Fragrant Moroccan Meat Sauce with Gnocchi

Today is Secret Recipe Club reveal day. Secret Recipe Club is a gathering of food bloggers who are assigned a food blog from another member of the club, select and prepare a recipe, and on the designated reveal day, share who’s blog we were secretly assigned and post about the recipe. It’s an interesting way to meet other bloggers and find new, proven recipes.

This month I was assigned Heather's It's Yummy to My Tummy blog. She is a mom to two young children who lives in Chicago and journals about her cooking and baking adventures and her family. Being a busy mom, many of her recipes are just good food. As her daughter said, and the reason behind the name of her blog, food that’s yummy to your tummy. After looking around for a while on her site, the recipe I kept coming back to was the Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Moroccan Meat Sauce.
Last winter, I made velvety, melt-in-your mouth ricotta gnocchi, a recipe that appeared in February’s Bon Appetit from one of our favorite restaurants, FIG in Charleston, SC. They were used in a dish that was decadent, comforting, but definitely not your grandmother’s Chicken and Dumplings. But it makes A LOT of gnocchi, and we had some leftover in the freezer that needed to be used. As with Heather, this was the first time I made gnocchi, and it’s the easiest pasta to make from scratch that freezes well. While I’m sure the butternut squash gnocchi in Heather’s recipe is divine, the conclusion is any good gnocchi works with this meat sauce. However, we did not find it could serve four, and we are careful about portions, unless her gnocchi portions were much larger than what I served. I changed the spices by adding coriander, allspice, and cayenne, and added tomato paste to thicken the sauce.

Before tasting it, Craig was a bit perplexed why I was so excited about something that looks like marinara (with zucchini and yellow squash, of course, thanks to our abundant CSA box). But one bite and you’ll know why. The cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, allspice, and cayenne add brightness not found with a typical tomato-beef sauce. For such a simple preparation, it has complex flavor, and it’s so colorful. I typically think of lamb or chicken in Moroccan cooking, but the ground beef works fine (next time, with appropriate planning, I will use lamb). The sauce would also be great over couscous, barley, or millet, traditional Moroccan grains. The spices in the sauce perfume your home with warmth and make it a perfect dish for a cool autumn evening. Thanks for sharing this, Heather.

Moroccan Meat Sauce
Serves 2

2 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound ground beef or ground lamb
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
14 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons no salt tomato paste
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 small yellow summer squash, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cooked gnocchi, couscous, or millet

Heat the olive oil, onion, and minced garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes, just until the onions start to get soft. Add in ground meat and cook until browned. Add the spices and stir until fragrant.

(The allspice was a last minute addition after I took this photo.)
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped zucchini, and squash.
Simmer the sauce, uncovered until it starts to thicken, 30 minutes. For the last few minutes, add gnocchi to heat in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Print here.


  1. I absolutely love Moroccan Spices. What a great recipe.

    1. Judee, thanks for stopping by. The spice mix is really nice.

  2. This looks absolutely fantastic - definitely going on my 'to make' list - I love all the flavors, and love the idea of serving over gnocchi!

    1. Sara, I never would have thought of serving these flavors over gnocchi, but it works really nicely. Thanks for taking a peek.

  3. Ohhhhh, this looks so good. How funny that we both chose Moroccan influenced recipes for our SRC assignments! I'd love to try this sauce with chicken. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  4. Hi Denise,
    Your Moroccan Meat Sauce looks fabulous! Great selection for the SRC.
    Miz Helen

  5. Thanks for the review! This was an original SRC recipe from like a year ago, and I always forget some of the great recipes I've recreated for our club. a first Moroccan meal for our family! And yes I agree with you that this recipe I think only feeded myself and my husband at the time. But the gnocchi was a real treat to make and served several meals!

  6. This sounds amazing. Great combination of flavors.

  7. This sounds delicious! I love all the flavors going on.

  8. Wow. Just wow. This looks so delicious!

  9. Wow, I can tell just by reading the list of ingredients that this tastes tremendous. Years ago I lived in Morocco, and they eat plenty of beef, so beef is quite appropriate (plus IMO beef + cinnamon is better than lamb + cinnamon). But how can one ever say no to lamb? ;-)




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