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This pesto gnocchi bake features hot sausage and spinach for an easy, weeknight-ready meal. Total comfort food!
You know those days when your excitement for dinner gives you a little extra pep in your step? When you know you’ll be making/eating something GOOD and you actually feel happier throughout the day when you remember?
That’s what happens to me when this pesto gnocchi bake is on the menu. It packs in hearty comfort food flavors all in a dish that doesn’t take much work to make or much time to cook.
The only thing that would make it better would be if the dishes magically washed themselves…though I’m not holding my breath there.
Sausage is one of my favorite meats to serve with gnocchi. Reason being it cooks quickly and provides heft and flavor to a wide variety of main dishes. Plus it’s an easy way to add protein to a recipe.
Odom’s Tennessee Pride Country Sausage, available at your local Walmart, is my pick for this gnocchi bake. Its versatility lends itself to being the right choice for whatever it is you’re making, whether it’s a tried and true breakfast recipe, a new-to-you appetizer, unique lunches or dinners, and more.
With Mild, Hot, and Sage available, Odom’s Tennessee Pride has flavorful varieties your family will love.
If you’re into zippy, I recommend using Odom’s Tennessee Pride Hot Country Sausage in this pesto gnocchi bake recipe. It’s spiced just right with a moderate amount of heat that complements the creamy pesto sauce beautifully. I love how one ingredient can bring SO much flavor. It makes the dish!
But don’t worry, if you can’t find the Hot variety or are spice-adverse, the Mild variety is just as good.
Now for the sauce in a pasta/gnocchi bake. I like to ‘do it up’ a little extra to make sure the pasta or gnocchi doesn’t dry out while everything’s baking in the oven as the cheese melts. I don’t think you’ll encounter any naysayers if it’s more than sufficiently saucy with the delicious flavors of classic pesto PLUS the addition of some cream. More is always more (in my opinion) when it comes to pesto sauce.
Here’s hoping you feel the same. 🙂
But the pesto sauce isn’t the only thing green in this gnocchi bake. Fresh spinach leaves are quickly wilted before being incorporated into everything. I’ve thought about making a spinach pesto sauce instead, and while that would definitely work, my love for fresh basil and quintessential pesto won out.
Adding the spinach in separately gives you the best of both worlds.
While I love a gnocchi recipe that calls for pan-toasting, this pesto gnocchi bake isn’t set up where that (albeit minimal) effort pays off. Covering the gnocchi in sauce and encasing them in melted mozzarella renders them super soft and chewy, so boiling them for a few minutes is the way to go. No need to complicate things here.
Follow along with the package instructions for cooking the gnocchi. The cook time will probably be listed for 2-3 minutes, but another good indicator is when the gnocchi float to the top of the water.
Once everything is poured out into an oven-safe baking dish, a substantial layer of mozzarella cheese goes over top and then everything is popped in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until whenever the cheese is melted to your liking. That’s the beauty of a savory bake where all of the ingredients are cooked beforehand – you can get a little loosey goosey with the timing.
All that’s left to do is scoop and serve! The serving size is variable here, but I’d say it yields around six main dish portions. I like to serve this pesto gnocchi bake with a simple side salad.
I picked up Odom’s Tennessee Pride Country Sausage in the refrigerated breakfast meats section of my local Walmart, along with the rest of the ingredients needed to make this pesto gnocchi bake recipe. I’ve already got my sights set on what to make with the Sage variety. Thinking a burrito!
Pesto gnocchi bake recipe notes:
- If you’re not into spice, you can use Odom’s Tennessee Pride Mild Country Sausage here.
- If you haven’t bought gnocchi before, you can find them in the dry pasta aisle.
- The dish you see pictured here has a three-quart capacity and is fairly deep.
Pesto Gnocchi Bake with Sausage and Spinach
- 1 lb Odom's Tennessee Pride Hot Country Sausage
- 9 oz spinach leaves
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, well packed
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 16 oz gnocchi
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- Sausage: Set a large skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Add Odom's Tennessee Pride Hot Country Sausage. Break up sausage into crumbles as it cooks, stirring everything up as needed until sausage is fully cooked and no pink remains. Transfer cooked sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
- Spinach: Wipe out skillet to use again, place on stovetop over medium-low heat, and add spinach. Pour in a few tablespoons of water and cover the skillet as the spinach wilts. You may need to do this in multiple batches to accommodate all of the spinach. Add additional as space opens up in the skillet. Once wilted, set aside.
- Pesto: Add basil, Pecorino Romano, heavy cream, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil to a food processor. Process until creamy, scraping down sides as needed. Set aside.
- At this time, preheat oven to 350°F.
- Gnocchi: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook according to package directions (usually for a few minutes). Drain and add the gnocchi back to the pot, leaving it off the heat.
- Add cooked sausage, wilted spinach, and pesto sauce to the pot with the gnocchi Stir to evenly coat everything with the pesto sauce.
- Grease a 3-qt capacity baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the gnocchi/sausage mixture and press into an even layer. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the mozzarella has melted and become bubbly. Serve while warm.