Hearty bolognese sauce made with sausage and ground beef over pillowy gnocchi makes the perfect comfort food meal.
Something special happens to ground beef and sausage when it’s tenderized with white wine and milk then simmered with tomatoes. While my favorite bolognese pairs perfectly with long tendrils of pasta, something extra special happens when these fine, meaty curds and finished sauce cling to pillowy clouds of tender gnocchi.
Because the sauce is even better the next day after the sauce’s flavors have melded together, this dish is one of my weeknight faves. Most often I make it with shelf-stable, store-bought potato gnocchi but depending on how much time I have, lately I’ve been trying my hand at mastering homemade gnocchi. Either way, this gnocchi bolognese is a keeper.
How to Make Gnocchi Bolognese
For a deep dive on how to make the best bolognese, visit my bolognese recipe here, or check out the highlights below.
This sauce makes enough for 1 ½ to 2 pounds of gnocchi. Unless I’m serving it for a crowd, I’ll make the sauce then use just half of it for 1 pound of gnocchi, and freeze the rest of the sauce for later.
Plan on at least 2 ½ – 3 hours of cooking time for the best-flavored sauce. This sauce is best after a long, slow simmer for the flavors to develop. And it’s just as good if not better the next day.
Start with a mixture of onion, celery, and carrot in butter. A fine mince of sautéed vegetables is one of the signatures of bolognese. Note, there is no garlic in traditional bolognese.
Simmering the meat in white wine and milk makes it more tender and flavorful. With its less pronounced flavor, I prefer white wine in bolognese sauce, but either will do. Just make sure it’s a decent brand you wouldn’t mind drinking.
Use canned tomatoes and beef or chicken broth. Adding broth to the tomatoes keeps the sauce moist and juicy during its long simmer as the meats braise.
Use Store-Bought or Homemade Gnocchi
One of my recent cooking goals is to master homemade gnocchi and share the recipe with you. I haven’t perfected my version of the recipe quite yet, but followed this video’s gnocchi-making technique in hopes of creating a tender, pillowy potato gnocchi to be proud of.
Of course, you can always use a good-quality store-bought gnocchi, like my favorite from DeLallo.
For best results and gnocchi that doesn’t get gummy or fall apart, cook it for just a minute more after it rises to the top of the boiling water.
Finish the Gnocchi In the Sauce
Add the bolognese and gnocchi to a skillet to finish the dish. Just like in an Italian restaurant, I like to combine the sauce and gnocchi in a skillet to finish it off. This method is especially helpful if you’ve made the bolognese the day before. Just heat the amount of sauce you need before adding the cooked gnocchi to warm and meld together.
Finish with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs if desired. Always use freshly ground Parmesan for the best flavor.
Make This a Meatless Bolognese
Instead of a round of meats, try using a plant-based alternative product like Impossible Ground Burger or check out this alternative burger product comparison.
What to Serve With Gnocchi Bolognese
- Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons
- Arugula Salad With Shaved Parmesan Three Ways
- Kale Salad With Parmesan and Pine Nuts
- The BEST Garlic Bread
- Easy 5-Minute Parmesan Zucchini
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 yellow onion , roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 celery stalk , roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 carrot , peeled and roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes in juice , about 3 cups
- 8 ounces pancetta , cut into ½-inch chunks
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 pound 80/20 blend ground chuck beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup whole milk , 2% milk fat can be substituted
- 2 cups beef or chicken broth
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 16 ounces gnocchi
- Parmesan cheese for serving
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, add the olive oil and butter over medium heat. In a food processor, pulse the onion, celery, and carrot until finely chopped. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and golden, about 5-7 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, add the tomatoes with their juice to the food processor and pulse 5-7 times until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the food processor, then add the pancetta to the bowl. Pulse until the pancetta is a coarse paste. Set aside.
- Add the tomato paste to the Dutch oven and cook for about 10 minutes until the paste begins to brown, stirring when needed so it doesn't burn. Add the ground chuck, pork, and pancetta to the pot along with the red pepper flakes. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart as it cooks, just until lightly browned and the meat loses its raw edge. Add the wine and cook until the wine is almost all absorbed, about 10 minutes, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add the milk and cook until it has evaporated, which will take about 30 minutes, stirring and breaking up the meat more as it cooks.
- Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to the lowest setting so it cooks with barely a bubble breaking the surface occasionally. Cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened to become rich and dark in color. Toward the end of cooking, a layer of oil will likely rise to the top. Spoon off the oil or fold back into the sauce as desired. The longer you cook the sauce the better it will become. If the sauce seems to dry out, add ¼ cup hot water at a time as needed. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1-2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Add the gnocchi and cook until it floats to the top of the water, then 1 minute more. Use a spider or strainer to transfer the gnocchi to the warm sauce. Toss and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Serve with ground Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs like basil or rosemary if desired.
More Gnocchi Recipe Ideas
- Gnocchi With Pomodoro Sauce
- Truffled Gnocchi Macaroni and Cheese
- Sausage and Gnocchi Soup
- Chicken Marsala Gnocchi
- Spring Vegetable Gnocchi
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