On July 3rd, 2016, my life changed forever. It was on this day that I ate one of the best meals of my life: gnocchi and pesto cream sauce.
I was visiting one of my dear friends from college, who happens to live in our college town of Gainesville, Florida (Go Gators!). We all went to one of the best restaurants in town, called, fittingly enough, The Top. I had been there many times before but wanted to try something different so I ordered a popular dish in their Yelp reviews, which was their gnocchi with pesto cream sauce.
Wait – before I continue, let me explain what gnocchi are, for those of you who don’t know. Gnocchi are small little potato dumplings that are native to Italy and typically served with sauce. It’s made similarly to pasta, except with potato added to the dough.
Okay, back to my story.
I was a little hesitant at first because I wasn’t the biggest fan of gnocchi – the previous times I had it, it was too dense and bland. But I love pesto so I gave it a shot.
And thank goodness I did! The gnocchi were the lightest little clouds from heaven that melted in my mouth and the sauce was so rich and creamy and full of so much flavor. Every single bite made me moan in happiness. How did I not discover this sooner?!
It’s been more than two months since I discovered this meal but I haven’t forgotten it. I’d been planning to recreate it and finally I did it!
Today’s post has two separate recipes: one for the gnocchi and one for the pesto cream sauce. You can obviously use a different pasta or a difference sauce if you don’t want both elements, but I am telling you: the combination of these two will change your life just like it did mine.
First let’s talk about the pesto cream sauce. It’s super simple. Just pesto and cream. But here’s the thing: I’ve never made pesto before. I hate taking out my food processor so I avoid it as much as I can. But now I had a reason to make it.
It took all of 5 mins to process the ingredients together. That’s it! Parmesan, basil, garlic, toasted pine nuts, and olive oil. Simple as that.
To complete the sauce, add butter and cream to a saute pan to warm it up a little. Then, add the pesto and combine together. Let the sauce bubble a little and then reduce to a simmer. Then add the cooked gnocchi straight to the sauce. If the gnocchi isn’t formed yet and ready for boiling, don’t start the sauce. It doesn’t taste as creamy when you heat it up again so it’s best to wait until you’re about to serve the gnocchi to make it.
Speaking of gnocchi, let’s talk about making it from scratch. It’s even fewer ingredients than the pesto: potatoes, flour, and egg. Boom. That’s it. Maybe a few more steps but I’ll walk you through everything. You got this!
But there are a couple things that you need to do to make sure the gnocchi come out light and airy:
- You must use a potato that is starchy and has thick skin, like a Russet potato. If you use a red potato or Yukon gold, it will have too much water (and absorb even more water when you boil them) that it will make your gnocchi gummy and dense. Yuck.
- And on that note: make sure you don’t peel them or cut them into pieces when you boil them (i.e. you must boil them whole), or they will be exposed to too much water and absorb it while they boil.
- Use a potato ricer to break up the potato. Do not use a food processor or it will make the gnocchi gummy and pasty. It will be impossible to work with. The ricer makes the potato super fluffy so it will mix easily with the flour and egg. I didn’t have a ricer so I had to buy one. This is the one I got and it worked perfectly.
- Do not over-work the dough. You just need to combine it enough to bring it all together. Otherwise, your gnocchi will be dense and tough.
- If you want to save some time, you can make them ahead of time and and place in the fridge in a storage container after boiling. Make sure to toss in oil so they don’t stick together. When you’re about to serve, heat sauce in a saute pan, add gnocchi and heat them up together so the gnocchi absorbs the flavors of the sauce.
- This recipe makes enough for 12 people. If you don’t need that much, you can freeze the unboiled gnocchi and save for later. To freeze: toss unboiled gnocchi in a little flour. Place on a baking sheet and make sure none of the gnocchi are touching. Freeze until solid. Once they are solid, you can place the frozen gnocchi in a storage bag or container and keep for later. Just toss them into a pot of boiling water when ready to make.
Okay guys. Now you know how to make this amazing dish. You gotta make this for your next dinner party or romantic evening or any other time you want to impress someone with an incredible meal. It’s a showstopper, trust me.
Here are all the kitchen tools and serveware that I used in this post. For each item that is sold, I receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting the brands that support CPA!