Pesto Gnocchi: a delicious and nutritious vegetarian dinner that's ready in just 15 minutes! Homemade pesto is surprisingly easy to make and tests so much better than store-bought.
In today's post we will be making pesto gnocchi. This pasta dish is as simple and easy to make and it is satisfying to enjoy. Read on to see how to make the recipe, read recipe tips, and more!
Table of contents
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Possibly they're iconic because of their comfort. Or, maybe it's because both dishes are hot, savory, and an easy win with almost any audience.
But maybe pesto gnocchi also holds its rank because it's super simple to make for the amount of indulgent satisfaction that you get. The luscious and fatty sauce perfectly coats the fluffy pasta pillows, making your dinner guests think you spent hours on the sauce.
But really, the secret is safe between us: it took only 3 steps and a handful of easy to find ingredients to whip up this stunner of a recipe.
So go ahead -- show your friends, your family, and yourself all the love. Whip up a steaming hot bowl of this favorite pasta today!
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This pesto gnocchi recipe is...
- Savory - parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt add notes of umami and the walnuts and olive oil add delicious fat that makes the sauce luscious. It's a flavor combination we can't get enough of!
- Adaptable - on its own, this pesto gnocchi recipe is a satisfying vegetarian main dish recipe. It can also be served as a side dish to many Italian main dish recipes or can be topped with grilled or roasted meats (see more below) to satisfy larger appetites.
- Comforting - when I think of comfort food, pesto is one of the first dishes to come to mind. It can make any day better and certainly will warm you up on a cool or wintry day. Best of all, it it's an accessible comfort food; it doesn't take an afternoon of slaving in the kitchen to get this dish on the dinner table.
- Family-friendly - pesto is one of those dishes that both kids and adults agree on! There's no need to make two different dinners when this recipe is on the menu. The cheesy and savory flavors make the sauce palatable for kids and parents will love it because it's more complex and indulgent than a traditional marinara.
- Potato gnocchi - we're looking for the pre-made dried versions you can find in most major grocery stores.
- Fresh basil
- Walnut halves - walnut pieces also work
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Grated parmesan cheese - shredded parmesan cheese also works, but doesn't blend down into the sauce as easily.
- Garlic cloves - whole peeled cloves that are peeled and have the stems trimmed
- Pasta - you can toss almost any pasta shape or size in the pesto. I love penne, bucatini, or linguine.
- Nuts - pine nuts can substitute for the walnuts. They are actually more traditionally used in pesto recipes, though are often more expensive than walnuts. So, I wrote this recipe with walnuts. Use whichever you have and works better for you.
How to make pesto gnocchi...
For the complete recipe and measurements, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Boil the potato gnocchi according to the package instructions in heavily salted water. Drain.
- Add the basil, walnuts, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt, and garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor. Cover the processor and blend the pesto until it is smooth and light green.
- Return the gnocchi to the cool cooking pan and gently stir in the pesto until combined. You might have additional or leftover pesto. Serve the gnocchi hot and top with additional grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
- How to store fresh basil - store fresh basil in a closed container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Do not store it in the refrigerator; the cold temperatures will cause the delicate herb to wilt.
- Salt the pasta water - salting the pasta water adequately makes a huge difference in the pasta flavor. You want to salt the pasta with 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1 - 1 ½ quarts pasta water. This may seem like a lot of salt, but the pasta won't absorb it all-- just enough to bring out the flavors of the pasta.
- Boiling the gnocchi - count the boiling time for the gnocchi as the time after the water comes back to a boil after adding the gnocchi to the pan of boiling water.
- Doubling or tripling the recipe - this recipe is very easily multiplied. Just increase all the ingredients by the desired amount and follow the directions as listed.
- Mix-in variations - make this gnocchi and pesto dish more filling by stirring in cubed grilled chicken, roasted or grilled zucchini, peppers or eggplant, or grilled shrimp.
- Making the pesto without a food processor - don't have a food processor? No problem. This sauce can also be made in a blender (just add the olive oil to the blender first, followed by the other ingredients) or with an immersion blender in a large and wide cup.
Though you can fry or sauté the gnocchi, you will want to do it after boiling the pasta, not before. To fry or sauté the gnocchi, heat up 3-4 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low to medium heat. Add the cooked and grained gnocchi, stirring it minimally and cooking for 2-4 minutes or until crispy.
No, you do not need to cook pesto. In fact, you don't want to heat pesto over high heat. Tossing the pesto with the hot drained gnocchi or pasta is enough to warm up the pesto and melt the cheeses.
What to serve with pesto gnocchi:
You can also add protein to this dish to make it more filling. Roasted salmon, grilled or rotisserie chicken, or grilled shrimp are all delicious.
Storage, freezing, & reheating directions:
Leftover gnocchi and pesto keeps covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. It can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Leftover pesto (without the gnocchi) can keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. It can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
To reheat the pasta, heat the pasta at medium or medium-high in the microwave at 1 - 1 ½ minute intervals, or until heated through.
This recipe is naturally vegetarian and rich in carbohydrates.
To make this recipe vegan or dairy free, make a dairy-free pesto by substituting vegan or nut-milk parmesan cheese for traditional cheese.
Tools needed to make this recipe:
More Italian recipes:
- Instant Pot Meatballs
- Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
- Bucatini Pomodoro
- Italian Sausage Pasta with Peppers
- Turkey Bolognese
- Instant Pot Bolognese Sauce
- Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Peas
- Chicken Bolognese
- Sausage Risotto
- Instant Pot Risotto
If you made and liked this recipe, don't forget to rate the recipe and let me know how it went for you in the comments! It always makes my day to hear from you!