Fiercely adored, the somewhat rustic yet undeniably delicious gnocchi is a staple of Italian cuisine - the humble potato dumplings are at once comforting and wickedly moreish. Though not an essential step in preparation, gnocchi are recognized for their characteristic ridges, achieved by rolling each dumpling across a gnocchi board. While these ridges add aesthetic interest to the rustic dumplings, they’re also vital to gnocchi’s powers of sauce adhesion, as they deftly capture even the heartiest of meat ragús and rustic pesto. Thus, gnocchi is the perfect vehicle for our creamy pesto alla Genovese.
The word ‘pesto’ earns its moniker from the Genoese word ‘pestâ’, which means ‘to pound’ or ‘crush’. Traditionally, all of the ingredients for pesto were ground in a marble mortar, so, strictly speaking, pesto can refer to any sauce made by grinding together ingredients. While we love the plethora of different flavour combinations this fluidity affords, a special place in our heart is reserved for the classic pesto alla Genovese. For our pesto alla Genovese, we honour tradition, using sweet and subtle pine nuts, fragrant basil, good quality extra virgin olive oil, and a good helping of garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano. Buon appetito!
Our recipe for gnocchi with pesto alla Genovese
Prep time: 60-90 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Calories per serving: 542kcal
For the gnocchi
- For all you need to know, see our homemade gnocchi recipe here. (you may wish to adjust the gnocchi recipe accordingly, as our pesto serves 4).
For the Pesto
- 4 cups basil, cleaned and chopped
- 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt to taste
Chef’s tip: we advise using a pestle and mortar for your pesto, as this enables you to control the texture of your sauce, which traditionally should be a little rugged. A food processor will work here too, though this will not render as rustic a pesto.
- Start by gently toasting the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until they turn slightly brown in colour and are fragrant. Keep them moving to prevent burning. In the case that any get dark brown, be sure to remove them before adding to the basil as they will impart a burnt flavour to the pesto.
- Put the basil, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, minced garlic clove and 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil to a pestle and mortar and grind until creamy
- Add the pine nuts and grind until they start to break down and combine with the oil and basil mixture. You should have a creamy yet slightly chunky consistency.
- Drizzle the remaining olive oil and continue to grind until you have a creamy paste. We recommend leaving it a little rustic as this will help it adhere to the pasta
- Store the pesto in the fridge, while you make your gnocchi, following our recipe.
- Once your gnocchi is shaped, boil for 2-3 minutes in salted water. Drain your gnocchi, reserving a little of the pasta water. Return your pesto to a pan, and add in a splash of the reserved starchy water. Stir this mixture, until the pesto is slightly looser in consistency, before tossing in your gnocchi, coating each gnocco liberally in this delicious and punchy sauce. Serve with a generous layer of Parmigiano Reggiano, and some more toasted pine nuts, should you have any remaining.
For five more inspired recipes, be sure to check out our further endeavours in pesto here, and get experimenting with your own gnocchi-pesto pairings!
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