It’s easy being green: gnocchi with pesto

Have you ever enjoyed gnocchi?

If not, get ready for a real treat.

These fat little twists of potato pasta are a kinder, gentler example of the genre. Rather than cooking up like regular pasta – al dente, with a slight “bite” – gnocchi are soft as a pillow. Their slightly indented undersides catch and hold your favorite sauce – marinara, pesto, or a simple mix of olive oil, parsley, and garlic.

They’re wonderful baked in a casserole, too, mixed with cream and showered with Parmesan.

Looking at homemade gnocchi – truth be told, looking at ANY homemade pasta – you might say, “No way, that’s too much effort. I’ll buy it at the store.”

But gnocchi, serendipitously, are extremely easy to make – and often difficult to find at the supermarket. Making your own gnocchi is both desirable, and easy. Just follow the steps below, and you’ll soon be enjoying tasty homemade gnocchi regularly.

Oh, and by the way: if you don’t know how to pronounce  the word gnocchi, think back to being a kid and making fun of someone on the playground:

Nyah nyah nyah!

Or, better, yet, Curly from the Three Stooges: Nyuk nyuk nyuk…

It’s NYAWK-ee.

OK, first step: you need about 2 cups (14 ounces) mashed potatoes, or 14 ounces of riced potatoes (baked potato put through a potato ricer).

We made gnocchi using both fresh and instant potatoes. To use fresh, we baked 2 medium-large baking potatoes (8 to 10 ounces each), then peeled them and put them through a potato ricer. For instant, we used 1 1/3 cups (3 ounces) instant potato flakes mixed with 1 1/3 cups boiling water to yield a scant 2 cups lightly packed mashed potatoes. The difference in the gnocchi’s flavor was indiscernible; so go ahead and use instant potatoes if you like.

The point is, you want about 14 ounces of mashed or riced potato, however you get there.

Put the potatoes in a bowl, and add 2 large eggs and 1 teaspoon salt.

Stir to combine.

Add 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.

Stir to combine. The mixture will look dry at first…

…but will eventually come together into a soft dough.

Prepare a clean work surface, or use a silicone rolling mat. Lightly grease the mat or your work surface. Knead the dough a few times to smooth it out, then divide it into eight pieces.

Cover four of the pieces, and set them aside.

Shape the other four pieces into rough balls.

Roll each piece into a long rope about the width of your thumb.

They’ll be about 20” to 24” long.

Use a pair of scissors to snip the ropes into ½” to ¾” pieces.

The pieces will stick together a bit.

That’s OK; just pull them apart.

Place the pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed paper lightly coated with flour.

Next, the gnocchi board. This wooden board is going to give your gnocchi their distinctive shape.

Place the bottom of the board on a firm surface, tilt it at about a 45° angle, and place one piece of dough on the board.

Use your thumb to roll it along the board away from you, for about ¾”.

It’ll curl up over your thumb, forming a little pocket.

The pocket’s on the underside.

Check out how fast and easy this is, once you get the hang of it:

Toss the finished gnocchi onto the prepared parchment.

Repeat with all the pieces of dough, placing them back onto the flour-dusted parchment, and giving the pan an occasional shake to roll the shaped gnocchi around in the flour.

Can you make gnocchi without a board?

Yes, though not quite as successfully. The gnocchi on the right were shaped with a board; on the left, with the back of a fork. I found the fork was slippery, and the gnocchi tended to wobble around and slide off, rather than forming a nice, neat pocket.

This is the pocket I’ve been talking about. So nice for collecting and holding sauce!

Was this a lot of work?

Not really; it took me about 15 minutes, maybe, to make about 200 gnocchi. And it was certainly easy.

Once all the gnocchi are shaped, cook them right away, or dust with flour, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for up to several hours. You can also wrap them tightly (in a single layer), and freeze for up to several months.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a large, wide pot of water to a boil; a deep sauté pan works well. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water.

Drop as many gnocchi into the boiling water as will fit without crowding; this should be about half the recipe, if you have a 12” wide pan.

Cook the gnocchi for about 4 minutes; they’ll take about 2 minutes to float to the surface of the water, and should cook for about 2 minutes once they’ve surfaced.

Remove the gnocchi from the water with a strainer or slotted spoon; or turn out into a colander.

If you’re not going to serve immediately, toss with a bit of olive oil, cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To reheat, dip in boiling water for about 20 seconds.

Just before you cook the gnocchi, prepare your sauce.

This is pesto, made with Italian flat-leaf parsley instead of basil.

Why parsley? It’s much less expensive; and it stays bright green for a long time, unlike basil pesto, which darkens quickly.

Now, what I’m showing here is a mistake. I put the pesto in the bowl, then added the gnocchi. I should have done it the other way around: put the gnocchi in the bowl, then stir in pesto until the gnocchi are coated with as much as you like.

The pesto recipe makes way more than enough for this recipe of gnocchi; just use the remainder as a spread for crostini; thin with a bit of olive oil to make salad dressing; spoon over cooked vegetables, or freeze it for another batch of gnocchi.

Spoon the gnocchi into a serving dish, and top with coarsely shredded Parmesan, if desired.

These dishes are small, so I used several; they made nice individual servings.

Pillow-soft, lightly glazed with garlicky pesto, garnished with Parmesan… Are you ready to move beyond spaghetti and meatballs? Give gnocchi a try.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Potato Gnocchi with Parsley Pesto.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Oneoldude

    When my brothers, sister and I were young, our mother would occasuinally make gnocci for holiday feasts like they did in the old country. It was a real treat for us because while she made the gnocci, we got to roll them into shape. We had large dinners so lots of gnocci were laid out on a fresh sheet spread out on our parent’s bed. The gnocci lay there all dusted in flour drying a little just before being boild up. It was a beautiful sight that made us children proud. We helped make holiday dinner.

    I tell you this because we never had a gnocci board. Yes we used forks, but you can also make them smooth on the inside of a spoon or for a pattern, roll them on a cheese grater or on a meat tenderizer. With a little imagination I sure you can come up with more ideas.

    Good luck

  2. Ming Louie

    Your gnocchi recipe is absolutely the best! I’ve taken cooking classes on gnocchi in Florence, Italy, as well as trying recipes from America’s Test Kitchen magazine and others. The proportion of the ingredients seems to be key as well as a very dry mash potato. Your video on the gnocchi board was brilliant. The chefs in Italy held a fork in the air which was difficult and gave mixed results. Simple does not always mean easy, your recipe is the real thing.

  3. Jen

    I love this recipe and am planning to make homemade gnocchi this weekend. I have read a couple different recipes and am wondering why you choose to bake the potatoes instead of boiling them. Will the potatoes be too moist if I boil them instead of baking them? Thanks!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Most likely, yes. Most recipes recommend a baking potato as they tend to be drier and flesh a little firmer Enjoy! Elisabeth@KAF

  4. serenavanessa

    Loved (!!!!) the recipe and using the board was so wonderful! Question with regard to freezing: When freezing you say to wrap in a single layer. I’m assuming this is the single layer on the cookie sheet, can you confirm? After I freeze them can they then be transferred into a larger zip lock type bag? When cooking from a frozen state, can I throw them in the pot straight from the freezer? How should the cooking time be modified? Thanks!

    Yes, single layer on the baking sheet. And yes, once frozen they can be bagged. Yes, throw them right into the water frozen. When they float, take one out and see if it’s the texture you like; if not, continue to simmer. Enjoy – PJH

  5. emilierichards

    Thanks for the blog and video. Made it exactly as you suggested with my KA gnocchi board, but it was clear that after I mashed my “Idaho” potatoes, that was WAY too much flour. I ended up using about 1 3/8 cups and the gnocchi held together and were light and delicious. So I’d suggest cooks be careful as the add and not put more in than the recipe actually needs for a smooth, easy to work with dough.

    Thanks for the tip, Emilie – glad they came out well for you with the adjustment… PJH

  6. mgsh

    I made the potato gnocchi only from the recipe for gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Followed the recipe and used the products recommended. Turned out perfect and were easy and fun to make. Can the gnocchi recipe be doubled or tripled? My husband and I am ate the whole thing. Want to try it for company.

    Absolutely, gnocchi can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled… if you’ve got a crowd coming, go for it! Glad you enjoyed them – PJH


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