I make no apologize for the amount of cheese that is in this dish, it is broccoli cheddar after all. If your favorite soup is broccoli cheddar then this broccoli cheddar gnocchi bake is for you. It is creamy, cheesy, and tastes just like Panera’s best selling soup. This recipe was designed around back to school, a quick dish with not a lot of prep that is perfect to make on a weeknight dinner. Also bonus, your kids will eat and love it too.
It is a common misconception that gnocchi is pasta. Hate to tell you it’s not. Gnocchi is actually a dumpling, and one of the most popular types is potato gnocchi. If you have cooked with gnocchi before you know just how versatile this ingredient is. It can be boiled and tossed in sauce or olive oil, pan fried until crispy, or even roasted with fresh vegetables. There are countless way to prepare it, but in this recipe we are going to smother it in Panera broccoli cheddar copycat sauce and bake until it is tender and chewy. For the most part unless you are making homemade, that recipe will be coming eventually, gnocchi is a low maintenance easy staple to have in the pantry.
If you love this concept of dump gnocchi in sauce and bake check out my Pizza Gnocchi Bake. Pssst if you haven’t guessed it from the name that one is pizza flavor.
Wide Skillet / Braiser – You need a wide and large enough skillet that will hold the sauce as well as a lb of gnocchi.
Cook the Base – In a large wide pan over low heat melt the butter. Once melted, add the garlic, onions and cook until soft and fragrant 3-4 minutes. Because you are adding the garlic with onions, the garlic shouldn’t burn with the additional moisture from the onions. Still make sure the heat is on low. Once soft add the flour and mix to combine. Cook for a minute, constantly mixing to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Make it a Sauce – Add the broth and simmer that for a minute or two, just until it starts to thicken up and can coat the back of the spoon. Add the carrots and broccoli. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Add the shredded cheese and mix till melted and incorporated.
Bake – Toss in the uncooked gnocchi. It is so important that you do not cook it before it goes into the pan. Pre-cook it and you will be left with a squishy mess in the end. Top with additional cheese and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and gnocchi is soft.
DISCLAIMER; If you want to skip the additional cheese on top for whatever reason whether you don’t want to buy more cheese or want to cut the calories in this dish somewhere it will still taste just as good.
Below are some questions you may have. I also update this section if I receive a questions, so check back!
Can I substitute the heavy cream for half and half or milk? No, this dish needs the fat from the heavy cream. Heavy cream adds richness and also thickens the sauce.
Why can’t I use frozen broccoli? Frozen broccoli is typically partially cooked. Because this simmers a bit on the stove and in the oven you need the broccoli to be raw. Frozen broccoli would lead to a mushy mess.
Can I reduce the cheese? See above under “How to Make” section. You can remove the additional cheese on top if you are looking to reduce.
Can I make this in advance? No
Can I make this with pasta instead? So, this has not been (come back next month I will have a confirmed tested answer). If you want to try it yourself before I do go for it. Swap out the pound of gnocchi for 1/2 lb of pasta. The pasta will need more liquid than gnocchi so it wouldn’t be a pound for a pound.
I can not emphasize this enough, this dish needs to be eaten fresh. The longer it sits the more the gnocchi will continue to absorb the sauce and the more it will congeal. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days in the fridge. Either pop it in the oven at 325 covered until warmed throughout or microwave it. It wont be the same creamy luscious sauce as when it was fresh but it will still taste good.
Looking for more easy weeknight dinners that the whole family will love? I got you, see below for a few of my favorites.