You can make this recipe without the Italian sausage for a vegetarian version. Also, you can skip the whole oven process and just serve the pasta with the red sauce and pasta finished in a saute pan. If you make it without the oven steps, skip the bread crumbs but still use the mozzarella and parmesan cheese just cook them in the pan with the pasta and sauce until they mozzarella partially, but not fully, melts.

Gnocchi with Red Sauce
Serves 4

1 lb ricotta gnocchi
14 ounces of red sauce*
1/4 lb. italian sausage
1/3 lb. fresh mozzarella balls
1/2 cup of cooked spinach
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat water for gnocchi to boil, reduce heat to a gentle boil. Add a sprinkle of salt to the water and add gnocchi. Cook according to package directions. For fresh gnocchi, cook for about 2 minutes.

In a pan on medium-high heat, add italian sausage, sprinkle dried basil and oregano over sausage, and break it into smaller chunks with spoon. Cook until done, about 4 mintues. Mix often and set aside once cooked.

Heat olive oil in saucepan on medium heat. Add sliced garlic to pan and let it cook for 1 minute. Add spinach and cook spinach until done. You want to make a 1/2 cup of cook spinach. Set aside once done.

Heat red sauce in pan on medium heat. Reduce heat once it boils to remove boil. Add spinach with garlic and add cooked sausage. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for 1 minute.

In a dutch oven or oven safe ceramic pan, add cooked gnocchi and red sauce mixture together. Tear mozzarella balls into pieces and mix in with gnocchi and sauce. Mix in parmesan cheese. Sprinkle top of pasta with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil to help brown bread crumbs in oven.

Place dutch oven in oven and cook for 15 minutes. Sauce should be bubbling and bread crumbs should be golden brown when finished. Plate with garlic bread or salad. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over pasta.

* For the red sauce , I use Mario Batali’s Basic Red Sauce recipe. The most important thing about this recipe is using the right canned whole peeled tomatoes. I highly recommend using ONLY Carmelina ‘e San Marzano. I make it according the recipe and freeze about 4 containers with enough sauce for making a pound of pasta. For this recipe you just need 1 container, approximately 14 ounces.