A decadent, Italian-inspired baked dish made with creamy pillows of Italian-style vegan dumplings, cashew cheese sauce, and a spicy red sauce sure to please vegans and non-vegans alike.
- 1 potato ricer optional
- 1 gnocchi board optional
- 3 medium potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold) approx. 1 pound
- 2 1/2 cups flour more as needed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 medium onion minced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
Cheesy Baking Sauce
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked*
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup refined coconut oil melted
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp tapioca starch or arrowroot starch
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp mustard powder
- 2 tbsp oats
The Ultimate Comfort FoodThere’s something exceedingly cozy and comforting about baked casserole dishes. Could it be… The oven-baked scents filling the home as they bake? The toasty-brown-and-bubbling ingredients crackling as the dish is pulled from the oven? The creamy blend of flavors and textures warming you from the inside out? The answer is naturally “all of it!” but when ALL of that is paired with freshly made Italian-style dumplings, a luxurious dairy-free cheese sauce, and smothered in sweet and spicy tomato sauce, the cozy-comfort factor gets elevated to a whole new level. Warning! Your eyes are likely to roll ALL the way to the back of your head while uncontrollable moans escape your mouth when eating this dish.
What is gnocchi and how do you make it?Gnocchi is the plural form of ‘gnocco,’ which essentially means “dumpling” in Italian. The dough is made with a mixture of potatoes, flour, and eggs in traditional recipes. There are many store-bought varieties made without eggs, but vegan gnocchi is simple to make at home once you learn the technique and they’re SO worth the time it takes. Because nothing. beats. fresh. Even though gnocchi requires an upfront time cost, they freeze well and can be pulled out for making quick weeknight meals that taste like you spent hours on them. The good news is they’re fun to make and take much less time with friends and family, so start planning your next gnocchi-making party!
What’s Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina?“Alla sorrentina” means ‘Sorrento-style’ in Italian. Sorrento is a city located on the southern Amalfi coast in the Campania region. Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is typically served as a smaller first-course meal, with a salad. Personally, I could eat it for breakfast (and have!).
Gnocchi Dough Made EasyBoil whole potatoes in salted water for 30 minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. After the potatoes cool a bit, the skins will slide right off in your hands. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and garlic powder. Or don’t. I like adding garlic powder to my dough, while others prefer different herbs and spices or simply nothing at all. It’s easy to add whatever you like to make these your own. Press the peeled whole potatoes through a potato ricer if you’ve got one. You don’t need to run out and buy a ricer to make gnocchi; a simple bench knife and large cutting board are technically all you need to mix the dough. I find using a potato ricer anytime I mash potatoes always results in the silkiest, smoothest, creamiest texture. But not everyone digs that; some prefer chunky potato bites in their dumplings. I don’t judge. It’s all going in my belly!
Gnocchi Without Eggs?Gnocchi certainly doesn’t need to be made with eggs; the same amount of extra virgin olive oil works just fine. Gnocchi made with eggs is going to turn out a bit firmer and chewier, whereas gnocchi mixed with olive oil is going to be a bit more melt-in-your-mouth. If you prefer firmer gnocchi but want to keep it vegan, a commercial egg replacer (such as Ener-G or JUST Egg) should do the trick. Mix the dough with a wooden spoon (or get your hands in there) until a stiff dough forms. Knead the dough until it feels soft and supple. If it’s too sticky, add no more than a tablespoon of flour at a time, as the dough can quickly become crumbly if you add too much. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes, then divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope about 2 feet long and half an inch thick. Next, cut the ropes into small, ¾ inch pieces.
Shaping The GnocchiGnocchi-shaping is tricky at first, and your gnocchis are likely to look terrible, so just surrender to it. And who cares? They’ll taste delish either way, and everyone who tastes the finished dish will be your slave. Give yourself permission to be a hot gnocchi mess for a minute. It won’t take long for you to get a feel for it, plus getting messy is good for the spirit, and you can imagine how fun this would also be with kids!
To Board or Not To Board?A gnocchi board will help you get lovely and uniformly ridged pieces, but a fork works too. Simply mush the center of the dough piece with your thumb on the back of a fork as though you were making a thumbprint cookie. Then use your thumb to curl one end towards the next, creating a boat shape as you push it off the fork (or board). The most important thing about the shape isn’t the ridges, it’s how the dumplings form little pockets for the sauces to seep into, creating micro-pools of flavor that burst in your mouth when you bite in. This is what ultimately catapults your eyes ALL the way to the back of your head, where they roll around in waves of undulating pleasure. A bit dramatic, but you get the point. Also, gnocchi dough is quite forgiving. If you don’t like the way the gnocchi turned out, just mush it around a bit and try again! If all this is just too much, store-bought gnocchi will work just fine for this recipe if you’re short on time (or desire) to do this. The final dish is going to be fab no matter what; my experience is that homemade is much creamier and melt-in-your-mouthier, which is how I like it best, so it’s worth the effort for me.
Finishing Your GnocchiOnce your gnocchi is shaped, drop them in boiling salted water. They’re finished cooking once they start floating, which is usually 3-5 minutes. Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to scoop them into a colander to drain excess water. It’s best to allow them to cool completely (preferably overnight in the refrigerator) before cooking them into a dish. Gnocchi gets even better when you lightly brown them in a little olive oil, either in a skillet or oven-roasting.
The Red SauceEveryone has a certain way they like their red sauce: sweet, spicy, herbaceous, chunky, smooth, from a jar, or homemade with herbs and tomatoes from their very own garden. When it comes to red sauce, do you boo. Whatever you like will work; you don’t need to follow my recipe, but I shared the one I usually make because it’s quick and easy. Arrabbiata (spicy red) sauce is my favorite, so there are chili flakes in my recipe; omit them if you aren’t into spice. And let’s be honest; it’s really all about the cheesy blender sauce anyway.
Chessy Blender Sauce Made For BakingThis is a cashew-based blender recipe. If you can’t do tree nuts, turn back now. But before you do, I have a feeling you could substitute the cashews for oats or white beans or cauliflower, and it could work as a nut-free alternative, but I haven’t tested that theory. That said, this sauce is dead easy. Dump all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend on high speed for 2 minutes. Stir the gnocchi and red sauce together in a baking dish, then pour the blender sauce directly on top, then pop in the oven to bake. Dinner should be ready in about 40 minutes! Be sure to check on it a few times while baking to ensure the cheesy sauce isn’t getting overly browned. If it starts heading into a too-brown territory, cover the dish with a piece of foil and finish baking. The dish is finished once the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling around the edges. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes after you pull it from the oven, and enjoy! If you enjoyed this recipe, subscribe to our newsletter and get vegan recipes sent to your inbox weekly.
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