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This pesto gnocchi recipe comes out irresistibly creamy in 10 minutes! Use this trick for a tasty and easy side dish in a flash.

Pesto Gnocchi
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Here’s a trick to a fast side dish or simple dinner: this Skillet Pesto Gnocchi! Get this: you don’t even need to boil the gnocchi! Cook up these Italian potato dumplings right in a skillet and they cook right in the sauce, helping to thicken it as they release starch. Stir in purchased pesto and you’ve got a bright and herbaceous sauce: in just 10 minutes total. This trick has become a staple in our house when we need a quick meal!

Pesto gnocchi: how it works!

Gnocchi (pronounced NYOW-kee) are Italian pasta dumplings made with potatoes, egg and flour. Typically in a gnocchi recipe, you boil it up then add the dumplings to a sauce. But in this recipe, everything cooks in one skillet! You can cook both the sauce and the gnocchi in just 5 minutes. That’s pretty magical, in our opinion! Here’s what to know about the process:

  • In a deep skillet, bring milk and basil pesto to a simmer. Once it’s ready, add the gnocchi.
  • Add uncooked gnocchi and cook about 5 minutes. The dumplings cook right in the sauce, and as they cook they release starch. The sauce becomes thick and saucy, then add the Parmesan cheese.
  • Adjust flavors to taste. See below!
Pesto gnocchi

Pesto to use, and how to adjust flavors

Here’s the thing about pesto: purchased pesto varies greatly between brands. Even more importantly, jarred pesto is nothing like the fresh flavor of the real thing. Many purchased brands taste intensely acidic or have an odd aftertaste. Here’s what to know:

  • Purchased pesto brands vary greatly, so find one you love. We’ve experimented with lots of different jars: and they all have a different salt and acid level. But when it’s the winter, it’s t the only option!
  • Homemade pesto has the best flavor! Again, this is only an option when you have loads of fresh basil. But Basil Pesto is best homemade.
  • After cooking the pesto gnocchi, taste and adjust flavors. Add a pinch or two of salt, then if it needs it add up to 1 tablespoon additional pesto. It all depends on the brand!
  • Lemon zest adds freshness. If you happen to have a lemon on hand, lemon zest balances out the flavor of purchased pesto.

Can you use homemade gnocchi?

If you have time and energy, you can make homemade gnocchi with potatoes and flour. But it’s a bit of a process! Do it on a day off when you have energy to channel Italian grandmother vibes. If you make homemade gnocchi, we don’t suggest using it here. We’ve only tested this recipe with purchased gnocchi, and homemade have a different texture. Add your favorite marinara or butter sauce for those!

Basil pesto
Homemade pesto has a brighter green color and fresher flavor than purchased. If you don’t have access to fresh basil, use jarred pesto!

Serve pesto gnocchi as a side or main

You can eat pesto gnocchi as an easy side dish, or even a main dish if you accessorize it properly! Here are a few things to note:

Pesto gnocchi

More recipes with gnocchi

There are lots of ways to cook gnocchi! Here are a few of our favorite gnocchi recipes:

This pesto gnocchi recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free gnocchi.

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Pesto gnocchi

Pesto Gnocchi

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 0 minutes
  • Cook Time: 7 minutes
  • Total Time: 7 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 1x


This pesto gnocchi recipe comes out irresistibly creamy in 10 minutes! Use this trick for a tasty and easy side dish in a flash.


  • 1 pound purchased uncooked gnocchi
  • ¼ cup basil pesto (purchased or Homemade Basil Pesto), plus 1 tablespoon to finish
  • 1 ½ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to finish
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Zest of 1/4 lemon, optional


  1. In a deep skillet, bring the milk, pesto, and salt to a gentle simmer. Add the gnocchi, breaking it apart with your fingers if any are stuck together.
  2. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the gnocchi are tender and the sauce becomes creamy. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until it melts. 
  3. Taste the sauce and add salt (we usually add ⅛ teaspoon) and if it needs it, the final 1 tablespoon pesto. Add a bit of lemon zest if you have it, which freshens the flavors even more. The amounts will vary since all pesto brands are differently salted and flavored. Serve immediately. The sauce becomes very thick as it sits, so if necessary, add a splash of milk and reheat, stirring until creamy. Store leftovers refrigerated for 3 days and reheat in the same way. (You can also serve this as a main dish like pasta: just add some vegetables and additional protein.)
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Colette says:

    This might be one of my favorite recipes, ever. It’s so decadent, yet simple. Cooking gnocchi this way is a game (life) changer. I will be making this often, can’t wait to try it with homemade pesto. Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes!

  2. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!