RECIPE: Baked Gluten Free Gnocchi Romana

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My husband and I continue to play with gluten free dishes, and I think the hardest thing to give up is hearty pasta dishes. We are not completely gluten free, as you can see by my many recipes. But as we have been addressing my daughter's mild ADHD and tummy issues, we found that cutting back on the gluten has helped her. And if it's one thing she loves, it's warm comfort food and pasta. I mean, really, who doesn't?

I found some really great gluten free frozen pasta in the freezer case last week, and was inspired to make a baked gnocchi dish. Something easy for a weeknight or busy weekend. The best way to cut back on labor is to pre make parts of a baked dish (in this case the meatballs) and buy store bought things here and there. One thing that we sometimes do for baked pasta dishes is buy store bought jar sauce and dress it up easily (please don't tell Nonna.) So after about an hour we had a piping hot, bubbling vat of cheesy meaty deliciousness on our plates. What can be better on a freezing cold Chicago night?

Oh, the meatball recipe is a tried and true one we use from our favorite foodie paradise, William Sonoma, we adapted it to be gluten free for this.

Baked Gluten Free Gnocchi Romana
Ingredients:

Meatballs:

  • 4-5 slices of gluten free bread, toasted and dried out, then crushed up in a food processor (or 1 1/2 cups fresh GF bread crumbs) 


  • 1/2 cup milk 


  • 4 oz. finely chopped prosciutto 


  • 1 lb. ground beef 


  • 1 lb. ground pork 


  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 


  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 


  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 


  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano 


  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh basil 


  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced 


  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste  


  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste 


  • 5 Tbs. or more of olive oil for browning, divided


Sauce:
1 jar good quality tomato sauce (we like Barilla Mushroom for this)
1/2 cup minced red or yellow onion
8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp. chopped basil
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Assembly:
1 lb. gluten free gnocchi, cooked according to package directions, then drained
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
about 1/3 of the meatballs (freeze the rest)
1/2 tub light ricotta (8 oz.)
nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

First make the meatballs. Soak the bread crumbs in milk and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile in a big bowl, mix the rest of the meatball ingredients up with your hands. Add the bread crumbs and mix some more. Shape into small balls, about 2" in diameter. They need to be roughly the same size as the gnocchi, maybe a touch bigger. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Brown the meatballs in batches, adding more oil as you go, until all the meatballs are brown on all sides. Drain on a paper towel. You are going to have a lot of meatballs, so freeze the rest, or plan for a spaghetti and meatball night later in the week. The meatballs can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Reserve the pan with all that meatball goodness on the bottom for the sauce!


Next cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain, and set aside. Spray an 11 x 17 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Add the cooked gnocchi and 1/3 of the meatballs you cooked, and distribute them evenly along the bottom of the pan. Set aside.


Preheat oven to 425˚. Next make the sauce. In a tablespoon or so of olive oil in the same pan you browned the meatballs, saute the onion until beginning to brown. Scrape up any remnants of caramelized meatball juice as you go with your spoon. Then add the mushroom, salt and pepper. Saute until the mushrooms begin to release their juices. Then add the white wine, and simmer until reduced down, about 3 minutes. Next add the jar of tomato sauce. Simmer for 7 minutes, then add the fresh herbs. Mix and cook for another 10 minutes, until thickened and a little darker in color.




Pour the sauce over the gnocchi. With a large spoon, gently jostle and pull up the meatballs and gnocchi so the sauce gets under and around the whole layer. Next, with a spoon, dollop and nestle the ricotta throughout the pan. Cover with tinfoil and bake for about 20 minutes. Then remove the tin foil, sprinkle the mozzarella along the top and bake for another 10 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes, and serve hot with extra grated Parmesan cheese on top.




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