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Italian sausage, fennel and gnocchi casserole

When I drag my tired bones home at the end of an exhausting day, this is one of the simplest and most satisfying dinners I can think of.

Apart from fresh fennel, most of the ingredients can be found in a moderately well-stocked pantry. (If you can’t find fennel in the store, you can replace it with two leeks or a 10-oz bag of spinach.) And unless you want to get fancy by baking this in a casserole dish, you can prepare and serve the entire meal in a large pot or skillet, thus cutting down on washing-up.

Best of all, the combination of pillowy-soft potato dumplings, sweet onions and fennel, tangy tomato sauce, fatty pork sausage and bubbling cheese will hit all your comfort buttons and bring even the most stressful day to a satisfactory end.

Italian sausage, fennel and gnocchi casserole

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword: Can be gluten-free, One-pot meal, Quick and easy, Weeknight Family Meal
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings (enter desired Qty): 8
Calories: 412kcal
Author: Conner
A quick and easy one-pot meal -- healthy comfort food for time-starved home cooks.
Print Recipe


  • 1 tbsp tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 fennel bulbs remove stems but chop green fronds and set aside; cut off base, halve and cut out hard core at the base
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (loose)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning mix
  • generous pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce I usually keep a few jars high-quality pizza sauce without added sugar in my pantry
  • 1 cup chicken bone broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • several grinds black pepper
  • 1 lb potato gnocchi some brands make gluten-free gnocchi, e.g. DeLallo
  • 8 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese coarsely grated


  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Once it shimmers, add chopped onion, fennel and garlic, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and saute for 6-7 minutes, stirring, until the onions turn translucent and the fennel edges are golden-brown.  
  • Tear the sausage into large chunks and add to the skillet, breaking it into smaller pieces with a wooden cooking spoon. 
  • Preheat oven to 400F. 
  • Once the meat is browned all around, add herbs, pepper flakes, tomato sauce, chicken broth and gnocchi. Bring to a bubble and cook for 5 minutes. (Up to this point you can prepare the filling several hours or days ahead.) 
  • Spoon mixture into a casserole dish (or several individual oven-proof dishes), and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Alternatively, scatter cheese over the skillet contents. Slide into oven. 
  • Turn off oven and turn on broiler; broil on high for 2-3 minutes, checking closely to avoid burning. The casserole is ready when the cheese is bubbling and golden-brown.
  • Scatter chopped fennel fronds over the hot casserole. Serve immediately, accompanied by a mixed salad in a very light olive oil dressing. 


Get the best-quality sausage you can find; if you don't eat pork, you can substitute it with Italian chicken sausage.


Calories: 412kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 61mg | Sodium: 1130mg | Potassium: 530mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 6.9% | Vitamin C: 14% | Calcium: 28.4% | Iron: 20.1%