Potato Gnocchi with Ligurian Pesto and Tomatoes

butterfly Serves: 8-10

Written By Eydie Desser


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I enjoyed a glorious week in Tuscany at the most amazing cooking school run by Giuliano Bugialli.  This was one of my very favorite recipes.  I plant-based it and omitted the oil and salt, and it still tastes great! It’s unusual and so delicious!  Making the gnocchi takes a bit of practice.  I’ll guide you all along the way.

Equipment needed: potato ricer (or grater), gnocchi board (or large fork)


For the Gnocchi:
  1. 3 pounds all-purpose potatoes (I used 6 smaller sized russets, as they cook faster, and more evenly than using larger ones)
  2. 1 cup whole wheat flour (or use potato flour for a gluten free option)*
For the Pesto:
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 15 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, leaves only
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup pine nuts (lightly toasted in 350°F oven for 3 minutes)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon, red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup  House Vegetable Stock, or more to make for a pourable sauce
For the Tomato Sauce:
  • 1-½ pounds ripe tomatoes, or 28 oz. drained canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • ¼ cup  House Vegetable Stock (plus more as needed)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut into small slivers
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste  (optional)
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
To Serve:
  • Fresh Basil Leaves


Prepare the potatoes:

Place the unpeeled potatoes in a stockpot and add enough cold water to completely cover the potatoes.  Set the pot, uncovered, over medium heat and cook the potatoes until they are very soft, about 35-40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.  Drain, then peel the potatoes while still hot and pass them through a potato ricer, fitted with the disk with the smallest holes, (or if using a grater, grate them on the small holes), onto a cutting board.  Let rest until cool.

Meanwhile, Prepare the Pesto Sauce:

Place the basil, parsley, garlic, nutritional yeast, and pine nuts in a blender or food processor and process until quite smooth. Transfer to a bowl and season with black pepper and red pepper flakes, if using, and add the vegetable stock to a thick consistency, mixing very well. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Make the Gnocchi:

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over medium heat.  Knead ¾-cup of the flour into riced potatoes. Add more flour if needed. *(If using potato flour, you may need to increase the amount to make the gnocchi not so sticky).  Cut the potato mixture into several pieces, and using your fingers and floured palms of your hands, roll the pieces into “ropes” about 1-inch in diameter. Cut each “rope” into ½-inch pieces.

Prepare the Tomato Sauce:

If using fresh tomatoes, cut them into large pieces. Place a large, non-reactive pan with  ¼-cup vegetable stock over medium heat until simmering.  Add the garlic and stir for 20 seconds.  Add the tomatoes, fresh or canned (drained), and cook for 15 minutes, stirring and breaking the tomatoes apart, every so often with a wooden spoon.  Season with black pepper and red pepper flakes, if using. Turn off heat, leaving the sauce in the pan to be finished and rewarmed before serving.

Cook the Gnocchi:

Warm a serving platter.

Fill a stock pot with water and place over high heat.  When the water reaches a boil, add the gnocchi pieces,10-15 at a time, and turn down the heat to medium.  When gnocchi float to the surface of the water, and are firm to the touch, use a skimmer to transfer them to the warmed serving platter.

As you cook the gnocchi, finish the tomato sauce. Add the basil leaves and cook for 1 minute more, until wilted and combined with the sauce.  Add in pesto sauce, mix very well, and immediately remove the pan from the heat.  Add a pinch of salt, If needed, and freshly ground black pepper and/or red pepper flakes for desired spiciness, and a little more vegetable stock for a thick, yet pourable sauce.  When all of the gnocchi are cooked and on the serving platter, pour the sauce over them. 

To Serve:

Place the gnocchi on a beautiful platter, and sprinkle with fresh chiffonade (leaves stacked, rolled and thinly sliced) of basil.

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