7 Perfect Sauces for Gnocchi

Gnocchi (plural) are crowd-pleasing Italian dumplings that are most commonly 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 about an 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.


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  • 01 of 07

    Gnocchi With Butter, Sage, and Shaved Parmesan

    Gnocchi with butter, sage, and shaved Parmesan
    Jo Kirchherr / Getty Images

    Sage and potatoes are a natural pairing, so dishes like gnocchi alla salvia (gnocchi with sage) are Italian classics. 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

    Gnocchi With Tomato Sauce and Fresh Basil

    Gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce and basil

    Svariophoto / Getty Images

    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 couple teaspoons 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

    Gnocchi With Pesto Sauce

    Basil Pesto

    The Spruce 

    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 Parmesan cheese made from cow's milk is traditional for making pesto, you can also experiment with softer cheeses and options made with goat or sheep's milk.

    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 want to maintain the vibrant color—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

    Gnocchi With Mushroom Cream Sauce

    Gnocchi with mushroom cream sauce

    The Spruce / Alison Miksch

    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

    Gnocchi With Gorgonzola Sauce

    Gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce
    William Shaw / Getty Images

    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

    Gnocchi With Primavera Sauce

    Gnocchi with asparagus and tomatoes
    Richard Rudisill / Getty Images

    So far, all the sauces we've listed are quite autumnal or wintery. But lest you think gnocchi is just a cold weather 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 egg-free vegan 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

    Gnocchi in Creamy Pink Tomato Sauce

    Baked gnocchi with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella
    Fabio Bianchini / Getty Images

    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 other 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.