Gnocchi (plural) are Italian dumplings that are made with potatoes and flour, then boiled like pasta until they're fluffy pillows of goodness. A simple sauce of butter, fresh sage leaves, and Parmesan is a classic accompaniment to gnocchi, which couldn't be easier to make.
You could use store-bought gnocchi or, if you have a half-hour, make your own from scratch. If you use store-bought, frozen is often better than the packaged kind, which can be a bit dense. And you can sometimes find fresh gnocchi at an Italian deli if you happen to have one nearby.
01 of 07
Sage and potatoes are a natural pairing, perhaps because they are both harvested around the time the weather starts to cool down in September or so. At some point in the distant past, peasants who had plenty of potatoes and sage on hand after the harvest naturally started combining the two, and so now we have what has become an Italian classic: gnocchi alla salvia (gnocchi with sage). Traditional preparations usually call for sage, butter, salt, and pepper. This recipe, however, browns the butter for a nuttier flavor and adds garlic. Feel free to top with thinly shaved Parmesan. Delizioso.
02 of 07
Believe it or not, carrots are a highly recommended addition to tomato pasta sauce for their sweetness, fresh flavor, and bright aroma. Since this particular sauce is pureed, you won't see the carrot, but it'll bring a dimension to your pasta sauce that you'll definitely notice. Because you don't want to overpower the gnocchi, a lighter flavor like this is just right.
The recipe for this tomato sauce calls for both carrots and tomatoes. Sauté the carrots and onions in extra-virgin olive oil, then add two 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, some chopped garlic, salt, and a pinch of sugar. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Taste. Toss with the cooked gnocchi and garnish with fresh basil.
03 of 07
Purists define a pesto as a sauce made with basil, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic. But these days, you can use any leafy green (spinach, parsley, mint, whatever), as well as any sort of nut, such as walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. And while hard cheeses are best for making pesto, you can experiment with goat's milk cheeses, sheep's milk cheeses, and others.
Making pesto sauce is mainly a matter of pureeing the greens, garlic, and nuts, and then stirring in the oil and cheese. Heat it very briefly—you don't want the vibrant green color to wilt—then adjust for consistency and seasoning, and toss the cooked gnocchi in to serve. If you're going to use alternative ingredients, use roughly the same proportions you would in a classic basil pesto sauce recipe.
04 of 07
Here's another classic seasonal pairing. So many mushrooms appear in autumn—the woodsy porcini, chanterelles, and more—that it's natural to combine them with potatoes and sage. It's not difficult to make a really simple mushroom sauce, but one thing that's important is to sauté the mushrooms in butter for a long time until they give up all their liquid and turn meaty rather than spongy. Do use butter or olive oil because so many of the flavor compounds in mushrooms are fat soluble, which means you need to cook them in fat to bring those flavors out in the sauce.
This fantastic mushroom cream sauce provides all the steps you need.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
This sauce is so yummy. The zesty flavor of the Gorgonzola (an Italian blue cheese similar to Roquefort, Stilton, or Maytag) really wakes up the mild flavor of the potatoes, and the creamy texture complements the fluffy, pillowlike gnocchi. It's wonderful.
The splendid Gorgonzola sauce recipe starts with reducing heavy cream and white wine in a pan. Heavy cream works best because it won't curdle when you heat it, and it tastes much richer and creamier. Be sure to use a good wine because you will definitely be able to taste it.
After the sauce reduces by about a third, add the Gorgonzola (crumbly, aged Gorgonzola is best). Simmer until it melts, then season to taste with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.
06 of 07
So far, all the sauces we've listed are quite autumnal. But lest you think gnocchi is just a fall food, let us dissuade you. Here's a gnocchi sauce you can make in the spring, using peas, broccoli, and mushrooms—but really, you can substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand. The beauty of a primavera sauce is that it's very versatile and prizes whatever's in season. (Although frozen vegetables will work well too.) This vegan primavera sauce recipe is incredibly flavorful even though it omits butter and Parmesan, thanks to the basil and nutritional yeast. Simply substitute gnocchi in place of the pasta.
If you prefer a more traditional primavera sauce with fewer ingredients, lightly sauté the veggies in olive oil so that they're still crisp and brightly colored. Then stir in a bit of cream, or add more olive oil or even some butter. Finally, toss in the cooked gnocchi, garnish with grated Parmesan, and serve.
07 of 07
This creamy tomato sauce is comforting yet delicate, especially when prepared with a brightly flavored canned tomato sauce of good quality. With only a few ingredients—heavy cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley—this sauce tastes complete. For a slightly different twist that's an Italian classic, toss cooked gnocchi in tomato sauce, transfer to a buttered baking dish, and top with fresh mozzarella chunks and grated Parmesan. Bake until the cheese is melted and slightly bubbly.