Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook


Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce with Gnocchi

Dinner, Comfort Food, Italian, Recipe, Sauces, Winter, Pasta, VegetarianLeannda Cavalier4 Comments

A rich, creamy pasta sauce with sweet onions, savory tomatoes, peppery seasonings and sharp parmesan. This sauce is versatile and easy to throw together with things you probably already have. 


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions!

My belly is growling. Jump to the recipe, please!

Have you ever noticed how much colder it feels when it's already been warm and the temperature dips back down? I've been walking around for weeks without needing a coat, and it's SNOWING today! My body is reacting like it's sub-zero in my nearly 70º house. I'm dealing. 

So on a shivery, grey day what better to warm up with than a hearty plate of gnocchi?


I got the idea for this recipe while shopping at one of my favorite health food stores after a long day out in Knoxville. I was so tired, but I really wanted to eat well that night. Knowing I had a good hour-long drive home, I was looking for convenience food, but like, good convenience food. Something I would feel good about eating and re-eating for lunch the next day.

I settled on a few different kinds of frozen ravioli you can buy in bulk—red pepper eggplant, spinach ricotta, one with sausage, I think—and some vegetables. So I just needed a sauce.

I wandered over to the refrigerated section where they have fresh sauces I always want to try, and saw this incredible-looking vidalia onion sauce that REALLY pulled me in. I could smell it. I could taste it. I was ready to drink it. But it was too expensive for me to justify at that moment.

Listen, I’m not above spending nearly $8 on a little jar of sauce I want to try, but I was already almost over my grocery budget and the ravioli was reasonable, but not exactly cheap. Plus, I knew I could make it at home. I mentally noted the color and texture of the sauce, glanced at the description on the jar and made a plan. 

The best part? I already had all the ingredients. In fact I always have these ingredients, and if you cook often, you likely do too. 


This sauce goes great with gnocchi texturally because while it’s thick, it’s pretty smooth. It wraps around the ravioli like the edible manifestation of a bear hug. Beyond that soft, pillowy gnocchi makes a tasty canvas for the sweet and savory flavor of this Roasted Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce.

This Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce is super easy to make, and it comes together pretty quickly. It's going to be really great for you if you aren't a fan of doing a lot of chopping, or if you're just too tired to do a bunch of that tonight—which I totally get. It's the reason I thought about buying the sauce in the first place!


The plan I made in the store was pretty simple, and I was pretty sure I could knock it out in about half an hour. I just needed to roast some sweet onions until they were a little caramelly, and incorporate them into a simple tomato sauce. 


Like I said, I was pretty worn out, and besides, roasting the onions whole seemed like the way to go. So what to do? Bring out the blender. It honestly made things go so quickly. I just simmered the tomatoes while the onions were in the oven, added everything to the blender, and voila! 

Beautiful sauce that tasted like a lot more work went into it.


Now for some salt, fat, acid and heat action. A little honey, red pepper flakes, white wine vinegar, basil parmesan cheese and cream go in to build a sauce that tastes like it came from a restaurant (or an $8 jar at a health food store). 

Whirrrrrrr it up.


I’ve also tried the sauce with pork loin (amazing) and I’m sure it would go with chicken or steak. Probably even with some seafoods like mussels or scallops. It would work well with long noodles such as spaghetti or linguine, with ravioli or other stuffed pastas—really with just about any pasta.


I have mixed feelings on the “rules” of pasta. I get the point. Pesto goes will with pastas it can stick to rather than pool in. Pastas with hollow shapes are going to go well with sauces they can scoop up like tasty little spoons. The thing is, some people have hard and fast rules just for authenticity’s sake.

I think authenticity has a time and a place, and I can appreciate it. On the other hand, if I want bolognese sauce and only have angel hair on hand, I’m not going to the store just for authenticity’s sake. Besides, why shut down creativity or experimentation? 

Personally, I think it’s worth knowing the rules—if only so you can break them mindfully. 


There's something so satisfying about knowing you made it yourself, right? 


Oh, hey, and it's Lenten Friday friendly! I swear I didn't intend to post a chicken recipe on a Friday last time. 


If you like this recipe, you may want to sign up for my email list for more. If you sign up, you get a free guide to overcoming one of the biggest commonalities of people who say they're not good at cooking—and one of the easiest things to fix! Just click on the graphic below to sign up and download.

P.S. If you ever need help with a recipe or have a question, please reach out. I'd love to help!

Did you make this recipe? Take a picture and let me know! You can always tag me and hashtag #whipsmartkitchen on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (links below), or use the tried it feature on Pinterest.

Until then I'll be here trying to warm up, and hoping all our flowers still bloom and plums and grapes still come in, unlike last year after a 75º February and a bunch of cold snaps. Give me something to look forward to here. 

Let's get roasting!


Nutrition Facts for Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce (without Gnocchi and Kale)


Nutrition Facts for Gnocchi with Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce and Kale


It's still a new year... get a fresh start!

Leannda Cavalier6 Comments

How crazy is it that spring is already here? It's pretty cool outside here, but feelings of newness and invigoration are undeniable for me. Flowers are blooming... okay, they mostly bloomed in the 75º February weather and froze over in March. Regardless, spring is about new beginnings and new life.


That goes for the baby squirrels under my deck, the tulips poking out their leaves, and all the ideas I've been hoarding in my notes app. 

I have a question for you, and I want you to be honest. How are your New Years resolutions going?

If they're not going so well, know you're not alone. According to a U.S. News & World Report story, more than 80 percent of resolutions probably failed more than a month ago. There are a number of reasons NYR don't work out for people—one of which, I believe, involves the very name. 

New Year's resolutions. New. Year's. Resolutions.

The funny thing about today? It's still 365 days away from this date last year, and next year. I think the holiday we call New Year's is important to recognize, and can be a great time to reset and try to change. Symbolism can be a great tool.

On the other hand, we make SUCH a big deal out of it that it can directly set us back.

New Year's Day is a temporal landmark. That's the idea that when there's a clean restart, people are more likely to actually turn their aspirations into reality.

The thing is, New Years comes at an inconvenient time for change. How many cookies did your family send home with you after Christmas? How much candy and leftovers do you have from all the festivities? Do you just let it all go to waste for your new lifestyle? Not to mention that you likely let up on your workout schedule and developed some hard-to-break habits over the holidays. 


One study found that people buy more healthy food in January... but their junk-food-buying habits didn't change from what they were spending over the holiday season (during which they bought 15 percent more junk food than usual).

Don't get me wrong, adding healthy foods in is a great way to change your habits, but at some point you've got to take some of the junk food out of your cart to make a difference. 

Making new habits takes time, and if you try to do everything at once it can be overwhelming. It can also be incredibly discouraging if you falter by mid-January. 

Today is the third day of spring—but that doesn't even matter. Every day is what you make it. It can be anything you want it to be! If take advantage of that, maybe March 21st of 2018 can be your one-year anniversary of finally making that change you wanted to make. 

So right here, right now, I challenge you to make a plan for one thing you want to change in the next year. Oh, and I want to help!

Download your free guide in the box below, then come back & keep reading to make your plan!

Making the plan

Step 1: Choose one goal you want to achieve in the next year.

Follow the guidelines below to help you out: 

  1. It has to be something you can reasonably achieve in the next year. Don't choose things that aren't within your control, or that could take years to achieve.
  2. It has to be challenging. Yes, it has to be achievable, but choose something you've struggled with for a while, or that isn't so easy you could do it in a week. We're looking for a transformation of some sort. If you don't challenge yourself, you won't grow.
  3. It has to be worth it! Really think about why you want it. Make sure it's something you really want, or you won't do it. 

Step 2: Set objectives to make your goal concrete.

What has to happen for you to reach your goal? Let's go back to that example of "getting healthy." Getting healthier means different things to different people. You might want to lose weight, build muscle, lean out, lower your cholesterol, run a marathon, or even just breathe easier on the stairs.

Choose three end results that make up the big goal you chose, and write them down. But be specific! Instead of just vaguely saying lose weight, say how much you want to lose. Say where you want your cholesterol to be. Say what kind of exercise you want to be able to do. Make it measurable so that at the end of the year you can know exactly how far you've come. 

Step 3: Break it down into action steps.

The best way to achieve a goal is to break it into bite-sized steps you can incorporate daily. So what small steps do you have to take to make your objectives a reality? Choose a few actions that will help you meet each of your objectives.

So if one of your objectives was to lose 20 pounds, maybe you decide to do that by eating home-cooked meals at least five days a week, exercising for at least 10 minutes five days a week, and only eat dessert twice a week or on special occasions.

These actions should be things you can start doing immediately, and that you can feasibly stick to. I'm not saying they shouldn't be difficult, but if you're out of shape, committing to working out for an hour five days a week right away is a recipe for failure, or even injury. If your favorite hobby is baking, cutting out sugar entirely probably isn't an option you'll stick to for long.

Remember, you can always adjust your goals to make them more challenging as you get used to them.

Step 4: Check in and adjust as you go.

Set a date each month in your calendar to evaluate how things are going. Are you making progress? Have you faltered or given up on certain action steps or objectives? That's okay!

It's not ideal, but now is the time to think about whether you need to adjust your goals to make them more doable, pivot, or suck it up and renew your commitment.

Setting an actual date in ink will help you keep yourself accountable instead of just giving up until next year. 

Step 5: Evaluate how well you met your goal, and move forward!

Listen, I want you to go at your goal with everything you've got. The thing is, nobody is perfect. We all have our struggles. Don't let all your self-worth or happiness be conditional on whether or not you met your goal.

Be happy with any progress you made! Celebrate your successes and think of ways to keep the train rolling ahead! Make a plan so you don't fall back into your old habits.

If you didn't meet your goals, let it go and move on. You tried, and at least you have a starting point. You know your weaknesses and what you need to work on. You know what obstacles you'll face and

You can take this plan or leave it, but I really encourage you to think about where you want to . There are so many ways to make a change, and I don't presume to have the best one. I just know structure, mindfulness and planning are what work for me.

Just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to do it alone. You don't have to quit because you had a bad couple of weeks.

Over the next few posts I'll be sharing some of my goals, tips for making big changes in the kitchen, and more!

I would LOVE to hear about changes you're making in your life.

In the comments tell me:

  • ONE big change you want to make this year, and how you're going to make it.
    • Can I help? Are you struggling with cooking, food, or wellness-related goals
  • Will you use this plan? Do you have a different method?

Let me know :)