This pesto gnocchi is a restaurant quality meal of tender potato pasta with crisp fresh asparagus in a light coating of fresh basil pesto sauce. The dish takes only 15 minutes to make, but it tastes like something you would order at a fine dining restaurant. Take dinner to the next level with this comfort food recipe!
Gnocchi (pronounced as nyow·kee) are little Italian dumplings made from potatoes, flour, and eggs. They are the perfect vessel for a creamy pesto sauce. Some gnocchi recipes use semolina flour instead of potatoes
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Reasons to Make Pesto Gnocchi
- Impressive dish that’s easy to make!
If you’re looking for a quick and easy Italian meal that tastes like it came from a restaurant, then this dish is perfect for you.
- 15-minute dinner recipe!
Asparagus gnocchi can be on your table in 15 minutes, making it the perfect weeknight dinner. 30-minute meals like this will be your best friend on busy weeknights.
- Customizable and adaptable.
The best part about this dish is that it can be easily customized to your liking. If you’re looking for a high protein meal, add some meat, or you want a vegan option, there are plenty of plant-based cheeses available.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
We prefer homemade fresh gnocchi, but you can use store-bought to save time. It’s available fresh, frozen, and dried.
- Basil Pesto – Homemade pesto only takes 5 minutes to make, and the flavor is so much better when it’s fresh! But, you can use store-bought if you prefer. You should be able to find it in the grocery store aisle where they stock the pasta sauces.
- Asparagus – If you aren’t a fan of asparagus gnocchi, you can use another small green veggie instead. Good options are peas, tiny broccoli florets, or green beans.
Tips for Perfect Asparagus and Potato Pasta
- Use plenty of salt.
Just like traditional pastas, semolina dumplings and potato pasta are very bland. Add a lot of salt to the water for the gnocchi – if the water tastes like the sea, you are using enough salt.
- Cook the gnocchi to “al dente”.
When you are boiling the potato pasta, cook it for a few minutes less than what the instructions say on the package. So, if the package says to cook for 6 minutes, just cook it for 4 minutes.
After boiling, it will go into the skillet with the asparagus, where it will finish cooking.
- Reserve some of the cooking water.
Use a heat-proof measuring cup to reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. You’ll use it to thin the sauce for the pesto gnocchi.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Creamy Pesto Gnocchi: stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream to make a sauce for added creaminess.
Serving Pesto Gnocchi
One of other great things about this gnocchi recipe is that the dish is fantastic at any temperature, even cold!
It’s a vegetarian dish, so it makes a great meatless meal, but it’s really good as a side dish, too. We like to serve it as a pasta salad at picnics and potlucks.
Or, to enjoy it like traditional semolina dumplings, serve it warm. It’s great with Italian sides like Tortellini Caprese Salad, and you can never go wrong with a basket of sourdough rolls or some caprese flatbread.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you cook it for a long time, it will absorb some of the liquid it is cooked in. This will make it chewy and dense. So, be careful not to overcook it.
15-Minute Pesto Gnocchi
- food processor
- large skillet
- pasta strainer
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice about 1/2 large lemon
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons), divided
- 1 pound gnocchi (fresh, frozen, or dried gnocchi)
- 2 cups chopped asparagus about 12 spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Keep the water at a boil until you’re ready to cook the gnocchi.
- To the bowl of a food processor or high speed blender, add the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice. Pulse about 10 times, until they are broken up. Next, add the basil and parmesan to the processor bowl and pulse 10 times again, until the basil is broken into small pieces.
- With the food processor on low speed, slowly drizzle in ⅓ cup olive oil. Taste the pesto and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, just until asparagus is crisp tender.
- While the asparagus sautés, cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes less than the package instructions call for (if the gnocchi says to boil for 6 minutes, then boil it for 4 minutes.) Reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid and then drain the gnocchi in a strainer.
- Add the cooked dumplings to the skillet with the asparagus. Add the pesto sauce and ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute, just until the pesto sauce thickens and evenly coats the gnocchi. If the sauce is too dry, add the remaining ¼ cup of reserved cooking water.
- Season with salt and pepper to your liking and serve immediately, or place in the fridge to chill– this gnocchi is delicious at room temperature, warm, or cold! Top with flakey sea salt, toasted pine nuts, and fresh basil, if desired.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
- You can use homemade, fresh, frozen, or dried gnocchi, just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- This recipe uses asparagus, but you could use other vegetables like peas, small broccoli florets, green beans, etc.
- This recipe is vegetarian as written. For a vegan option, substitute nutritional yeast for the cheese, or use a plant-based cheese alternative.
This post, first published in June 2022, was updated with new content in March 2023.