I don’t know if this is just a thing in my family, but for as long as I can remember, Friday night has been pizza night. It makes sense, the last day of the work week deserves a comfort food treat, but here’s the thing: sometimes you just gotta switch it up. Tradition is great, but a little change never hurt anyone, ESPECIALLY when that change involves a slow-simmered tomato sauce, pillowy gnocchis (okay I know gnocchi is already plural but shhhhh), and bubbly melty cheese.
This week has felt like seven in one, anyone else feel like that? I’ve truly never been more excited for a long weekend, and plan on doing nothing except maybe baking something with the blood oranges that I just had to have last week. Any suggestions? I’m leaning towards some kind of meringue pie maybe? Anywho, this beautiful dish was my reward to myself for making it through the week in one piece, and WOW was it worth it. It starts with the classic and decadent Marcella Hazan butter and onion tomato sauce. If you’ve never made this sauce, I almost envy you for being able to try it for the first time, because you will NEVER look back. It’s simple, a little sweet, and soo smooth. It’s also pretty foolproof, with a grand total of 3 ingredients, the hardest thing you’ll have to do is open the can of crushed tomatoes.
I chose to use store bought gnocchi for this meal, for the reliability and to save time, but if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can make your own! Then it’s really all about assembly, and since each component is cooked on its own, the sole purpose of the baking is to make the cheese all bubbly and golden. Once that’s all done, serve it up with some garlic bread and prepare to lie on the floor in a food coma for approximately 4 hours.
Let’s get cooking!!
Makes: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total: about 1 hour 15 minutes
2 packages potato gnocchi
1 can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano but don’t stress if you can’t find them)
1 large yellow onion
4 tbs salted butter
2 balls of fresh mozzerella
1. Add crushed tomatoes to a medium saucepan. Peel the onion and cut in half (that’s literally it), and drop the halves in with the tomatoes. Cut the butter into single tablespoons and mix everything together briefly. Simmer this mixture on low for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the softened onions before proceeding. Congratulations, you will never buy a jar of pasta sauce again!
2. While your sauce is simmering, bring a pot of water to a boil. When you have about 5-10 minutes left on the sauce, season the water generously with salt and cook your gnocchi. They’re cooked when they float to the top of the water and remain there. Using a large slotted spoon or spider strainer, scoop the gnocchi out of the water and add them straight into the pot with the tomato sauce. At this point, preheat your oven to 350ºF.
3. Cut one ball of mozzarella into cubes and stir into the gnocchi and sauce so that it begins to melt, and transfer the whole delicious mixture into an 8x8in square baking dish. Cut several slices from the second ball of mozzarella and place on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes, and broil for the last few to make the cheese on top golden and perfect. Be careful not to look away with the broiler on, it goes from nothing to burnt REALLY fast.
4. Serve immediately with one (or 6) pieces of garlic bread (recipe follows below) and a glass of red wine because you deserve it.
Garlic Bread Ingredients:
1 loaf of ciabatta or italian bread
1 stick salted butter, softened
4 gloves garlic, minced
3 tsp dried basil
1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, garlic, and basil.
2. Slice the loaf of bread in half and generously spread the garlic mixture on both halves. Put the halves back together and wrap in tinfoil. Bake for 15 minutes, then unwrap and separate the halves, and bake for another 5 minutes. Slice the halves and serve warm!!