Baked gnocchi with tomato & basil sauce & buffalo mozzarella cheese

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook Pasta Artigiana

Baked gnocchi with tomato and basil sauce & buffalo mozzarella cheese


PREP TIME 2 hours

COOKING TIME 20 minutes


350 ml (12 fl oz) Neapolitan tomato sauce (see below)

6 sweet basil leaves

Fine sea salt, to taste

600 g (1 lb, 5 oz) potato gnocchi (see below)

200 g (7 oz) fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, processed in a food processor to breadcrumb size

100 g (3½ oz/1 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F/Gas 4). Heat the sauce with the basil leaves in a saucepan and season with the sea salt and black pepper to taste. In abundant salted boiling water, cook the gnocchi until they rise to the surface. Strain the gnocchi, mix with the sauce and place in a large, greased baking dish or individual baking dishes, and top with the buffalo mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

Neapolitan Tomato Sauce

Makes approximately 700 ml (24 fl oz)

1 garlic clove

100 ml (3½ fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

700 ml (24 fl oz) tomato purée, made from very ripe tomatoes

Fine sea salt, to taste

6 sweet basil leaves


Crush the garlic clove under the blade of a kitchen knife, taking care to leave it in one piece. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan to low heat and add the garlic. Slowly cook the garlic until golden in colour and then discard. Stir in the tomato purée and season with the sea salt. Simmer for 20 minutes before adding the basil leaves.

Note: Depending on the variety and ripeness, you will need up to 1.5 kg (3 lb, 5 oz) whole tomatoes to yield this quantity. Please note that the quantity of your tomato purée is essential. It must be made from very ripe tomatoes to ensure their sweetness. If tomatoes are not to the desired sweetness, a little sugar can be added to replace the natural sweetness of the tomatoes, but the flavour will not be the same.

To peel and deseed the tomatoes, score a cross in the base of the tomatoes, plunge them into boiling water, and then transfer to a bowl of iced water. Peel, core and squeeze out the seeds. Pulse in a food processor until puréed, but be careful not to overprocess.

Potato Gnocchi

Makes approximately 600 g (1 lb, 5 oz)

650 g (1 lb, 7 oz) whole starchy potatoes (such as bintje, nicola or pink-eye potatoes)

½ beaten 59 g (2¼ oz) free range or organic egg

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

150 g (5½ oz/1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour


To prepare the potatoes, boil them with the skin on until soft (see Note). Peel the skin while still hot and pass through a food mill or potato ricer. You should yield about 500 g(1 lb, 2 oz) of potato.

Transfer the potato to a large bowl and add the beaten egg and sea salt. Carefully work the flour into the mix, reserving 1 tablespoon for dusting. With the remaining flour, dust down a clean flat work surface and begin to roll a quarter of the dough at a time to form long sausage-like shapes approximately 1 cm (½ inch) in diameter. Cut at 1 cm (½ inch) intervals to form little dumplings, These can then be rolled over a serrated wooden gnocchi roller or the end of a fork to form small grooves. This is not necessary, but it is done so that the gnocchi will hold more sauce when served. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Using a spatula, carefully transfer to a tray lined with non-stick baking paper until ready to use.

Note: it is important to ensure that the potatoes are not left in water unnecessarily, as any extra water that is carried into the dough will make it too wet, requiring extra flour. With extra flour, the texture of the dough becomes less soft, which is undesirable. To make good gnocchi, the idea is to use as little extra flour as possible.