Pesto Gnocchi with Sun Dried Tomatoes
on Jul 17, 2023
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Ready in 15 minutes, this pesto gnocchi has sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, Parmesan and pine nuts. It deserves a permanent spot on your weeknight dinner list. Take advantage of the convenience of store-bought gnocchi and jarred sun-dried tomatoes to make this recipe. It’s up to you whether you whip up your own batch of pesto or buy a jar of that too.
If you’re looking for other easy gnocchi recipes, then also try this Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Cherry Tomatoes.
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
It relies on convenient pantry ingredients. We all can use more recipes that don’t require a last minute trip to the store. I like to keep a package of gnocchi in my pantry at all times. And the same goes for sun dried tomatoes and basil pesto. My preference is a homemade version of this herby sauce that I have stashed in my freezer, but a store-bought jar will work wonders too.
The sauce turns out silky without using heavy cream. To give the sauce a subtle creaminess, I stir in some of the cooking water from the pot that I simmer the gnocchi in. The starch in the water works its magic to thicken the pesto, so it coats the gnocchi. I add fresh lemon juice to the sauce for a nice brightness and acidity. Because there isn’t any cream, this eats like a lighter version of comfort food.
Spinach is a simple way to add greens and nutrition. After stirring the gnocchi into the pesto, I fold in spinach. The leaves quickly wilt from the heat. This strategy is great for pretty much any pasta dish you make. If you want to add leafy greens, use the warmth that’s already there to soften them, so they meld right in with everything else.
This recipe is great no matter the season. I am a big fan of seasonal eating. Since you can use jarred pesto and sun dried tomatoes, this dish is a great pick-me-up during the cold winter months and still tastes good during summer too.
What is Gnocchi?
Made with potatoes, flour, egg yolks, Parmesan, salt and pepper, these Italian dumplings are easy to find on the pasta shelves in the grocery. Technically, they aren’t pasta, but you can use many of the same sauces that you would with noodles.
Before you ask, you can make your own gnocchi from scratch, and I encourage you to give it a try. It’s a kitchen project that’s worth the time. But never hesitate to use packaged gnocchi. It is one of those incredibly convenient supermarket buys that makes it so easy to quickly put together a fantastic dinner.
This is what you need:
- Gnocchi: The recipe requires a 1-pound package of potato gnocchi. You can substitute and use cauliflower gnocchi or another gluten-free version if you prefer that.
- Pesto: As mentioned, you can use homemade pesto or just buy it. Typically I prefer making it from scratch because it has a fresher flavor, but since you end up simmering the sauce in this recipe, it does have a more cooked flavor. So it doesn’t matter.
- Sun Dried Tomatoes: Use sun dried tomatoes that come packed in oil rather than buying the ones that you have to soak and rehydrate. Use a fork to get them out of the jar to chop them. You don’t need the oil.
- Spinach: I love this gnocchi recipe with spinach, but you can also use baby arugula. Both of these are more tender greens. If you prefer something with more texture that won’t end up so soft and wilted, then use heartier chopped kale.
- Pine nuts add nutty crunch. I know they can be pricy. Chopped walnuts or almonds are less expensive options. No matter the type, nuts will have more flavor if you toast them. You can do this in a 350-degree F oven for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they can burn quickly.
- Parmesan: I stir grated Parmesan cheese into the gnocchi and sauce. You can substitute with pecorino, which is more pungent and salty.
- Lemon: The sauce turns into a lemon pesto because I squeeze in the juice of a lemon for citrus flavor.
- Red pepper flakes, salt & pepper are the only seasonings that you need. You have to remember that there is already garlic in the pesto itself.
- Roasted veggies: If you want to include more vegetables, try roasted broccoli, cauliflower or even butternut squash depending on the season and what you have in your kitchen.
- Herbs: If you have fresh basil leaves, parsley or chives, go ahead and stir them in along with the Parmesan. Pesto is an herb sauce that plays well with other herbs.
How To Make This Pesto Gnocchi Recipe
1. Cook the gnocchi. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Then simmer the gnocchi according to the recommended cook time on the package. Gnocchi rises to the top of the water when it’s ready. I use a slotted spoon or a spider to scoop it out. Then I take a ladle and save 1/2 cup of cooking water because it will go into the sauce.
2. Simmer the pesto with lemon juice and the cooking water. It should be at a very low bubble. Give it 2-3 minutes to thicken a little. If you are using fresh pesto, the bright green color will darken as it simmers.
3. Stir the gnocchi into the pesto. You want it to be really well coated and still see plenty of sauce in the skillet.
4. Add the sun dried tomatoes and spinach. Stir gently. It will look like a lot of spinach at first, but it will wilt.
5. Stir in the Parmesan, pine nuts, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
What to Serve with Gnocchi
Enjoy this gnocchi main dish with a simple salad like an Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette or for something more, try an Italian Chopped Salad. It is up to you, but you can also include a piece of crusty bread, so you can soak up every last bit of the pesto sauce.
If you are serving chicken or another protein, you can treat this recipe like a side dish. It’s so easy to make that it wouldn’t take too much of your cooking attention from the main—always a good thing for any side.
Leftovers & Storage
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Warm them in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat on the stove. If you do warm them on the stove, you may need to add a little water to the pan to thin out what’s left of the sauce. Once the gnocchi leftovers are warm, then I recommend adding some fresh spinach. You can also finish your gnocchi with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Timing is everything. This recipe goes fast. It’s best to have the water in the pot for the gnocchi boiling. Then you can put the skillet on another burner. If you start the gnocchi and sauce at the same time, side-by-side, it’s very easy to scoop the gnocchi directly into the pesto.
Don’t overcook the gnocchi. Look at the recommended cook time on the package and watch for the gnocchi bob up to the surface of the water. You want them to be pillowy and light.
Be careful when heating the sauce. You should see minimal bubbles at a low simmer. Remember that the gnocchi will be hot going into to the warm sauce, so you don’t need to crank the heat on high.
Gnocchi will float to the top of the water in the pot when it is ready.
Yes. Just use pesto without cheese, and skip the Parmesan in the recipe. You can sprinkle the final dish with nutritional yeast.
Tomato sauce, pesto and brown butter are all wonderful with gnocchi.
More Gnocchi Recipes
Pesto Gnocchi with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Spinach
- 1 pound shelf-stable gnocchi
- 3/4 cup basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes oil drained
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Cook the gnocchi according to package instructions. Save 1/2 cup cooking water.
- Warm the pesto over medium heat in a large skillet on the stove. Add the reserved cooking water and lemon juice. Give it 2-3 minutes start bubbling and to thicken slightly.
- Stir the gnocchi into the sauce.
- Fold in the sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Continue cooking until the spinach wilts, about 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in the pine nuts, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
- Top with additional grated Parmesan as desired before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.