Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to watch some cooking shows, and one episode had me craving some good ol’ hearty chicken noodle soup. I went off to the store and bought my celery and carrots and was mentally drooling over the idea of a warm soup with crusty bread for dinner. I told my husband my exciting dinner scheme, and he said “no way, I had it for lunch at work yesterday, I would love some spaghetti though,” with a big charming smile. Normally that smile wins me over, but he literally wants to eat spaghetti once a week and then have the left overs for another half a week. The man seriously loves spaghetti. I decided to create a casserole that would satisfy both of our cravings, Venison Gnocchi Casserole, complete with spaghetti sauce, potato dumplings, carrots, and celery.
First, I gathered my fresh ingredients, and boiled the potatoes while simmering diced onion,celery, carrots, garlic, and fresh herbs in olive oil and wine until the onions looked translucent and the whole house smelled wonderfully delicious. I usually use what ever wine I have on hand . If it tastes good to me when I have a glass, I may as well use it in my cookin’ too. In this recipe I used a mildly sweet white wine.
Then, I made the gnocchi, which is not for the faint of heart because it takes a bit more time than simply boiling some noodles. I first fell in love with the wonderful little delicate dumplings in Italy on a study abroad back in high school. I was told it was too complicated to make and was best left to the experts. That did not deter me. After a few trails and errors, I have found a recipe that takes my taste buds back to Italy. It turns out, it is fairly simple; only four ingredients. You just have to have the proportions right and enough time to make it.
Here is a link to the gnocchi recipe all by it self so you can make it for other dishes. It is the perfect side, and is especially great with pesto.
Then mix it all together with some spaghetti sauce, browned deer meat, and cheese, then bake. This casserole turned out to have a taste factor on a whole other level of yum, full of complex favors and textures. I guess it is fitting that this is my first recipe on my blog, because it is pretty epic. Kindo thought it smelled good too.
- ⅓ cup wine
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 onion
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano (substitute 1 tsp. dried)
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil (substitute 1 tsp. dried)
- ½ cup carrots
- ¼ lb. ground deer (or meat of your choice)
- 1 cup spaghetti or tomato sauce
- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- For the gnocchi
- 1lb. potatoes ( about 3 small/medium or 2 large potatoes)
- egg white
- 1 tsp. salt (optional)
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut potatoes in halves and boil until soft when poked with fork, about 20-30 minutes. Be careful not to over boil as to make the potatoes full of water. This will make the dough very sticky later and trying to compensate with more flour will just make them too dense. Set potatoes aside in bowl to cool. Keep the pot of boiling water on the stove for later use. Take skins off and mash thoroughly.
- While the potatoes are boiling, dice carrots, celery, and onion. Mince basil, oregano, and garlic. Sauté on medium heat in olive oil, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until it starts to brown and oil burns off. Then add wine and simmer on low until onions translucent and liquid evaporates, about 30 minutes.
- Pour celery/carrot/onion mixture in separate bowl and saute ground venison until brown throughout. *
- To make the gnocchi, first get that pot of potato water boiling again. Then put mashed potatoes in mound and pour egg on it. Mix in with hands and then knead in salt and flour, adding a little bit at a time, knead thoroughly. Dough should feel slightly sticky.
- Separate dough into 5 handfuls and roll each into long ropes, about 1 inch diameter. You may need up to ¼ cup more flour, to dust your hands and the dough, while rolling out.
- Cut the dough ropes into ½ inch pieces. To prevent the dough from sticking to the knife, coat knife with a little olive oil. Optionally, you many press a fork coated in oil in the side to make indentations to help it hold sauce and make it pretty, but I did not for this recipe.
- Drop about 20 of the dumplings into the boiling water, crowding will make them stick. When it floats to the top, about 1 minute, it is done! Remove from water with slotted spoon into empty bowl. Repeat until all dumplings are boiled, then pour off any remaining water from bowl of dumplings. Mix in sautéed veggies, ground meat, ½ cup mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, and spaghetti sauce then pour in casserole dish. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in covered casserole dish for 20 minutes. Uncover and broil until cheese starts to brown on top. Broiling should only take a couple of minutes (2-3) so watch the dish the entire time so it does not burn.
- Serve with fresh basil garnish and rolls. Enjoy!
*Note-I actually browned a whole pound of deer meat and mixed with a whole jar of spaghetti sauce then just froze the extra not used in the casserole for an easy future meal of spaghetti.