Vegan gnocchi bake with a lentil bolognese sauce and creamy bechamel sauce! This baked gnocchi is easy to make and the perfect vegan comfort food.
Why you'll love this recipe
EASY AND SIMPLE: This vegan baked gnocchi is fuss-free and very forgiving! You only need a few common pantry ingredients and vegetables to make this casserole. And you don't even have to boil the gnocchi in a pot beforehand :).
COMFORTING AND WHOLESOME: Tastes VERY similar to the non-vegan bolognese I had growing up. It's the perfect warm comfort food on a colder day or in Autumn/Fall or Winter.
Ingredients you'll need
The key ingredients for this baked gnocchi include:
Notes about the ingredients
Vegan gnocchi, shelf-stable, fresh or homemade. Traditional gnocchi is primarily made of potatoes but it's not always vegan as it can contain eggs or dairy. However, many store-bought brands are vegan-friendly! Just make sure you check the ingredients.
Canned brown lentils for ease. You may use fresh lentils, as long as you cook them beforehand!
Crushed canned tomatoes. Instead, you can use tomato sauce (pasta sauce), whole canned tomatoes (chopped beforehand) or fresh tomatoes (chopped beforehand). You will need to cook the fresh tomatoes for a little longer.
Optional extras for the bolognese mixture include walnuts for texture and vegetable stock, balsamic vinegar and miso paste for flavor.
Optional extras for the bechamel sauce include vegan mozzarella cheese, nutritional yeast and miso paste for flavor.
A complete list of ingredients, quantities and instructions are in the gray recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to prepare the lentil bolognese sauce
The sauce and gnocchi come together in one large saucepan!
First, saute your carrots, onion and garlic until fragrant. These ingredients take the longest to cook so we're adding them first.
Add your spices and stir until fragrant. Spices can burn easily, especially in a dry saucepan, so we don't want to cook them for too long.
Next, add the tomatoes, lentils and sauces/condiments. Here, we're allowing all the ingredients and flavors to meld together. The mixture is ready when the carrots are just tender - we are almost done cooking!
Finally, add your uncooked gnocchi and at least 1 cup of vegetable broth or water straight to the pan. Instead of boiling gnocchi separately, the excess liquid and juices from the bolognese will help cook the gnocchi.
Your mixture is ready when the gnocchi is soft and tender! Don't cook the mixture for too long otherwise, the gnocchi dumplings may disintegrate.
How to make vegan bechamel sauce
The bechamel balances out the acidity of the bolognese sauce! Alternatively, you can skip the bechamel sauce and just top your bolognese with vegan mozzarella!
To make the bechamel, first you need to make your 'roux' which ensures the flour is cooked through! Add the oil/butter, flour and a dash of dairy-free milk to a small saucepan and cook until it thickens into a paste.
Next, add the rest of your dairy-free milk and flavorings. Vigorously whisk the mixture to loosen the paste and to make a thick and creamy sauce.
If there are any lumps in your mixture, continue to whisk or blend using an immersion blender!
Assembling and cooking the gnocchi casserole
This step couldn't be easier!
Pour or scoop your gnocchi bolognese mixture into your casserole dish. Then dollop, drizzle or pour your bechamel sauce on top!
Heat the vegan gnocchi bake in the oven for around 10 minutes. The casserole is ready when the surface is slightly golden and your gnocchi is hot! All components are already cooked so we're just heating it in the oven for serving.
The vegan gnocchi bake is best enjoyed hot or warm. Leftovers keep very well but I'd recommend reheating it thoroughly as sometimes gnocchi can feel dry if it's not warm enough.
Customizing vegan gnocchi bake
Yes, simply use vegan gluten-free gnocchi! I tested this recipe using gluten-free gnocchi and regular gnocchi and they both work perfectly!
Yes, you can use crumbled firm tofu or vegan beef mince.
If you'd like to add extra vegetables, you can include some finely chopped celery, mushrooms, red pepper (capsicum), spinach or broccoli! The vegan meat sauce in my pastitsio (greek pasta bake) works well as a bolognese-style sauce.
I used a 3.5 L round casserole dish for this recipe. However, you can also use an 11 x 6 inch (28 x 15 cm) baking dish (like the one in my vegan french toast casserole) or any large oven-safe dish!
You may also use a cast-iron skillet. However, their protective non-stick coatings are ruined by acidic ingredients such as tomato sauce, which you may or may not care about!
More comforting vegan dinner ideas
Vegan Gnocchi Bake with Bolognese Sauce
Vegan Lentil Bolognese Sauce
- Olive oil, as needed
- 2 medium-size carrots, finely diced
- 1 medium-size brown onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme, or to taste (note 1)
- ½ cup (60g) walnuts, any type of nut or seeds, finely chopped (optional)
- 400 g (14 oz) canned brown lentils, drained (note 2)
- 400 g (14 oz) canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, sugar or coconut sugar, to taste
- 1 tablespoon miso paste, optional
- 1 ½ cups (360g) vegetable broth (stock), or water, as needed
- 500g gnocchi, uncooked (note 3)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
To prepare the vegan bolognese sauce:
- Add the carrot, onion, garlic and oil to a large saucepan over high heat. Saute for 5 minutes or until the ingredients are fragrant.
- Add the herbs and nuts and saute for 1 minute or until fragrant. If any ingredients are sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, add a generous dash of vegetable stock/water and stir.
- Add the lentils, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and miso paste. Cook for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the gnocchi and around 1 cup of vegetable stock/water. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until the gnocchi is tender. Add more vegetable stock if needed.
- Season the bolognese sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
To prepare the vegan bechamel:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Add the oil/butter, flour and a dash of milk to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and whisk continously for 2-5 minutes until a thick paste forms.
- Add all of the remaining milk and nutritional yeast. Vigorously whisk the mixture to disperse the paste. After around 5 minutes, the mixture should thicken into a sauce consistency.
- Season the bechamel sauce to taste. If any lumps are remaining, whisk vigourously or blend with an immersion blenerd until smooth.
To assemble the vegan gnocchi bake:
- Scoop the gnocchi and bolognese sauce into a large casserole dish (the capacity of my dish was 3.5 L or 120 oz). Drizzle or pour the bechamel sauce on top.
- Bake the gnocchi for 10-15 minutes or until the surface is slightly golden brown.
- Serve the baked gnocchi hot or warm with vegan parmesan on top and with salad or vegetables! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days and enjoy warm. Alternatively, divide the gnocchi bake into individual containers and freeze for up to 1 month.
- You may add additional herbs/spices such as dried basil, ground sage or red pepper flakes.
- Alternatively, you can use canned chickpeas or red kidney beans. For a finer textured bolognese, you may want to mash some of the chickpeas or beans.
- Some gnocchi contains egg so make sure you check the ingredients! I used shelf-stable gnocchi but fresh chilled gnocchi or homemade vegan gnocchi will also work. You can also use pre-cooked gnocchi but you won't need to cook it in your bolognese sauce for as long (step 4 in 'To prepare your vegan bolognese sauce').
- Alternatively, you can just top your gnocchi casserole with ½ cup vegan mozzarella. After you've assembled the casserole, bake it in the oven to melt the cheese.
- For extra flavor, you may also add a ¼ cup vegan cheese, 1 tablespoon of white miso paste and/or a pinch of nutmeg to your bechamel sauce. I'd recommend adding them at the same time as the nutritional yeast.
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