This Creamy Pesto Gnocchi is a comforting, family-friendly vegetarian meal or side dish that takes just 20 minutes from start to finish. Cook the gnocchi straight in the sauce for a true one pan wonder you’ll enjoy time and again.

Small wooden bowl with a serving of creamy pesto gnocchi.

Another one pan, ultra-fast wonder coming your way, and bonus: it’s semi-elegant comfort food. Tender gnocchi are always cozy, yes, but a simple yet elevated cream sauce with a dash of lemon juice and an optional glug of white wine makes this feel like you tried. Correction: you didn’t just try, you won dinner tonight.

This recipe is:

  • Truly one pan. The gnocchi cook right in the sauce, no boiling or draining needed.
  • Minimal prep. Mince garlic, grate Parmesan, juice a lemon. No other chopping.
  • Quick-cooking. Even in a simmering sauce, gnocchi cook in well under 10 minutes.
  • Irresistible. Whether it’s for the soft gnocchi pillows or the rich cream sauce, you can be sure you’ll spot people sneaking “one more bite.”

Pesto is the Best-o

So lame, yes, but hey – it’s not wrong! A fresh, nutty basil pesto is a pantry essential for whipping up flavorful meals on a dime. And yes, you can just use it as a dip, spread over grilled chicken, or toss into some pasta salad, but it’s also the perfect shortcut and base for a cream sauce like this one.

This pesto gnocchi recipe is inspired by our beloved copycat pesto cavatappi, which relies on a light and luscious cream sauce. We borrow some technique from this Tuscan tortellini, which cooks filled pasta directly in a sauce for the sake of beautiful, beautiful simplicity. I know I am always glad for even one less pot to wash at the end of the day.

Ingredients & Common Substitutions

Here is a visual overview of the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities!

Labeled photo of prep bowls containing uncooked potato gnocchi, cream, lemon juice, garlic, white wine, Parmesan, pesto, garlic, basil, and olive oil.

A few notes and shopping tips:

  • Gnocchi: We’re using the dried, shelf-stable gnocchi here, which are typically found with the dried pasta in a central aisle. Fresh gnocchi will cook much more quickly, which sounds terrific, but may or may not allow sufficient time for the sauce to thicken to your liking.
  • Cream: Yes, you can substitute half and half here.
  • Pesto: DeLallo is my favorite store-bought brand, but nothing beats homemade if you can swing it!
  • Broth or white wine: Chicken broth, veggie broth, or a dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, all work in this recipe.
  • Parmesan: Freshly-grated is wonderful, but pre-grated works, too, as long as it’s a quality brand and grated into very fine particles, because you’ll want it to melt partially into the sauce.

How To Make a Good Gnocchi with Pesto

Sure, you could just dump a bunch of pesto over cooked gnocchi and call it a day, but why stop there, when with just a couple extra minutes of work, you can enjoy the same pillowy potato gnocchi in a more subtle, smooth cream sauce that still has all the vibrant benefits of pesto. This feels a lot more fancy, but is actually barely more work.

Pro Tip: For best results, use a skillet with a well-fitting lid! Having a good lidded sauté pan is an excellent investment, and they come in a variety of price points – low, medium, high.

  1. Make cream sauce. A simple sauté of garlic gets things started, then the pesto, cream, and wine or broth rounds it out.
  2. Cook gnocchi. Start checking for doneness after 4 minutes of covered simmer
  3. Finish it off. Parmesan, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Large skillet with gnocchi piled high in the middle of a light pesto cream sauce.
Creamy pesto gnocchi just cooked in a skillet.

Can I add meat or veggies?

Yes! Crumble in Italian sausage at the beginning, or stir in some pre-cooked shredded chicken or grilled shrimp at the end, for some added protein. You can also sauté mushrooms, bell peppers, cherry or sun-dried tomatoes alongside the garlic, or add a cup of frozen peas at the end.

Is gnocchi a main dish or a side?

The beauty of gnocchi is it can be either!

Now, if you were dining in Italy, traditional menus consider gnocchi to be a “primo piatto” – literally a “first dish” – to be enjoyed after an appetizer but before a “secondo piatto” of fish or meat. Gnocchi may also be offered as a “contorno” – side dish – alongside the protein.

This said, we’re not all about following such rules strictly, even if it can be fun to know what they are! When it comes to getting a simple, tasty dinner on the table for your family, I say serve this right up as a main, and mix in a protein or veggie as suits your taste. But if you’re looking to wow dinner guests, serve this up as a “primo piatto” and bask in the glow.

Small wooden bowl with a serving of creamy pesto gnocchi.

Storage & Reheating

Store any leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. The gnocchi will keep well and can be easily reheated over medium heat on the stovetop — add a splash of water or broth to keep it from sticking — or in a quick burst of the microwave.

More Gnocchi Recipes

Can’t get enough of those tender little bites? Me neither! For a simple variation, try this gnocchi with pesto, mushrooms, and charred cherry tomatoes. Love a velvety sauce? Gnocchi with vodka sauce can’t be beat. And if you’re craving a comforting soup, this crockpot creamy chicken gnocchi soup is a ringer.

If you try this Creamy Pesto Gnocchi, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.

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Small wooden bowl with a serving of creamy pesto gnocchi.
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Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

This creamy pesto gnocchi recipe makes a fantastic side or meatless main course. It takes 20 minutes and is ultra-simple – made in one pan!

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth, veggie broth, or dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto
  • 1 pound potato gnocchi uncooked
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • fresh basil optional garnish

Instructions

  • Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. (Use a skillet with a lid.) Add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds, just until fragrant, then stir in the cream, broth, and pesto.
  • Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, then stir in the gnocchi. Cover the skillet and cook for 4 minutes, untouched.
  • Uncover the pan, stir well, and test a gnocchi. Continue to cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the gnocchi is tender and the sauce slightly thickened.
  • When the gnocchi is tender, stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice to taste. (I usually start with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 8-10 cranks of black pepper, but this can vary to taste and depending on how salty your pesto is.)
  • Garnish with fresh basil, more Parmesan, and lemon zest, if desired, and serve.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 479kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 61mg, Sodium: 796mg, Potassium: 78mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 1170IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 237mg, Iron: 4mg
Did you make this recipe?Leave a review below, then snap a quick picture and tag @nourishandfete on Instagram so I can see it!