If you’re enamored of Italian food, dishes involving gnocchi are probably a familiar treat in your world. Soft pillows of dough, often paired with a rich tomato or pesto cream sauce. If I’m at a restaurant and gnocchi are on the menu, another menu item usually needs to be pretty tantalizing for me to turn them down!
One traditional preparation is gnocchi alla sorrentina, meaning literally, in the manner of Sorrento, which involves a tomato cream sauce, basil, and heaps of mozzarella, usually baked and oozing cheesy goodness. I have absolutely nothing against cheesy goodness (clearly), but recently thought it might be fun to riff on this concept with something slightly lighter. I also have been obsessed with oven-roasted tomatoes since realizing that they are insanely easy and insanely delicious.
Lastly, I tried pan-frying the gnocchi, rather than the typical approach of boiling them like pasta, and oh my goodness, I may never go back. It takes slightly longer, but still less than 15 minutes, and your patience is rewarded with a beautifully browned, almost caramelized effect, giving the outside of the gnocchi a slight crisp to contrast the soft interior.
If you are looking for a winning Valentine’s Day meal – easy to cook at home, guaranteed delicious, and a little indulgent – this will make a terrific main! Pair it with a green or caesar salad, some crusty bread, and you’re good to go. And if you’re still looking for dessert, well, may I suggest some triple chocolate cupcakes for two?
Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
Yield 2-4 servings
- 2 pints (about 400g) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of sugar
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/8-1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 package potato gnocchi
- 1 tbsp. pine nuts
- 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups (about 250g) bocconcini mozzarella balls
- To roast the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). On a rimmed baking sheet, combine the tomatoes, 2 tbsp. olive oil, and a pinch each of kosher salt, black pepper, and sugar. Stir to coat tomatoes, and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice while cooking. Remove from the oven and set aside.*
- While tomatoes are roasting, combine butter and remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When butter is melted and the skillet is hot, add the onion and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add gnocchi to the pan and stir to coat. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Spread gnocchi across the skillet in an even layer, then cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes without stirring, until they begin to brown. At that point, turn over the gnocchi and cook for another 3-5 minutes to lightly brown the other side. Remove from heat.
- Stir roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, and basil into the skillet. Top with mozzarella balls, and serve warm. (If you prefer the cheese to melt throughout the dish, either combine the mozzarella balls with the tomatoes right after they come out of the oven, or stir them into the skillet with the tomatoes, pine nuts, and basil. You really can’t go wrong!)
*The tomatoes can be roasted a day or two in advance, if you like. Store the cooled tomatoes in the fridge in an airtight container, and warm briefly in the microwave before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.