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This post is sponsored by DeLallo, who I’m so excited to partner with throughout 2022. DeLallo is my go-to for high-quality staple Italian ingredients & beautiful pasta. All thoughts & opinions are my own.
There Are Few Meals More Comforting Than Gnocchi Bolognese!
Once the weather begins to chill here in MN, the first thing I crave is a big dish of pasta bolognese. But, in planning for this season’s inaugural batch of bolognese, I couldn’t help but wonder…could we make this comfort food classic even cozier by pairing it with pillowy soft potato gnocchi dumplings? The answer? Yes! Gnocchi bolognese is next-level! 🙌🏼🥰😋
As one of the first things I ever taught myself how to cook, bolognese is one of my culinary specialties. The version I landed on for this particular gnocchi bolognese is a halfway point between PWWB’s Best-Ever Bolognese (made with decadent ingredients like pancetta & slowly simmered for next-level richness) & our Weeknight Bolognese (a quicker cooking recipe with a few shortcut ingredients). This recipe uses both beef & pork for super rich flavor despite having a shorter simmer time than real-deal bolognese. It comes together relatively quickly, but packs a huge punch of cozy flavor!
Once it’s beautifully simmered, all that’s left to do is marry the bolognese sauce with gnocchi. These pillowy-soft potato dumplings are absolutely heavenly when you fold them into a rich & hearty meaty sauce. An extra-cozy addition to an already over-the-top comforting meal!
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Gnocchi Bolognese Recipe Highlights
I have a feeling you’re going to be obsessed with bolognese gnocchi! It’s…
SERIOUS COMFORT FOOD. Rich + hearty bolognese & pillowy gnocchi is the ultimate cozy mashup – comfort food seriously doesn’t get better!
FAST YET FLAVORFUL. Tender gnocchi cooks in minutes, while beef & pork create a rich gnocchi bolognese sauce despite the fact that it simmers for just 30 minutes (that’s half the amount of time as a real-deal bolognese!).
ABSOLUTELY RESTAURANT-WORTHY! This gnocchi bolognese recipe is full of decadent flavor, making it great for special occasions, entertaining, or Sunday Supper at home. Fancy-feeling, yet super homey & cozy!
Bolognese just got even better! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Gnocchi Bolognese, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
One of the things I love most about Italian cooking is that it often transforms a few of the simplest ingredients into seriously flavorful dishes. Bolognese gnocchi is no exception! To make it, you need…
- Gnocchi – Of course! I absolutely love DeLallo potato gnocchi. It’s made in Italy with over 85% potato, so the traditional flavor really comes through. Plus, it cooks up in a matter of minutes & the result is always seriously light & airy! If you prefer, use gluten-free gnocchi.
- Ground Meat – A blend of ground beef & pork creates a bolognese sauce with the ultimate rich flavor. For the best results, be sure to grab at least 85% lean!
- Soffritto – This Italian holy trinity is a trusty mixture of simple vegetables: carrots, celery, & onion. It’s the base of flavor for the gnocchi bolognese sauce. While you can blitz everything up in food processor to cut down on active prep time, I like to chop soffrito by hand for bigger, chunkier pieces & a more rustic look.
- Aromatics – Garlic & fresh herbs like rosemary & thyme infuse big flavor into the bolognese, while bay leaves & a parmesan rind richen the sauce despite its quick cooking time.
- Tomatoes – An essential ingredient for bolognese! This recipe uses double-concentrated tomato paste for serious richness & passata rustica (a vibrant & smooth purée made from Italian plum tomatoes) for a velvety body.
- White wine – I typically cook with Pinot Grigio but any dry, unoaked white wine works well!
- Finishing touches – A little half & half & a good amount of grated parmesan bring the gnocchi bolognese sauce together.
What is Gnocchi?
If gnocchi is new to you, you’re in for a treat! Originating in Northern Italy, where the chillier climate is great for potato farming, gnocchi is a pasta dumpling made from wheat, eggs, & potatoes.
Gnocchi dough is quite a bit denser than traditional pasta dough because of the potatoes, but the texture totally transforms as it cooks, resulting in perfectly soft & tender potato dumplings. Seriously dreamy!
While preparing homemade gnocchi is a fun kitchen project (give this Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi recipe a try if you’re up for it!), using a high-quality pre-packaged option is a great shortcut. DeLallo Potato Gnocchi is my go-to; you’ll always find a few boxes in my pantry!
A few other things to know about gnocchi…
- Fun fact! ⇢ The name gnocchi is said to come from the Italian word for knuckle, nocca. When you look at these little dumplings, you might see the resemblance! 🤓
- Gnocchi pronunciation ⇢ Sound like a pro in the kitchen: N’YOW-kee.
- Is gnocchi pasta or potato? ⇢ A little bit of both! Gnocchi dough is typically made with a combination of flour & mashed potatoes. Much like pasta, gnocchi’s mild flavor makes it a beautiful vehicle for a variety of sauces.
- What’s the best gnocchi sauce? ⇢ In Italy, you’ll find gnocchi commonly served in a light butter sauce with fresh sage. Serving gnocchi with other lighter sauces, like fresh pesto or gnocchi all’Amatriciana, is also fantastic. &, of course, pairing it with a hearty sauce like bolognese makes for the ultimate comfort food meal.
Meal Prep Tip!
Nearly all the active prep work required for this gnocchi bolognese recipe comes from chopping the soffritto veggies. Dice the carrots, celery, & onion up to 5 days ahead of time, storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. At dinnertime you can jump right into cooking. Easy! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance.
How to Make Gnocchi Bolognese
Preparing traditional pasta bolognese is an hours-long process of steady simmering to develop richness. This particular gnocchi with bolognese meat sauce is a little more streamlined, but still yields incredible flavor thanks to the use of a few smart ingredients. All you need is one pot & 60 minutes!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Start by Making the Bolognese Sauce
Brown the soffritto vegetables & ground meat. Cook the soffritto mixture for a good 15-20 minutes, until deeply browned. Add in the ground beef & pork & cook until it’s no longer pink. Tip! ⇢ Take the time to ensure the soffritto & protein are deeply browned – this is where the flavor is! Don’t rush this process. It’s the base of flavor for this entire gnocchi bolognese recipe.
Deglaze by slowly pouring in wine, using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Why? ⇢ The liquid creates steam as it hits the hot pot, releasing the flavorful browned bits developed on the bottom.
Build the bolognese sauce by adding tomato purée, some chicken stock or broth, a bundle of herbs, bay leaves, & parmesan rind to the pot. Gently simmer until the bolognese thickens, about 30 minutes. Tip! ⇢ If the sauce thickens too quickly, add another splash of chicken stock to loosen everything up.
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Finish with Potato Gnocchi
While the bolognese sauce simmers, cook the gnocchi. This is super straight-forward! Simply boil a large pot of water, generously season with salt, & drop in the gnocchi, cooking according to packet instructions or until the dumplings float to the surface. This only takes 3-4 minutes. Before you drain the gnocchi, don’t forget to reserve about a cup of starchy pasta water.
Bringing it all together…
- Finish the bolognese sauce by stirring in some grated parmesan & half & half. The half & half rounds out all of the rich flavors in the sauce, while the parmesan thickens it some & helps it bind to the gnocchi.
- Add the gnocchi to the bolognese, tossing well to evenly coat the dumplings in sauce. Allow everything to cook together for a few minutes – this is the key to building a cohesive pasta dish! Learn more! 🤓 ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time.
- Adjust as needed. If the bolognese gnocchi is too thick, thin it out with a splash of pasta water. If it’s too loose, crank up the heat for a more vigorous simmer or toss in a little more parmesan. Continue adjusting until it looks & feels just right.
Easy Recipe Variations
For extra richness, kick off your sauce by rendering a little bacon or pancetta. Once it’s crispy, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pot, then add in some EVOO or unsalted butter as needed to ensure there’s enough oil to brown the veggies well.
Herbs: I highly recommend using fresh herbs for a seriously bold & flavorful bolognese sauce. If you only have dried herbs on hand, they will work. Remember, the flavor of dried herbs is much more concentrated than fresh, so a good rule of thumb when you’re swapping dried for fresh is to use about ⅓ of the amount called for in the recipe. You may also want to fortify the flavors of dried thyme & rosemary with a few other staple herbs, like dried oregano & Italian seasoning.
Tomatoes: If you don’t have passata on hand, swap it out with an equal amount of crushed tomatoes, which have a slightly more rustic texture but are just as delicious!
For a cheesy finish, sprinkle some grated parmesan & mozzarella cheese over the gnocchi bolognese. Pop it under the broiler until melted & bubbling, Baked Gnocchi-style. 😋
Tips, Tricks, & Alternate Cooking Methods
Slow Cooker Bolognese
Make this recipe even more weeknight-friendly by prepping the bolognese sauce in your Crock Pot or Slow Cooker. I suggest browning the soffritto & ground meat on the stovetop to develop richness. (If your slow cooker has a browning feature, use that instead!) Once you deglaze, transfer everything to your Crock Pot.
Slow cook the bolognese on high for 2-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. At dinnertime, prepare the gnocchi according to package directions & finish the gnocchi bolognese in the slow cooker.
Bolognese sauce is incredibly make ahead-friendly – its flavors only get better with time! To prep it ahead of time, make the sauce according to Recipe Directions, below, then let it cool completely & store it in the refrigerator.
At dinnertime, simply reheat the sauce on the stovetop, toss in the cooked gnocchi, & adjust as needed. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for a full how-to!
Since it’s so hearty, bolognese sauce is also incredibly freezer-friendly. Having some bolognese prepped in my freezer is one of my favorite meal prep secrets! 🤓
Prepare the sauce according to Recipe Directions, below, then let it cool completely & transfer to a freezer container. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat the sauce on the stovetop, toss in the cooked gnocchi, & you’re good to go! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for a full how-to!
I can’t wait for you to try this Gnocchi Bolognese recipe! It’s the ultimate comfort food meal, & I’m positive you’re going to love it just as much as we do.
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
More Recipes Like This:
Classic Italian Recipes
Pasta bolgonese is, hands-down, my favorite meal of all time. It’s rich, comforting, & so cozy – there’s seriously nothing better! As I planned for this season’s inaugural batch, I couldn’t help but wonder…what if we swapped out pasta for pillowy soft potato gnocchi dumplings? This Gnocchi Bolognese recipe is the result, & it’s next-level cozy!
The bolognese sauce used in this recipe is a halfway point between PWWB’s Best-Ever Bolognese (made with decadent ingredients like pancetta & slowly simmered for next-level richness) & our Weeknight Bolognese (a quicker cooking recipe with a few shortcut ingredients). This recipe uses both beef & pork for super rich flavor despite a shorter simmer than real-deal bolognese. It comes together relatively quickly, but packs a huge punch of cozy flavor!
Once it’s beautifully simmered, all that’s left to do is marry the bolognese sauce with gnocchi. I highly recommend using DeLallo Gnocchi, which is made in Italy with over 85% potato, so traditional flavor really comes through. Finish with some grated parm & a generous sprinkling of finely chopped fresh herbs, & it’s the ultimate comfort food meal.
Be sure to check out the Recipe Notes, below, for some thoughts on this recipe’s yield, & the blog post, above, for make-ahead instructions & other tips & tricks. ♡ Happy cooking!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 pound 85% lean ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup unoaked dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- 1 1/2 cups passata rustica (tomato purée)
- 1/2 – 1 cup chicken stock or water
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 8–10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- optional: 1 parmesan rind
- 32 ounces gnocchi (can sub gluten-free gnocchi, see Recipe Notes)
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: grated parmesan or pecorino romano, finely chopped fresh basil or parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, etc.
- Brown the soffritto: Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven (or large, heavy-bottomed pot with lid) over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the carrots, celery, & onion. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned & fragrant, 15-20 minutes. If the veggies begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low. Once browned, push the soffritto mixture to the outer edges of the pot.
- Brown the meat: Add the ground beef & ground pork to the center of the pot, such that it’s surrounded by the soffritto mixture, & season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce heat to medium. Let the meat brown 2-3 minutes without touching it, then turn it over & brown the second side 2-3 minutes before using a wooden spoon to break it apart into fine pieces. Stir to combine with the soffritto mixture.
- Deglaze the pot: Add the garlic & tomato paste to the Dutch oven, stirring to coat the ground meat & soffritto mixture. Cook 2-3 minutes, until browned & fragrant, then build the bolognese sauce. Deglaze the pan by slowly pouring in the white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan.
- Build & simmer the bolognese sauce: Once the wine is almost completely cooked off, add in the tomato purée & 1/2 cup of the chicken stock/water to the pot. Tie the herbs together using kitchen twine (or finely chop if you do not have twine), then add to the pot with the bay leaves & parmesan rind (if using). Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt & stir to combine. Bring the bolognese to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Partially cover the pot (place the lid on the pot such that it’s just partially covered, allowing some steam to escape as the sauce simmers). Simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes. Give everything a stir every 10 minutes, splashing in a little more chicken stock/water as needed if the sauce is thickening too much.
- Cook the gnocchi: Meanwhile, as the bolognese sauce simmers, cook the gnocchi. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi & cook 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the gnocchi float to the top of the pot. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy water then drain the gnocchi. (Learn more ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)
- Finish the gnocchi bolognese: Remove the lid from the pot with the bolognese sauce, increasing heat to medium-high to maintain a steady simmer. Stir the heavy cream & grated parmesan into the bolognese. Cook 1-2 minutes, allowing everything to meld together. Add the gnocchi straight into the pot, tossing to coat it in the bolognese sauce. From here, adjust as needed so the bolognese sauce evenly coats the gnocchi – if the mixture is too thick, toss in a little of the reserved gnocchi water; if the mixture is too loose, toss in an extra handful of parmesan cheese, etc. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, allowing the gnocchi to meld with & absorb some of the sauce.
- Serve the gnocchi bolognese immediately, topped with additional grated parmesan, chopped basil or parsley, &/or a sprinkling of crushed red pepper, as desired. Enjoy!
- Gnocchi Yield: As written, this recipe yields a large batch of gnocchi bolognese, easily feeding up to 8. Once gnocchi bolognese is prepared, I don’t recommend freezing leftovers – the dumplings lose some of their light & airy texture after a freeze & thaw. If you don’t need to feed a large crowd or you don’t plan to eat all the leftovers, I’d suggest just using half of the gnocchi & reserving half of the bolognese sauce to enjoy a later time – refer to Storage & Freezing directions below for more guidance!
- Storage, Reheating, & Freezing:
- Gnocchi Bolognese Storage & Reheating: Once assembled, gnocchi bolognese will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through, adding a splash of water or chicken stock as desired to loosen up the sauce a little bit.
- Make-Ahead Bolognese Sauce Storage & Reheating: This bolognese sauce is also the perfect make-ahead recipe because it stores so well – it gets even better as it sits & its flavors meld together! To store, prepare according to Steps 1-4 of Recipe Directions, above. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat bolognese sauce on the stovetop, adding a splash of water or stock as needed to help loosen it up, then finish according to Steps 5-7 of Recipe Directions, above.
- Bolognese Sauce Freezer Instructions: This bolognese sauce is also incredibly freezer-friendly. To freeze, prepare according to Steps 1-4 of Recipe Directions, above. Once cooled, transfer to a freezer container or divide between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions. Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen bolognese sauce in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw. Easily reheat on the stovetop, adding a splash of water or stock as needed to help loosen it up, then finish according to Steps 5-7 of Recipe Directions, above.
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this gnocchi bolognese comes from prepping the veggies. Take care of this in advance – it takes 10 minutes, tops – & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week:
- Prep the veggies: Dice 2 medium carrots, 1 stalk of celery, & 1 medium yellow onion. Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)
Keywords: gnocchi bolognese, comfort food recipes, gnocchi recipe, bolognese sauce recipe, homemade bolognese
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.