Roasted gnocchi has a wonderful added texture and bite that you can’t get from boiling alone. Toss it in a chunky vegan almond pesto for a fragrant, satisfying dinner. The meal only takes about 25 minutes to make, because it uses frozen gnocchi.
I still remember that night at Heather’s apartment. We were in the wee days of our early twenties. I traversed the stairs to her place where she was boiling pasta.
We’d met in high school. But now she was newly married and cooking us dinner.
This was uncharted territory. Usually we were meeting over booths and plates of nachos.
Now she was married with living room shelves loaded with her husband’s Star Wars action figures. He had a vast array of Storm Troopers to create a full army of plastic men.
(My boyfriend at the time had decorated our living room with Lego sets. What can I say? We all had a type.)
My friend tossed hot pasta in deep green pesto from a jar.
Regardless of the jar, to my sensibilities it seemed straight up fancy. My go-to pasta sauces were also from jars, but stuffed with tomatoes and zucchini.
This one had the freshly cut grass smell of basil, notes of garlic, and the nutty depth of pine nuts.
Action figures or no, it all felt so adult, like new terrain we were treading. It felt like playing dress-up in these new lives as grown-ups.
Looking back on those days long ago, I can’t help but think of how much time has passed between then and now – not just in days and hours but in life phases.
At each step of our lives, it feels like now is the way it will always be. We’ll always fall asleep in these beds and wake up to this breakfast…
Until one day you realize you haven’t made that once-favorite meal or gone to that once-favorite restaurant in many moons.
The days are long, but the years are short
Gretchen Rubin, who wrote The Happiness Project, said, “The days are long, but the years are short.”
Each day has its routine. Going to the bank, doing the laundry, washing dishes…
They stretch to fill until suddenly you’re in an altogether different place. And yesterday’s normal is not today’s.
Yesterday’s fancy is today’s simple spring meal – chunky homemade vegan almond pesto with just-plucked basil and fresh-from-the-ground garlic.
It’s tossed with crisp-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside roasted gnocchi.
And it’s everything I need to revisit a full mouthful of spring… just add Storm Troopers.
What is gnocchi?
Gnocchi is an Italian dish.
It is also one of the most commonly mispronounced food words. If you’re American, it’s pronounced nok-ee or noh-kee. If you’re Italian, you already know how to pronounce it. Haha! (Italians pronounce it nyawk-kee.)
However you say it, gnocchi are little potato dumplings made with potatoes and flour (along with a variety of other ingredients).
Obviously, gnocchi can be made from scratch. However, for a quick lunch or dinner, I usually buy pre-packaged gnocchi.
(If you’d prefer to make it from scratch, there’s a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance that I like. I haven’t tried roasting it afterwards, though.)
How to find egg-free gnocchi
You can find gnocchi in shelf stable packages in the aisles of your grocery store or in the frozen section.
Gnocchi is often made with egg. So you’ll want to read the ingredients before purchasing.
My favorite gnocchi brand is in the frozen section from Rising Moon Organics. Their gnocchi is also gluten free. That means this whole dish is gluten-free if you’re using their pasta.
According to the package, the 8-ounce container of gnocchi serves two. If you’ll be having sides as well, it will cover two people for a light meal. But if you’re only having gnocchi and nothing else, I’d say it serves one well.
I used to make gnocchi by boiling it alone. Those are the directions on the package.
However, once I started roasting gnocchi, my boiling-only days were over.
Roasting takes simple gnocchi up a notch by adding extra chewiness and bite. It leaves mushy, boiled-only gnocchi in the dust.
Let’s face it, almost any dish is better with nutty brown spots from roasting.
How to roast it
To make roasted gnocchi, first cook the gnocchi according to package directions by boiling it. When the pillowy gnocchi rises to the top, you know it’s ready.
Drain the gnocchi. And then dry it on a clean kitchen towel.
Gnocchi roasts best when it’s dry. If there are pools of water on your baking sheet, you’re not going to get the results you want.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roast the gnocchi for ten minutes.
You’ll want to flip the gnocchi part way through cooking.
Wait until it is brown on one side. Then flip it over, and continue cooking for the remainder of time.
That will give the pillowy gnocchi a crusty browned exterior that has a wonderful texture and bite.
What sauce to serve with it?
Gnocchi is terrific with marinara, of course. But for a brighter take on roasted gnocchi, I like to toss it in homemade vegan pesto.
There are endless possibilities for pesto. You can use a variety of seeds, leafy greens, and add-ins.
For this recipe, I made a chunky vegan almond pesto. It’s heavy on the nuts and low on the oil. So the nuts keep a lot of their crunch.
If you’d like a smoother or more sauce-like pesto, you can add in fewer nuts and/or more oil. If you’re a fan of pistachios in pesto, try this cilantro basil pesto instead.
I like to add miso paste to my vegan pesto for added cheesiness.
For even more cheesiness, throw a Tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast flakes into the pesto.
Or finish the dish with grated vegan parmesan, as I did here. I used Violife parmesan.
What sides to serve with it?
Roasted gnocchi with vegan almond pesto
- 8 ounce package gnocchi
- 1 teaspoon + 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Plus more, if desired
- 1 ½ cups loosely packed basil leaves
- ½ cup loosely packed cilantro rough stems removed
- 1-2 cloves garlic depending on your preferences & clove size, minced
- 1 Tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup roasted almonds
- 1 teaspoon white miso paste
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil gnocchi according to package directions and drain in a colander. Move the gnocchi to a clean kitchen towel to further dry. (Overly wet gnocchi won't roast as well.)
- Add drained, cooked gnocchi to a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Toss gnocchi in 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil and spread evenly across the baking sheet.
- Roast in oven for 10 minutes, stopping once to flip the gnocchi for even roasting. (Only flip the gnocchi once one side is brown.) Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a food processor combine the basil, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, roasted almonds, miso paste, and salt. Be careful about adding too much salt if you’re using salted almonds since miso is salty as well. Process until it is fully combined and like a paste. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides.
- If you'd like a smoother or saucier pesto, add extra virgin olive oil a Tablespoon at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.
- In a large bowl combine the roasted gnocchi with pesto and serve immediately.
Originally posted June 2013. Content updated March 2019.