi. The ones at the top crisp up – those always go to the 5 year old around here 😉
I usually don’t serve much with this, other than a leafy green salad (or a tomato salad if they’re in season) with homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing. My kids love it when I whip up a Lemon Pound Cake for dessert though – one of our favorite ways to end an Italian-inspired dinner (I’m aware that there’s no big connection; but try it and see – it’s nice).
I hope you’ll cherish this recipe as much as I do on a busy day! Enjoy.
This Bolognese Gnocchi Bake is my number one emergency meal. Once the beef is browned, all that's left to do is stirring everything together in the casserole dish, then bake. This is such a quick prep, kid-friendly meal - perfect for those extra busy nights!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, not drained
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon dried onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dried garlic powder
- 1 (16-oz) package gnocchi
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Prep: Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly grease a deep 9x13 inch casserole dish.
- Brown beef: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned and crumbly. Remove to the prepared casserole dish.
- Assemble casserole: Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the cheese to the casserole dish.
Stir well, making sure the seasoning is well distributed. Check for seasoning, adding more salt as needed.
Evenly top with shredded cheese.
- Bake: Bake casserole in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until bake is bubbly and cheese has melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead Instructions:
If you want to make this ahead of time, I recommend adding the celery and carrot to the skillet with the ground beef to cook for 4-5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. Do not top with cheese yet.
Once the casserole is assembled, cover it tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
To bake, remove the casserole from the fridge and unwrap it. Let it sit on the counter while the oven preheats. Top with cheese and bake as directed in the recipe (it may need an extra 5 minutes, as it is cold from the fridge).
To freeze the unbaked casserole: Follow the make ahead steps for the carrot and celery. Assemble the full casserole, then wrap tightly first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Label with the name and use-by date (freeze for up to 3 months) before placing in the freezer.
To reheat, you don't need to defrost it. Unwrap it completely, then loosely cover the top with aluminum foil. Bake at 375°F for about 1 hour, on until hot. Remove the foil and finish baking for 15 minutes until bubbly and cheese has melted.
To freeze the baked casserole: If you have leftovers or want to freeze the baked casserole for whatever reason, you can do that, too! Make sure the casserole has cooled for 30-60 minutes on the counter (but no longer), then place it in the fridge to chill completely. Once cold, tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Label with the name and use-by date (freeze for up to 3 months).
To reheat the baked casserole, I prefer defrosting it in the fridge overnight. Loosely cover the defrosted casserole with aluminum foil and bake at 375°F for 20-30 minutes, or until steaming hot all the way through.
More flavor: Feel free to sauté the carrot and celery with the ground beef if you have time. You can also use a chopped onion and minced garlic in place of the powdered ones - just make sure to sauté the onion with the beef, or it will taste raw and unappealing.
Extra liquid: Depending on the kind of gnocchi you're using, you may need to add 1/2 cup of beef broth to the casserole. Mine are quite soft when they come out of the package, but harder/more dry ones need more liquid. If it seems dry once you have mixed it up, try adding some liquid to make sure the gnocchi cook.
Gnocchi: Packaged Gnocchi tend to stick together. Make sure to break them apart, or they may not cook through everywhere in the oven.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 458 Total Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 10g Cholesterol: 99mg Sodium: 809mg Carbohydrates: 40g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 5g Sugar: 6g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 30g
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