Baked meatballs and gnocchi

A hearty and delicious casserole!

Whenever she added some ‘filler’ to meat, my mom called it ‘stretching’ and rolled oats were a favourite of hers to use for this purpose. These days, the popular term for increasing the number of servings in a dish without adding extra meat is ‘extending’, and mushrooms are my preferred add-in to extend ground meat as they mimic the texture, add great flavour and blend in beautifully. You can make this casserole in advance and reheat, but note that the gnocchi will melt somewhat into the sauce as a result, so you may prefer to make the meatballs and sauce ahead of time and refrigerate, then assemble and finish cooking the dish later. Serve this meal with slices of crusty bread to mop up the delicious sauce.



  • 1 lb (454 g) lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup (100 g) minced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) Panko or  gluten-free dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup (30 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon each of basil, oregano, thyme, paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten


  • 2 tablespoon (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 cup (100 g) diced mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 small sweet peppers, chopped (red or green or a combo)
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can (796ml) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 1 pound (454 g) uncooked potato gnocchi (no need to thaw if frozen)
  • 1 cup (60 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup (30 g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, to garnish


  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  • Make the meatballs by placing all of the ingredients in a large bowl and gently mixing until well-combined. I find it easiest to do this with my hands.
  • Form into about two dozen evenly-sized meatballs, just over an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until the meatballs measure 150F with an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and let rest until ready to assemble the casserole. Note that you can precook and refrigerate the meatballs up to 48 hours in advance.
  • While meatballs are baking, make the sauce. Heat oil in a large oven-safe skillet (preferably one with a lid) placed over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add onion and cook 2 minutes more then add peppers, zucchini and garlic and cook an additional 4 minutes, stirring often.
  • Stir in the wine (if using) and seasonings; let cook for 1 minute then stir in crushed tomatoes, chicken stock (or water) and baking soda. Bring to a boil then reduce heat so it is just simmering. Let sauce cook for 5 minutes then add the gnocchi, using a spoon to cover them with sauce.
  • Place a lid on the skillet (use foil if needed) and transfer to the oven; bake for about 15 minutes, until gnocchi is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
  • Remove skillet from the oven and add meatballs, nestling them into the sauce. Combine shredded mozzarella and parmesan and scatter over top; bake, uncovered, for an additional 10 minutes or so (longer if meatballs have been in the fridge), until meatballs are hot and cheese has melted.
  • Remove from oven; sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.  

Serves 4.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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