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Easy Mozzarella Gnocchi Bake

This mozzarella gnocchi bake is such an easy and versatile recipe, which you can make on rotation without ever getting sick of it. 

Store-bought gnocchi surrounded by a bubbling tomato-ricotta-sauce and sautéed eggplants with melted, golden mozzarella cheese on top. This recipe is comfort food at its best but is still healthy and nutritious. 

If you love gnocchi like I do, go check out my Spinach Gnocchi Bake or my Creamy Pesto Gnocchi Skillet!

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Mozzarella gnocchi bake with melted mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes served in a small casserole dish.
You can make this mozzarella gnocchi bake on rotation without ever getting sick of it!

About this Recipe

If there’s one convenience food that constantly ends up in my grocery cart, it’s gnocchi. But the potato dumplings are just way too delicious and can be served in so many different delicious ways that it’s hard not to love them.

And one of the easiest gnocchi recipes in this world, is probably this vegetarian gnocchi casserole. Especially when you’re short on time or don’t feel like cooking, this recipe can be a lifesaver.

All we need to make is a quick tomato sauce, in which the gnocchi can bake in the oven. Topped with a layer of mozzarella, this basic recipe becomes a soul food casserole. 

And for whom a simple tomato sauce is a bit too basic, throw in some more veggies. I personally love eggplant, especially in combination with tomatoes. That’s why my mozzarella gnocchi bake always come with some eggplants and, depending on the season, a few fresh tomatoes.

But of course, this recipe can be modified to your liking. Instead of eggplant, you can add zucchini, mushrooms, or spinach. Instead of classic mozzarella, you can use the fat-reduced version or provolone. This is an Italian hard cheese that, like mozzarella, is also made by the filata method.

What are Gnocchi Made of and How to Prepare Them?

What exactly are gnocchi? Gnocchi are Italian potato dumplings made from boiled potatoes, flour and sometimes egg. After forming, the dumplings are boiled briefly in water and then they could already be served.

In Italy, they are often served like pasta as the first main course. They are usually eaten with tomato sauces, melted butter or sometimes with a fresh basil pesto.

Mozzarella gnocchi bake with melted mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes served in a small casserole dish.
This gnocchi bake is served with plenty of melted mozzarella cheese on top.

If you prefer to make your gnocchi from scratch, I’ll link you to a detailed tutorial for making homemade gnocchi

However, nowadays you can find the delicious potato dumplings everywhere as a convenience product in the refrigerated counter. These gnocchi only need to be briefly put into hot water or pan-fried, which reduces the amount of work enormously.

However, if you prepare a gnocchi casserole, as we do, even this step is redundant. In fact, thanks to the sauce, the gnocchi cook directly in the oven, so we don’t need an extra pan or pot. I mean, how easy is this?

Ingredients 

The basic ingredients for this casserole are:

  • Store-bough gnocchi
  • Eggplant – This one isn’t necessary, but some veggies never hurt, and eggplant goes perfectly with tomatoes, gnocchi and mozzarella cheese.
  • Shallot and garlic as a base for our tomato sauce
  • Depending on the season some fresh cherry tomatoes 
  • Tomato puree for a more intense tomato flavor
  • A pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of tomatoes
  • Strained or finely diced canned tomatoes
  • Ricotta and cream cheese for a creamy sauce
  • A few dried Mediterranean herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano – a spice blend works well, too.
  • Mozzarella for a melted cheese layer on top 
  • Fresh basil leaves for serving

The exact quantities are listed in the recipe card below. The amount given there will make about two servings. Hoverer, you can always double, depending on how many hungry gnocchi lovers you need to feed.

Please note, I always base portion sizes on my personal dietary needs (presumably those of the average woman). However, you or perhaps one of your fellow eaters may need more or less than I do. So, feel free to adjust.

Ingredients for a mozzarella gnocchi bake with store-bought gnocchi.
The ingredients for our mozzarella gnocchi bake.

Substitutions and Variations 

  • Not an eggplant lover? No worries, just use zucchini, mushrooms, or spinach instead or omit it.
  • You don’t have finely chopped or strained tomatoes on hand? No problem peeled canned tomatoes will work as well. Just put them in a bowl and carefully crush the tomatoes with your hand. This will make the sauce creamier.
  • Instead of a mixture of ricotta and cream cheese, you can also use just one of the two. Alternatively, you can add a little bit of cream to your sauce.
  • No mozzarella on hand? Simply use some shredded Gouda, provolone, or cheddar cheese instead. 
  • By the way, you can save a few calories by using fat-reduced mozzarella cheese. It still tastes delicious, melts well, but has fewer calories.

How to Make this Recipe

Step 1: Sauté the Eggplant

Before we start with the eggplant, we need to preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F. Then wash the eggplant thoroughly, cut it in half lengthwise twice and then cut it into super thin slices. This way, frying them takes less time.

In a large sauté pan, add a teaspoon of oil and sauté the eggplant slices for about five minutes over medium-high heat. Add a pinch of salt to soften the eggplant. 

Meanwhile, you can already peel and finely dice the shallot and garlic cloves. Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half.

Sautéed eggplant slices in a big sauté pan.
Step 1: Sauté the eggplant.

Step 2: Tomato Sauce

As soon as the eggplant slices are nicely soft, take them out of the pan and put them aside for a moment. Put the pan back on the stove and add a teaspoon of oil. Now sauté the diced onion and garlic with a pinch of salt over medium heat until translucent. This should only take 30 seconds to a minute. 

Then add the tomatoes, sugar, and tomato paste. Sauté for a few minutes before reducing the heat and pour in the canned tomatoes, ricotta, and cream cheese. Mix well and add the already sautéed eggplant.

A creamy ricotta tomato sauce in a big sauté pan.
Step 2: Sauté the garlic, onions and tomatoes then add the canned tomatoes, ricotta and cream cheese.

Step 3: Bake With Mozzarella Cheese on Top

Let the sauce simmer for a minute or two before seasoning it with your herbs and stirring in the gnocchi. You don’t have to fry or cook them beforehand, just add them directly to the sauce. 

Transfer the gnocchi bake to a casserole dish if not using an oven proof pan. Then cut the mozzarella into thin slices and spread them all over the casserole before popping it into the oven for about 15 minutes. Before serving, garnish your gnocchi bake with a few basil leaves.

Process shot showing a mozzarella gnocchi bake before baking in the oven.
Step 3: Top the casserole with the mozzarella cheese and bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

How to Serve

A green or mixed salad goes with everything, including our Caprese Gnocchi Casserole. Alternatively, you can serve it with a carrot salad, a cucumber, bell pepper or tomato salad, or just enjoy it as is.

Here’s How to Save this Recipe or Make It in Advance

In my opinion, casseroles taste at least as delicious the next day. So feel free to make a little more and reheat the leftovers the next day or the day after in a skillet or microwave.

To save the leftovers, simply transfer them to an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator. Make sure the casserole is already completely cooled, before popping it in the fridge.

Your Common Questions Answered

In case there are any questions left, I hope these FAQ will help you. If not, feel free to drop your question in the comments below.

How can I make this Mozzarella Gnocchi Bake 100% plant-based?

To make the casserole not only vegetarian, but vegan, you can omit the cream cheese or replace it with a vegan alternative. Instead of mozzarella, simply sprinkle your casserole with some vegan cheese substitute. Also, be sure to choose vegan gnocchi, but these are now available at most grocery stores.

Do I need to fry or boil the gnocchi beforehand?

No, you can add store-bought gnocchi directly to the sauce without cooking or frying them first. They will cook while baking in the oven, where they are surrounded by plenty of sauce.

Which type of gnocchi can I use?

You can use regular gnocchi as well as sweet potato gnocchi, squash gnocchi, basil gnocchi or spinach gnocchi here. Whatever gets in your way or is your favorite could be used for this gnocchi bake. You can also make your own gnocchi from scratch but these need to be boiled first before adding them to the sauce.

 

Save for later

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Save this recipe for later!

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I hope you like this easy Mozzarella Gnocchi Bake and that you give it a try soon. If you have any further questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments, or send me a massage via email at contact@julesbalancedrecipes.com or Instagram (@julesbalancedrecipes). 

In case, you’ve tried this recipe, I’d appreciate your comment and rating for this recipe. It’s easy to do via the comments section below this post and it would mean the world to me.

And if you loved this recipe, you may also like some of my other wholesome soul food recipes like my …

Have fun trying it out and bon appétit,
Jules

Mozzarella gnocchi bake with melted mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes served in a small casserole dish.

Mozzarella Gnocchi Bake

Julia Schmitt
Store-bought gnocchi surrounded by a bubbling tomato-ricotta-sauce and sautéed eggplants with melted, golden mozzarella cheese on top. This recipe is wholesome comfort food at its best.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 servings
Calories 453 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 sauté pan
  • 1 casserole dish

Ingredients
  

  • 1 eggplant *
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 250 g tomatoes (≈9 oz)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ tsp coconut blossom sugar or brown sugar
  • 250 g finely diced or strained tomatoes ** (≈9 oz ir 1 cup)
  • 30 g ricotta cream cheese (1.5 tbsp)
  • 20 g cream cheese (1 tbsp)
  • ½ tsp Italian or Mediterranean herb blend (like dried thyme, marjoram, basil, and oregano)
  • pepper
  • 250 g store-bought gnocchi (≈9 oz)
  • 120 g mozzarella cheese (fat-reduced) (≈4.3 oz)
  • fresh basil leaves for serving

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.

Eggplant

  • Wash the eggplant, cut it in half lengthwise twice and then into very thin slices. In a pan, add a teaspoon of oil, the eggplant and a pinch of salt and sauté the eggplant over medium-high heat for about five minutes. Meanwhile, peel and dice the shallot, also peel and mince the garlic. Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes.
    Sautéed eggplant slices in a big sauté pan.

Tomato Sauce

  • Transfer the eggplant to a plate, set aside for a moment and add the remaining oil, the garlic, and onions to the pan. Sauté over medium heat with a pinch of salt until translucent. The add the cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and sauté for a two to three minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Fresh tomatoes, garlic and onions sautéing in a sauté pan.
  • Reduce the heat, add the canned tomatoes, and stir in the ricotta and cream cheese. Put the eggplant back in the pan, mix well and let the sauce simmer for a minute or two and then add the herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
    A creamy ricotta tomato sauce in a big sauté pan.

Bake in the Oven

  • Mix in the gnocchi and transfer the gnocchi sauce mixture to a casserole dish. Cut the mozzarella cheese into slices and spread it all over the casserole. Put it in the oven for about 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves before serving.
    Process shot showing a mozzarella gnocchi bake before baking in the oven.

Notes

*Instead of eggplant, use zucchini, mushrooms, or spinach. Mushrooms can be added along with the tomatoes without having to be sautéed first. Fresh or thawed (and squeezed) spinach can simply be mixed into the sauce just before you add the gnocchi.
**Canned peeled tomatoes can be used instead. Put them in a bowl beforehand and mash them with your hands to make the sauce more creamy.
Nutritional values per serving:
  • calories: 453 kcal
  • fat: 15.5 g
    • saturated fatty acids: 6.9 g
  • carbohydrates: 52.8 g
    • sugar: 13.4 g
    • dietary fiber: 5.9 g
  • protein: 22.5 g

Nutrition

Calories: 453kcal
Keyword gnocchi bake, mozzarella cheese, store-bought gnocchi
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