Creamy pesto gnocchi is a simple 30-minute, one-pan meatless dinner recipe that tastes like a dish from a fine dining restaurant! The recipe features basil pesto that you can buy in the store or make it from scratch. It's so easy and tasty, this delicious restaurant-quality meal might become a new family favorite!
Creamy pesto gnocchi - why you'll love it
If you're looking for an easy dinner made with basic ingredients, look no further! In this meatless recipe, everything is cooked in one skillet: veggies, cream sauce, and even gnocchi! This incredibly easy dinner comes together in just 30 minutes and takes little effort, yet the presentation is stunning and restaurant-worthy! It's a perfect choice for both busy family weeknights and special occasions when entertaining guests. Creamy pesto gnocchi is comforting, creamy, and flavorful. If you're looking for another cozy gnocchi recipe, be sure to try my creamy sausage gnocchi or chicken gnocchi or gnocchi with tomato sauce.
One-pan 30-minute meal
Creamy pesto gnocchi takes only 30 minutes to make. The clean-up after dinner is minimal - only one cooking pan to clean! Serve it as a meatless main dish or a side dish with your favorite proteins (steaks, pork, chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, shrimp, etc).
What is gnocchi?
Gnocchi originated in Italy and is basically dumplings made of small lumps of dough. The gnocchi dough is usually made by combining wheat flour, potatoes, eggs, and seasonings. Technically, gnocchi is not pasta (since they are made as dumplings), however, gnocchi is often categorized as pasta.
- Gnocchi. I used store-bought potato gnocchi, Delallo brand, made with 85% potatoes.
- Basil pesto. This is a perfect recipe for store-bought basil pesto. My favorite store-bought brands are the refrigerated kinds, such as Buitoni or Whole Foods. You can also make basil pesto from scratch.
- Cherry tomatoes. I love using 2 colors - yellow and red - they add so much vibrancy to recipes.
- Sun-dried tomatoes. I used the kind packed in olive oil. Drain the oil really well and use the oil to cook the asparagus.
- Asparagus adds a nice savory flavor to creamy pesto gnocchi. Don't skip it!
- Heavy cream is used to cook gnocchi and adds creaminess to the sauce.
- Chicken stock is also used for cooking gnocchi. You can also use water if you don't have chicken stock.
Creamy Pesto Gnocchi (One-Pan, 30-Minute Meal)
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes drained of oil, chopped
- 1 lb asparagus ends trimmed, cut in 1.5 inch pieces
- 16 oz potato gnocchi
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning or Herbs from Provence
- ¼ cup basil pesto
- 5 oz cherry tomatoes (yellow and red), sliced in half
- salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
- red pepper flakes to taste
- Heat a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus (ends trimmed), seasoned generously with salt, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. (Since you're using sun-dried tomatoes in oil, there should be enough oil from sun-dried tomatoes to cook the veggies).
- Cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the asparagus is cooked through. Remove the asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes to a plate.
- To the same skillet, add uncooked potato gnocchi, chicken broth, heavy cream, minced garlic, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil on medium heat and stir everything well. Cover with lid, and allow the gnocchi to cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat, while the sauce boils.
- Once the gnocchi is cooked through, add basil pesto and stir it in.
- Add sliced cherry tomatoes. Add back cooked asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook on low heat, stirring frequently for 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Cook longer if you would like a thicker sauce. Add more basil pesto, if you like.
- Mix everything well. Remove from heat.
- Season with salt, freshly ground coarse black pepper, and red pepper flakes, if you like.
- My favorite store-bought basil pesto is always the refrigerated kind. I especially like the Buitoni brand and Whole Foods. Or, make basil pesto from scratch.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
What goes well with pesto gnocchi?
Add your favorite protein to turn this meatless dish into a well-balanced, complete meal. Easy ideas are leftover cooked chicken, rotisserie chicken, grilled meats, shrimp, salmon, or scallops. Here are my favorite protein-based recipes that pair well with pesto gnocchi:
- Shrimp Scampi with Capers
- Garlic Parmesan Baked Salmon
- Pan-Seared Salmon with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Greek Chicken
- Cajun Chicken
- Bacon Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
Substitutions, variations, and add-ins
- Pasta. If you don't have gnocchi, the next best substitute is short-cut pasta, such as bow-tie (farfalle), spiral pasta (fusilli), penne, or rigatoni.
- Basil pesto. I love making basil pesto from scratch, but the store-bought kind works just fine in this recipe! I prefer pesto sold in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores. You can also use sun-dried tomato pesto.
- Veggies. This recipe is easy to customize based on what's available. Choose your favorite veggies or use this recipe to clean up the fridge! I recommend tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, and arugula.
How to make it dairy-free
- Omit heavy cream and use your favorite dairy-free substitute. Unsweetened coconut milk works great!
- If using thinner dairy-free milk alternatives such as oat milk or almond milk, skip the chicken stock in the recipe and use dairy-free milk instead. Cook gnocchi in the milk a little bit longer. The longer gnocchi cooks, the more starch it releases, and the thicker the sauce gets.
How to make basil pesto from scratch
Here is a simple recipe for my favorite version of homemade basil pesto. This amount of ingredients makes about 1 cup or 1.5 cups of basil pesto.
The ingredients for basil pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- ½ cup pine nuts toasted
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly shredded
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- salt and pepper to taste
The directions for making basil pesto
- Place all ingredients (except salt and pepper) in the food processor and blend for about 5 minutes or 10 minutes until you get the pesto-like sauce.
- You might have to work in batches.
- If low on basil, you can add spinach, arugula, or parsley.
- Add salt to taste.
Tips for Success
- Do you have to pre-cook gnocchi? No, you don't! It takes only about 5 minutes of boiling gnocchi on medium-high heat to cook them! Just add the uncooked gnocchi directly to the creamy sauce.
- The longer you cook the gnocchi, the thicker the sauce. As you cook the gnocchi in the sauce, the starch from the gnocchi is released which helps to thicken the sauce. Keep that in mind if you want a thinner or thicker sauce. For example, if you want to make this lower in fat, cook the gnocchi in milk longer. The longer you cook the gnocchi, the thicker the sauce.
- Use a high-sided, heavy-bottomed cooking pan such as a cast-iron skillet or a good-quality stainless steel pan. This will help avoid the burn spots and will ensure even cooking without food getting stuck to the bottom of the pan.
What to serve with creamy pesto gnocchi
- Bread. Serve this easy recipe with something equally simple, such as a slice of store-bought, warm Italian bread, garlic bread, or olive bread loaf. Breadsticks are great, too!
- Simple green salad with your favorite store-bought salad dressing.
- Greek Salad
- Strawberry Spinach Salad
- Asparagus Tomato Salad with Burrata Cheese and Pine Nuts
Storage and reheating tips
- Fridge. Store creamy pesto gnocchi in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Freezer. Freeze it in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
- Reheat in the microwave oven. Reheat the refrigerated pesto gnocchi in a microwave oven for about 1 minute. Taste and reheat for 30 seconds more, if needed.
- Reheat on the stovetop. Reheat this dish in a large, high-sided skillet on the stovetop on low-medium heat. When using this method, add a small amount of heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk to thin out the sauce when reheating.
Other pasta recipes to make with basil pesto
One of the classic ways to use pesto is as a pasta sauce. Just tossing pasta with homemade basil pesto is enough to create a flavorful simple dish. However, you can go even further, and add chicken, shrimp, and veggies. Here are some delicious reader-favorite pasta dishes:
- Pesto Shrimp Mushroom Pasta
- Pesto Chicken Tortellini and Veggies
- Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Pine Nuts
- Chicken and Zucchini Basil Pesto Tortellini