Pesto gnocchi

Gnocchi with Ultra Smooth Pesto

This Pesto Gnocchi recipe is surprisingly easy and quick to make and comes together in under 20 minutes. A really smooth, thick and creamy pesto is made with a blender and the results are incredible. To save (a lot!) of time, I use store bought gnocchi which cooks in minutes. The end result is a stunning, beautifully vibrant green pesto gnocchi which tastes incredible!

creamy pesto with gnocchi

The Best Fresh Pesto with Gnocchi

I love pesto but I’ll admit that it can sometimes be hit and miss. I’ve tried different methods but I’ve found that with the right equipment and the correct ratios, this way always comes out perfect.

A really good fresh pesto should have a strong basil flavour and be well emulsified. The emulsion part is particularly important for a great pesto as pesto isn’t technically a sauce, it’s an emulsion. The fat from the pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil is emulsified into added water whilst the basil flavours the emulsion.

I went to the birthplace of pesto, Genoa, in north west Italy last year and their pesto was incredible. Creamy and rich, just like it should be. So how do you make it just like the Genoese – well there’s a few options.

Blender or Mortar & Pestle?

The first question is what tool should you use to make an authentic pesto. Well for centuries a good old mortar and pestle have been used to make pesto. I had always used a mortar and pestle as it’s great at making pastes and bring out more flavour by crushing and breaking down cell walls. However for pesto, it takes a long time – especially for a big batch.

high power blender

I tried with a food processor but it came out grainy and split – not great. So how do you get it so smooth? The key is to use a high power blender. This does a fantastic job at breaking down the basil and ensuring the mixture is well emulsified. The best part? It takes less than a minute.

I use a Philips ProBlend which does a great job at making a mega smooth pesto. Blenders like a Vitamin would be perfect for the job. Low power, cheaper blenders will probably struggle at getting a really smooth pesto.

blended pesto
Ultra smooth pesto from a high power blender

Store Bought Gnocchi

So now we’ve made the pesto let’s move onto the gnocchi. Now after making all that effort for the pesto you might think I’d want to make my own gnocchi? Actually I find that although it can be better, the additional time it takes isn’t worth the slightly improved texture. Store bought gnocchi is great for this and so much quicker!

Want more easy store bought gnocchi recipes? Check out our delicious creamy garlic mushroom gnocchi recipe.

What You’ll Need

pesto gnocchi ingredients

Basil: The key to a good pesto (and a mistake I’ve made before) is to make sure you have a really good amount of basil. You need at least 2 or 3 large handfuls of basil leaves. Basil stalks are tough and should be discarded! Thai basil also works well for this (it’s what I used here).

Pine nuts: Fresh Italian pine nuts are the best for this but they can be very expensive. I use the cheaper, smaller pine nuts and keep them in the fridge after opening.

Parmesan: Parmesan is key to a good pesto. It seasons the sauce and adds lots of umami. Pre-grated parmesan is fine or you can use Grana Padano.

Garlic: 1 or 2 gloves of fresh garlic should be used in a pesto. Make sure you slice the cloves roughly before you blend to ensure that they’re properly broken down. Do not use dried garlic – it’s a completely different flavour.

Olive Oil & Water: Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) should be used for pesto. Normal Olive Oil will work as well but you won’t quite have the same result. Water is added to form the emulsion – this actually creates a thicker sauce.

Gnocchi: Store bought gnocchi is fine for this recipe although you can of course make it yourself!


Makes enough for 2*

  • 2-3 large handfuls of picked, washed basil leaves
  • 1 handful of pine nuts
  • 1 handful of parmesan
  • 100ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 30ml water
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 400g fresh store bought gnocchi

*Note: this recipe makes it extremely saucy! You can easily double the amount of gnocchi and make enough for 4 main courses with the amount of sauce.

final dish

How to Make Pesto Gnocchi

  1. To make the pesto, add the water, olive oil, chopped garlic, pine nuts and picked and washed basil leaves to a high power blender. Start blending on low and increase to the highest power setting. Blend for around 1 minute or until the you no longer see specks of green. Do not over blend as the friction of blending will actually cook the mixture making it go grey!

  2. As soon as you have a thick, smooth and well emulsified pesto stop blending. Season with salt to taste.

  3. When you’re ready to eat, heat up a pot of salted water until simmering and add your gnocchi. They will take about 1-2 minutes to cook and you’ll know when they float.

  4. Once the gnocchi are cooked, reserve 30ml (a few tablespoons) of the cooking water and drain the gnocchi.

  5. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the gnocchi, reserved cooking water and the pesto. Stir to combine and let the pesto gently warm up. Do not put it back on a high heat – this will cook the fresh basil and you’ll lose a lot of flavour.

  6. Once the pesto is warmed through, serve immediately and dress with more Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Parmesan.

Can You Reheat It?

Fresh pesto can be reheated but on a very low heat, you just want to warm it through otherwise you’ll lose the bright green colour and vibrant flavour!

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