Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Cauliflower Gnocchi alla Norma

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I have been making and sharing one-skillet Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi bakes since I first discovered that those pillowy, heavenly little cauliflower clouds were delicious when baked this way. My One-Skillet Chicken Parm Gnocchi is a favorite of many, and I’ve shared several other renditions on Instagram.

Pasta alla Norma is one of my favorite recipes – if you’re not familiar, it’s a red sauce where eggplant is fried in oil until tender, then combined with onions, garlic, and tomatoes until saucy and perfect.

Fun fact: I learned how to pasta alla norma in Florence when visiting my friends Mary Pell and Claire, and then when I got home I made it for George while visiting him in San Diego (where he was stationed with the Navy) and almost burned down his apartment! Oil splashed over the side of the skillet, the flames were rather large, and they melted the entire bottom of the microwave that was mounted above the stove! Sorry ‘bout that security deposit!

Needless to say, making norma sauce is a little tricky because there’s frying involved. It’s also a pretty heavy dish because… there’s frying involved… and the eggplant soaks up SO much oil.

Cauliflower Gnocchi alla Norma

I’ve always known I wanted to make a quick and easy norma sauce using store bought marinara, and here it finally is – in gnocchi bake form! After making the sauce, you stir the frozen gnocchi right in, throw cheese on top, and bake it until bubbly and perfect. Takes about 45 minutes total, and is so freaking delicious.
Servings 4 to 6 people

Equipment

  • Vegetable peeler
  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • 10-inch ovenproof skillet

Ingredients

  • 1 large globe eggplant (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 24- ounce jar of your favorite marinara sauce (I like the Tomato Basil from TJs!)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 bags Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi (or Kale Gnocchi!)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella (I used fresh in my photos but I prefer shredded)
  • Optional: fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Peel the eggplant, then cut it into 1-inch cubes.
  • Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cubed eggplant and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and cook until VERY tender, like, so tender that you can squish it with the back of the spatula or spoon you’re cooking with, 8 to 10 minutes. If it starts sticking to the skillet, add a tiny splash of oil.
  • Stir in 4 minced garlic cloves for the last 1 minute of cooking the eggplant.
  • Stir in 1 24-ounce jar of marinara sauce, 1/4 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Taste the sauce! What does it need? More salt? More garlicky flavor? It’ll depend on the sauce you bought! Remove skillet from heat.
  • Stir in 2 bags Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi and smooth the pasta and sauce down into an even layer.
  • Sprinkle 1 cup shredded mozzarella over top and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Garnish with fresh basil if you’ve got it, and enjoy!

Notes

  • Don’t have a TJ’s closeby? Boil 1 pound of rigatoni or penne or rotini pasta and use that instead of the cauliflower gnocchi!
  • You can use fresh mozzarella on top, but it tends to get a little watery!
  • Want to add greens? Stir in 3 cups of spinach just before you stir in the gnocchi. Add the gnocchi after the spinach is completely wilted.

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