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Thousand Oaks

Now You’re Cooking: Simple Skillet Recipes

For a special holiday — or any day — this is one of those recipes that is so easy you hardly need a recipe. It uses store-bought gnocchi and store-bought marinara sauce and is a breeze to put together. I used Italian sausage, but you can easily substitute other ground meats or leave the meat out completely.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use almost any sauce you like and whatever extra ingredients you have on hand. I make this easy weeknight meal a couple of times per month, sometimes subbing cooked rigatoni for the gnocchi. So delicious topped with burrata and fresh herbs!

Cheesy Baked Gnocchi

(Makes 4 servings)

  • 16 ounces potato or cauliflower gnocchi
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 ounces ground bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup dry red or white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (I use Rao’s)
  • 1 large handful organic baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cherry-size fresh mozzarella balls, cut in half
  • 1 ball fresh burrata, sliced
  • Fresh basil and oregano leaves

Place the oven rack in the middle position of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; add gnocchi and cook about ¼ shy of the time listed on the package. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid.

Heat oil in a large oven-proof skillet or oven-proof saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, occasionally stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in sausage and red pepper flakes and cook, occasionally stirring, for 10 minutes or until sausage is cooked through. Stir in wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in marinara sauce and reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes or until flavors have blended. Stir in cooked gnocchi, spinach and Parmesan cheese. Top with mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from the oven; top with burrata and fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

Skillet Brownies

What’s better than a dessert that combines the best parts of a brownie and a cookie and can be eaten family-style? This brownie has chewy edges, a soft interior and loads of chocolate flavor thanks to both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate.

Cast iron retains heat so well that the sides get extra chewy while leaving the center soft and gooey. If you don’t have a small cast-iron skillet, you can use an 8- or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan in its place. If you use a loaf pan, the bake time will likely increase by 5 minutes.

This is my go-to recipe when I don’t want to bake a full batch of brownies. Perfect for Valentine’s Day or just because!

Small Batch Skillet Brownies

(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 1 large egg, straight from the refrigerator
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • Ice cream for serving (optional)

Place the oven rack in the middle position of the oven and then preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a small 6-inch cast-iron skillet or line a loaf pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang for easy removal.

Place butter and chocolate in a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power for 30 seconds; stir. Microwave for an additional 20 seconds, stirring until melted. Cool mixture for about 5 minutes or until just barely warm.

Whisk together egg, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl for 1 to 2 minutes or until pale yellow in color and slightly thickened (this is the secret to the shiny crust). Stir in melted chocolate mixture. Fold in flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt just until combined. Spoon into the prepared skillet.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the brownie comes out slightly sticky. Serve warm, topped with ice cream, if desired.

Chris Garboski managed the HQ test kitchen at Nestle and produced more than a thousand recipes in her 25 years with the company. Her proudest accomplishment has been raising triplets.


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