Homemade soft and pillowy potato gnocchi, with a delicious creamy basil pesto sauce made from scratch. The pesto sauce is ready in just 5 minutes and the gnocchi can be made in advance for a perfect homemade dinner.
Do you know those dishes that make your eyes roll at the first bite? That's what these Gnocchi al Pesto do for me. Every. Single. Time.
You probably won't believe me if you tried storebought gnocchi with jarred pesto sauce. But trust me, making them from scratch makes 200% the difference. So what's the difference between storebought and homemade you may ask? I'll tell you.
- Homemade Gnocchi are soft, melt-in-your-mouth, less dense than storebought, and don't stick to your palate.
- Homemade Pesto is creamier, not acidic, with an intense flavor of basil and customizable to your liking.
But you really need to try it to believe it. And I hope you will.
If you love basil pesto, you also need to try this traditional Trofie Pasta with Basil Pesto, or the even more traditional Pasta with Pesto, Green Beans, and Potatoes. But also other variation like this Summer Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad or a comforting Pesto Pasta Bake with Zucchini and Mushrooms.
Gnocchi are as easy as they come, made with only 2 ingredients. While Basil Pesto has a few key ingredients that make all the difference.
- Potatoes. To make good gnocchi, the only thing to pay attention to is to use the right type of potatoes. If you use waxy potatoes, you'll never get a nice soft pillow of dough. So make sure you buy starchy potatoes, like Russet, Idaho, and Yukon gold. Check this article for more information on the difference between waxy and starchy potatoes.
- Basil. Fresh basil is the essence of good-quality pesto sauce. If you grow it yourself, you're good to go. Otherwise, I recommend buying a basil plant instead of a plastic box with a few stalks, as you get much more basil for basically half the price.
- Parmigiano cheese. Don't settle for the unbranded Parmesan cheese. Go for the real Italian Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano. You can recognize the real authentic ones by the yellow and red DOP symbol on the package. Here's a more extensive article on how to recognize the real Parmigiano.
- Pine Nuts. Pine nuts, either toasted or untoasted, will give the pesto sauce a subtle nuttiness and texture which makes it perfect.
- Olive Oil. Good quality extra-virgin olive oil is an essential ingredient for a good basil pesto sauce. Don't use any oil you have available or settle for the cooking olive oil. Buy a small bottle of extra-virgin Italian, Spanish, or Greek olive oil and taste the difference on your salads and sauces.
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to make Potato Gnocchi from scratch
Making homemade potato gnocchi may seem a big undertaking, but once you made them a couple of times, you'll see how easy it is and you'll be able to whip up a batch in no time! 100% worth the effort!
Boil the potatoes and mash them in a bowl with a potato ricer.
Add the salt and flour to the warm potatoes. Mix and knead until you get a non-sticky dough.
Roll the dough on a board dusted with flour, then cut into half-inch chunks.
Roll the gnocchi on a fork or on a gnocchi board to give them the classic striped texture.
How to make Basil Pesto
Basil Pesto is literally one of the easiest and quickest pasta sauces you can make. And once you'll taste how delicious it is homemade, you'll never go back!
Combine all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely minced.
Add the olive oil and pulse until you get a creamy consistency.
Add the cream and pulse once more time to combine. Set aside.
Mix the cooked gnocchi in a bowl with the basil pesto sauce and serve immediately.
This Pesto Gnocchi recipe has only a few simple ingredients, but here are some substitutions if you want to customize the dish to your liking!
- Flour- Instead of the classic all-purpose flour, you can use potato starch for a gluten-free version, or experiment with whole wheat, spelt, or buckwheat flour. The consistency and flavor will definitely differ but they'll be still delicious.
- Pine Nuts- Pine nuts are the traditional choice of nut for pesto, but there are also alternatives with almonds, walnuts, or other nuts you like. Again, the flavor will be different but a nice way to experiment different pesto variations!
- Cream- If you don't have cooking cream available, you can substitute with milk. You can also skip the cream altogether to get the classic pesto sauce with a more intense basil flavor. You can also try vegetable cream made with oats or soy, but I cannot guarantee on the end result as it may affect the flavor. I definitely do not recommend coconut cream.
Gnocchi in Pesto sauce can be made into thousands of creative variations. Here are a few ideas for the next time you'll try this recipe.
- Gluten-Free - Substitute the all-purpose flour with potato starch or gluten-free flour for a gluten-free version of potato gnocchi.
- Herbs and Nuts - Try to add arugola, kale, or fresh spinach with half the basil for a veggie version of pesto, like this Cavolo Nero Pesto. You can also swap the pine nuts with almonds, or walnuts to experiment different favor combos. A completely different variation is also Pesto Rosso, made with sundried tomatoes.
- Vegan - Substitute the Parmigiano with nutritional yeast and the cream with a vegetable cream and you'll easy a simple vegan version of pesto gnocchi.
- Chicken - Chicken is an unthinkable addition to pasta, gnocchi, or risotto in Italy. But I know it's loved around the world, so feel free to add shredded cooked chicken to your pesto gnocchi for a meatier variation.
- Gnocchi Bake - Double the cream in the pesto to make the sauce more loose and liquid, then transfer the pesto gnocchi into a baking dish and cover with a good amount of grated Parmigiano cheese. Broil for about 5 minutes until golden brown on top.
You can store freshly made basil pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months.
Gnocchi, instead, will not keep well in the fridge as they may become sticky in the fridge due to the high humidity. So if you made extra, I recommend placing them distanced on a plate and in the freezer for about 1 hour, then transfer them into a freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Toss in boiling water directly without thawing and scoop them out as soon as they float.
FAQ & Tips
I don't recommend using frozen basil to make pesto, as it will become watery and have less flavor. Dried basil also will not have any oil in the leaves so it will not turn into a flavorful pesto sauce. Always use fresh basil leaves when making pesto.
Yes, you can. Place them distanced on a plate lined with parchment paper and in the freezer for about 1 hour, then transfer them into a freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Toss in boiling water directly without thawing and scoop them out as soon as they float.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Keep in mind though, that when re-heated the pesto may oxidize and lose flavor (pesto should always be added raw to the warm pasta or gnocchi, never in contact with direct heat). If possible it would be better to store gnocchi and pesto separately as mentioned above.
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Creamy Pesto Gnocchi
For the Gnocchi
- 7 oz Potatoes, starchy
- 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
For the Basil Pesto
- 0.9 oz Basil leaves, fresh
- ½ tablespoon Pine nuts
- 4 tablespoon Parmigiano cheese, grated
- ½ Garlic clove
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoon Cream
Make the Gnocchi
- Boil the potatoes until they become tender enough to easily pierce with a fork (about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size).
- Drain, peel and mash the potatoes with a potato ricer in a large bowl, then add a pinch of salt and the flour when they are still warm (overwise they'll become sticky). Mix well until you get a nice soft non-sticky dough.
- Take a piece of dough and roll it with your palms on a wooden board dusted with flour, to get a long roll thick less than an inch. Keep the surface and the dough smooth with flour to prevent stickiness.
- Now with a dough-cutter cut the gnocchi into about ½ inch chunks. Roll them on a fork or on a gnocchi board to give them the classic striped texture, then let them rest on a clean towel dusted lightly with flour.
Make the Basil Pesto
- In a food processor, add the basil leaves, Parmigiano cheese, pine nuts, garlic clove, and salt, then pulse a few times until it’s all finely minced.
- Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and pulse again. Repeat a few times until you get a creamy consistency.
- Finally, add the cream and mix well to incorporate. Set aside.
- In a large pot bring to boil salted water and toss the gnocchi one by one so they won't stick to each other. Scoop them out as soon as they float to the surface. It will take about 1-2 minutes to cook.
- In a bowl, mix the gnocchi with the basil pesto and serve immediately.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.