17 Ways To Add Flavor To Gnocchi

Gnocchi may taste like a simple dish, and indeed, its composition –- mainly potatoes, flour, water, salt, and eggs –- is simple enough, but it can be a difficult dish to make from scratch at home. It involves several labor-intensive steps, including kneading the mixture and always being careful not to add too much flour, too little, or the wrong type. It requires fancy tools like potato ricers for mashing the potatoes or ridge paddles for shaping the gnocchi. And it creates an unholy mess in your kitchen –- not to mention that you better have a good deal of counter space when you set out to make homemade gnocchi, all the better if it's made of cool marble, which helps prevent sticking.

That said, fresh, homemade gnocchi are worth all this effort and more, especially if you know which ingredients to pair them with. Luckily, there is a wide range of excellent options, and we've compiled a list below to help you find the perfect sauce for your preferences. Just make sure you don't drown the poor things in whatever topping you choose. After spending so much time and effort on making the gnocchi, you're going to want to taste them in all their glory.

1. Make them with sweet potatoes

Traditional gnocchi can be made with several different types of potatoes –- mainly high-starch varieties such as russets or Yukon golds. But if you want a bit of a twist, there's no reason why you can't opt for sweet potatoes. Substitute these into your regular recipe with a few tweaks to accommodate the lower starch content, and you get a sweeter version of your beloved gnocchi.

If you need a bit more guidance than that, we're happy to oblige with our sweet potato gnocchi recipe. Start by roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven at 350 F for 1 hour. Meanwhile, whisk together ricotta, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and minced sage to create your topping. Then start on the gnocchi themselves: run them through a ricer and mix in ricotta, eggs, flour, and seasoning. Then continue along your merry way, kneading the mixture to perfection, cutting it up, shaping it to your desired form, and boiling it until each lovely little gnocco floats to the surface. Finish them off by cooking them in a touch of butter melted with garlic, thyme, and sage. Top them with a dollop of that lemon ricotta.

2. Add chicken into the equation

In most restaurants and homes in Italy, gnocchi is strictly a vegetarian dish, in the sense that it typically only comes with a tomato, cheese, or butter-based sauce and not much else. A traditional first course, in other words. But globalization has made it perfectly okay, and sometimes even desirable, to mess with tradition, so we don't see any reason why we shouldn't be adding meat or fish to gnocchi.

In particular, we suggest adding chicken. Our recipe for sheet pan gnocchi with chicken and broccoli is an ideal midweek meal, complete with protein, vegetables, and starch, and it only needs 5 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of cooking time (if you already have the gnocchi prepared or purchased). Or you could shred some chicken off that leftover rotisserie bird and add it to your creamy chicken gnocchi, along with shallots, thyme, oregano, white wine, baby kale, grated Parmesan cheese, and heavy cream.

3. Go wild with ramps

Most people don't usually have the opportunity to use ramps in their cooking, which is a shame, because they contain more vitamin C than oranges. Not only that, but when prepared correctly, they taste delicious and can be swapped in many recipes in place of wild onions or even leeks.

To see for yourself, try our potato gnocchi with ramps recipe, which works out best when you prepare fresh, homemade gnocchi at home. Start by following your favorite gnocchi recipe, and when they're ready to be cooked, put them aside and saute the mushrooms, peas, ramps, and chile flakes in some butter, topping them off with some reserved pasta water. Boil the gnocchi as you normally would, then add them to your sauteed vegetables and mix in more butter and some Parmesan cheese, along with tarragon and lemon zest.

4. Fatten them up with pork belly

For a truly decadent gnocchi dish, just add pork belly and sage, and you won't need to eat again for days. Or at least, that's what it'll feel like when you're done. The fun thing about this recipe is that you even get to use purple potatoes, which adds to the mystique of this dish.

First, get hold of the starchiest purple potatoes you can find, such as Vitelotte. Then boil them and prepare them as you would for regular gnocchi, bearing in mind that purple potatoes tend to be less starchy than your ideal gnocchi potato, so you might need to add a little more flour than usual or some potato starch. As you boil your gnocchi, you can get started on the rest: brown the pork belly, and in a separate skillet, melt the butter and add the garlic, sage, vinegar, and seasoning. Finally, bring everything together in one pot and cook until warm. 

5. Let them rest before cooking

Making gnocchi is hard work –- both for you and for the gnocchi. As such, we recommend letting those homemade gnocchi dumplings sit back and rest for a bit before you drop them into boiling water. The perk is that you get a little time to rest as well, for 30 minutes, to be exact –- just enough time to go and get ready if you're hosting a dinner party. 

The reason has to do with the texture of the gnocchi, which in turn, affects the flavor. If you toss your newly cut gnocchi into boiling water as soon as you peel them off the table, the starch in them risks falling apart, causing the gnocchi to lose their shape. This resting time –- during which the gnocchi should rigorously be kept apart and covered in a dusting of flour –- also helps them dry out, which keeps them from sticking together in the cooking water.

6. Fry them up

If you've seen enough traditional gnocchi recipes, you'll know that these little dumplings are supposed to be briefly boiled until they float, at which time they call it a day. But frying them up in some butter after the boiling process might be just what you need to give them some extra flavor without complicating things too much.

This will inevitably lead to our fabulous crispy gnocchi recipe. You can partake either by making the gnocchi at home ahead of time, according to your favorite recipe, or by buying a good quality package at the grocery store. Then, simply boil the dumplings, drain them, and fry them in some olive oil before dressing them with pesto, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan cheese. This recipe will work out even better if you ditch the jarred stuff and make the pesto yourself, perhaps by trying our bright and fresh pesto recipe.

7. Insist on the russet potato

Choosing the wrong potato could spell disaster for your homemade gnocchi. Something too floury or waxy could cause them to turn out too wet, too crumbly, or too heavily bogged down with the flour you use to offset the aforementioned troubles. Instead, Pasta Queen Nadia Munno recommends a starchy potato like the russet for gnocchi, especially the ones that have been sitting in your pantry for a while. Basically, the drier the better.

This is because a wet potato leads to a wetter mixture, often leading one to add more flour just to keep everything from falling apart. The problem is that this added flour upsets the careful balance of the gnocco, leading to a heavy, even stodgy result. If you've ever happened to make an abomination with a skewed potato-to-flour ratio, you probably ended up with a dumpling that felt more like a rock than a potato in your stomach.

8. Cook them in an air fryer

It's not necessary to have an air fryer to cook gnocchi, but it certainly doesn't hurt. While there is nothing wrong with the traditional way of boiling gnocchi, air frying them can lead to a dumpling that is crispy on the outside but soft and pillowy on the inside — something neither a boiling pot of water nor a pan of melted butter can achieve alone.

So next time you end up with some leftover homemade gnocchi or a nice package of store-bought gnocchi, just dress the raw dumplings in some olive oil, seasoning, and herbs or spices, and slip them into your air fryer for no more than 15 minutes, shaking the basket as you go. You can also cook them this way with nothing on them but a bit of salt, and then serve them with pesto, tomato sauce, or a strong gorgonzola sauce. Although this method takes longer than boiling, which is usually a 2-minute affair, it gives an old classic a new and exciting texture.

9. Pour them into French Onion Soup

French onion soup is delicious and gnocchi are delicious, so it stands to reason that combining these two dishes can only bring more deliciousness. The process is very simple: just make your French onion soup as you normally would, and a few minutes before it's ready, pour in some prepared, uncooked gnocchi and boil them right then and there in the soup as if you were cooking them in a simple pot of water.

As with any gnocchi recipe, your dumplings will be ready once they float to the surface of your French onion soup, which usually takes about 2 minutes. Expect the gnocchi to absorb the flavor of the broth along with the slight sweetness from the caramelized onions. The French onion soup will be forever changed as well: with the gnocchi it will become creamier and more substantial, giving it a soft but persistent texture compared to its traditional brothy composition.

10. Amp them up with coffee

You'd be surprised to learn about the wide reach of the humble coffee bean. It may appear in brownies, a chili recipe, or even gnocchi. In fact, it seems that coffee's bitter flavor is an ideal complement to the mild taste of potato gnocchi, while also providing a welcome crunch that contrasts with the pillowy nature of the dumplings.

Try this trick for more flavorful gnocchi by incorporating instant coffee grounds into the dough right as you combine the flour, mashed potatoes, egg, and seasoning. But don't overdo it: Coffee has a strong flavor, and all you need for a typical gnocchi recipe is one tablespoon. Once the mixture is ready and the gnocchi are cooked, it's time to think about what topping will best complement your coffee and potato combination. Any simple mascarpone-based sauce will do, but the fun thing here is that the coffee gives you grounds to go over to the sweet side, with a sweet brown butter sauce, for example.

11. Bathe them in creamy pink tomato sauce

A good, simple tomato sauce will go a long way toward flavoring your gnocchi, but you can go even further than that with a delicious pink sauce you might not have considered for gnocchi until now. And the best part is that after all that effort in making the gnocchi, preparing this recipe will seem like a breeze.

Equip yourself with some canned tomato sauce or diced tomatoes and then just mix in some heavy cream, garlic, grated cheese, and parsley. Pour this mixture onto your cooked gnocchi, making sure to nudge a few clumps of fresh mozzarella in between the nuggets, and top with grated Parmesan cheese before baking everything in the oven until the top is slightly golden and the cheese is bubbling away. Truthfully, although the tomato sauce here is necessary to provide some acidic balance for the cheese and potato, the dairy is really the star of the show.

12. Introduce kale to your gnocchi

Busy parents are always trying to look for new ways to incorporate vegetables and other healthy ingredients into family favorites. Did we say incorporate? We actually mean hide, because that's what's happening in this kale and white bean gnocchi recipe. With everything else that's going on here, that fussy toddler might not even notice the pesky little green specs caused by the kale. On the other hand, a more refined palate can easily pick them out and enjoy the added depth of flavor they provide.

Start this kale and white bean gnocchi recipe by boiling your prepared or packaged gnocchi for the required amount of time, adding in the chopped kale towards the end. Once the gnocchi are done, add them to a baking dish along with the kale, beans, and marinara sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella and bake for 15 minutes at 350 F. You'll end up with a complete one-pot meal that has everything your family needs for a nutritious dinner.

13. Bring back summer with Caprese gnocchi

Summer may be long gone, but that doesn't mean you have to stop enjoying its fruits already. Food Republic's crispy baked gnocchi with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella might be just what you need to keep the summer vibes going while filling yourself up and preparing you for the cold season. That's because the ingredients recall none other than the classic Caprese salad, offset only slightly by the filling but light potatoes they come with.

Prepare this recipe by boiling the gnocchi as you would on any other day, then dressing them with olive oil and pouring them into a baking dish. Nestle sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil into the crevices between the gnocchi and bake for 20 minutes at 425 F. For an added punch of flavor, texture, and protein, scatter some pine nuts on top of the gnocchi and bake for a few more minutes, until the nuts have browned slightly.

14. Mix in the sunchokes

Sunchokes may look and feel like potatoes, but that sweet and citrusy flavor places them firmly in the artichoke family. But look and feel are the main factors when it comes to making gnocchi, so we're happy to report that Elettra Wiedemann, a prominent food editor and the daughter of Italian actress Isabella Rossellini, has come up with a way to turn them into our favorite Italian dumpling.

In order to make these sunchoke gnocchi with lemon-sage butter, you'll have to make the gnocchi from scratch, using sunchokes instead of potatoes. Start by boiling the sunchokes before running them through a food processor, then pulse them until they've become smooth before adding ricotta, eggs, flour, and seasoning. Place this mixture into a piping bag and squeeze it directly into the pot of boiling water, creating gnocchi-shaped nuggets. Allow these to cook for about 4 minutes before straining them out and tossing them in melted butter, sage, and lemon zest.

15. Paint them red with beets

Everyone loves a good plate of gnocchi, but you have to admit, unless they're covered in tomato sauce, they tend to look a bit wan. We can fix that with the addition of one simple ingredient: the beet. Adding this to any gnocchi recipe will immediately paint the town red, but this trick works especially well with this specific red beet gnocchi recipe.

Start by steaming the beet until soft enough to puree. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and pass them through a ricer along with the beet puree before adding Parmesan, egg, sweet rice flour, white rice flour, and seasoning. Then proceed to craft the gnocchi dumplings from your dough and cook them as you normally would. By this point, you'll already have perfectly pink potato gnocchi ready to take on the world. Any sauce of your choice would probably be fine here, but we recommend one made with heated milk and grated Parmesan cheese, thickened into a sauce. Top with toasted pine nuts, basil, and olive oil.

16. Elevate them with lobster

Any dish that contains lobster is bound to elicit high expectations. This crustacean has a reputation for being expensive, high-end, and generally delicious when prepared properly. Luckily, this lobster gnocchi recipe delivers on all points, especially the delicious part. Once you have your gnocchi on hand, freeze them thoroughly and get ready to continue your recipe another day. You will need this step as the recipe calls for the gnocchi to be cooked from frozen. Alternatively, you can purchase frozen gnocchi from your store, though they might not turn out as well as the homemade variety.

When you're ready to continue, steam your lobsters while you whisk together vinegar, mustard, shallots, seasoning, and extra-virgin olive oil to create the dressing for the gnocchi and lobster. Meanwhile, cook your gnocchi in boiling water as you normally would, continuing the cooking process for 1 minute longer than usual, then transfer them into a pan of melted butter along with shredded lobster meat. Toss these in the prepared vinaigrette before serving.

17. Turn them into pumpkin gnocchi

Although gnocchi are traditionally made with potatoes, there is no reason why another starchy gourd, tuber, or vegetable shouldn't be used, as long as it has the right consistency. Pumpkin, for example, makes the perfect candidate, as our pumpkin gnocchi with oregano butter recipe so clearly shows, especially when combined with a russet potato for starch support.

To make this, bake a potato and combine it with pumpkin puree along with eggs, flour, pecorino, and seasoning. Combine the mixture until smooth, adding flour if it's too wet, but without overdoing it –- too much flour will weigh down the gnocchi, and it's better to have good-tasting gnocchi that look misshapen than stodgy bricks. From here, create the gnocchi as usual and boil them for about 4 minutes. Finally, fry them in olive oil and top them with browned butter and crispy oregano. And don't forget to add a dash of nutmeg to bring out the pumpkin.