Growing up, we'd have a "baked potato night" at least once a month. My mom would slide freshly baked potatoes out of their little aluminum foil jackets onto a big platter. Then she'd place it alongside a row of toppings: a tub of sour cream, a few pats of butter, a plastic baggie or two of shredded cheese, Kirkland bacon bits, pico de gallo and minced chives.
Occasionally, there would be a small pot of chili in the mix, too. Inevitably, my brothers would bring something random — crushed potato chips, a kaleidoscopic array of hot sauces or ranch dressing — to the table "just to see how it tastes." Though they really were simple meals, loaded baked potatoes have maintained a special place in my heart as a result of all those family dinners.
That's why, when I recently found myself with all the baked potato fixings but no potatoes, I had to get creative. So, I reached for a packet of gnocchi (pillowy-soft Italian potato dumplings) that I had intended to find sauce for and got to work.
The result is gnocchi folded in a rich, velvety white cheddar sauce (that's been amped up with a little sour cream) and topped with crushed bacon and scallions or chives. It takes all the best ingredients of baked potato night and combines them all together in a single 30-minute skillet meal.
Recipe: Loaded Baked Potato Gnocchi
- 16 ounces gnocchi
- 4 slices bacon
- 1/4 white onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons AP flour
- 1 1/2 cups of whole milk, plus extra
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) sharp white cheddar, shredded
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons full-fat sour cream, plus extra
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons cayenne
- Salt to taste
- Scallions or chives for garnish
- Cook gnocchi in a sturdy pot according to package directions, drain and set aside.
- In the same pot, sauté the four strips of bacon over medium-high heat, flipping occasionally, until they're crisp and slightly browned — about 4 minutes. Remove the strips and let them drain on a paper-towel covered plate. Crumble when cool to the touch.
- Add the minced white onion to the bacon grease and sauté over medium-high heat until it's soft and a little jammy. Reduce the heat to medium, and to the same pot, add the butter. Once it's melted, quickly whisk in the flour until a thick paste forms. Continue to stir until the pasta has taken on a slightly toasted color. Season the paste with salt to taste.
- At this point, add whole milk in a steady stream while continuing to whisk. It should form a thickened white sauce, which is called a béchamel. Season with salt to taste again, and then, while continuing to whisk, slowly add the shredded sharp white cheddar cheese and grated parmesan. Finally, add the sour cream.
- Look at the sauce: Is it too thick? Add an extra tablespoon or two of milk. Too thin? Increase the heat and allow it to slowly simmer. Once you're satisfied with the consistency, season with paprika, cayenne and more salt, if needed.
- Fold the gnocchi into the cheese sauce and stir gently over medium heat until they're completely coated.
- Divide among four bowls. Top with crumbled bacon and chopped scallions or chives for garnish.
Like baked potato night, feel free to try different combinations of toppings and add-ins — but you really can't beat the comfort of a simple bowl.
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