Eating pasta for dinner always feels like a special occasion. And, although gnocchi isn’t actually pasta, this recipe of pesto gnocchi with asparagus is comfort food at its finest! This dish is so simple to make with basil pesto and a few ingredients, but it tastes like something you would get at a fine restaurant.
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.
Asparagus adds a touch of sweetness and crunch to this dish. You will love how simple and tasty this meal is!
Restaurant Style Pasta Dinner
If you’re looking for a quick and easy “pasta” dish that tastes like it came from a restaurant, then this pesto gnocchi with asparagus recipe is perfect for you.
This meal can be on your table in less than 30 minutes, making it the perfect weeknight dinner. These quick and easy dinner recipes are ideal for a busy nights.
The key to making this dish taste as if it came from a restaurant is to use high quality ingredients. I prefer to use homemade gnocchi or fresh, but you can use store bought gnocchi if you’re short on time.
The best part about this dish is that it can be easily customized to your liking. If you’re not a fan of asparagus, you can use any vegetable that you like. Peas, broccoli, and green beans would all be great substitutes.
Ingredients for gnocchi with pesto sauce
- Toasted pine nuts – base of our pesto, as they add richness and nutty flavor
- Garlic – adds great flavor to the pesto
- Lemon juice – adds brightness and acidity to the pesto
- Fresh basil leaves – this is the key to a great pesto
- Parmesan cheese – adds a nutty saltiness to the pesto
- Extra virgin olive oil – helps turn the pesto from a paste to a sauce
- Gnocchi – you can use fresh or frozen or dried (see notes)
- Asparagus – can substitute with fresh green beans
- Use any type of dried, fresh, or frozen gnocchi. See recipe notes about cooking times.
- Instead of asparagus, you can use any vegetables, like peas, small broccoli florets, green beans, etc.
- Use fresh green basil, not wilted and bruised because it can make a bitter basil pesto.
- If you prefer this recipe to be vegan, then feel free to substitute the parmesan cheese with a dairy-free parmesan or leave it out entirely.
- I recommend using a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Add a lemon zest for a fresh flavor.
Equipment used for this recipe
Cooking the pesto gnocchi
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Keep the water at a boil until you’re ready to cook the gnocchi.
Put the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Then pulse them 10 times until broken up.
Next, add the basil and parmesan. Pulse the ingredients 10 times until the basil is broken into small pieces.
With the food processor on low speed, slowly add ⅓ cup olive oil. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus pieces and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
While the asparagus is cooking, cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes less than the time on the package. So, if the package says to cook for 6 minutes, cook it for 4 minutes.
Then, reserve ½ cup of the gnocchi cooking liquid and drain the gnocchi.
Put the gnocchi in the skillet with the asparagus. Add the pesto and ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute, just until the pesto sauce thickens and coats the gnocchi evenly. So, if it is too dry, add the remaining ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Variation for Pesto Gnocchi Recipes
Chicken Pesto Gnocchi: serve this with our pan seared chicken breasts or baked chicken tenderloins to make this a pesto gnocchi chicken dinner. Or, stir in some diced cooked rotisserie chicken for a quick and easy chicken pesto gnocchi.
Creamy Pesto Gnocchi: stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream to make a creamy sauce for a Creamy Pesto Gnocchi.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you bought fresh premade gnocchi from the store, you can cook it by frying it in a pan. But if it’s dried gnocchi, you need to cook it by boiling it before frying.
No, you don’t need to defrost it. It will just stick together if you thaw it. You can just cook it frozen. It will just take a little longer to cook for about two minutes longer.
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.
Get the Full pesto gnocchi Recipe Here
Pesto Gnocchi and Asparagus
- stockpot (for gnocchi)
- food processor (for pesto sauce)
- large skillet
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 pound gnocchi (use fresh, frozen, or dried gnocchi)
- 2 cups asparagus, cut into 1” pieces
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Keep the water at a boil until you’re ready to cook the gnocchi.
- Add the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are broken up– about 10 times. Next add the basil and parmesan and pulse until the basil is broken into small pieces– about 10 pulses. With the food processor on low speed, slowly drizzle in ⅓ cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes, or just until crisp tender.
- While the asparagus sautés, cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes less than the time on the package– if the gnocchi says to boil for 6 minutes, then boil it for 4 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the gnocchi cooking liquid and then drain the gnocchi.
- Add the gnocchi to the skillet with the asparagus. Add the pesto 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 and serve warm, at room temperature, 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.