Pesto gnocchi with shrimp is inspired by Italy. Truth be told, the first time I experienced pesto gnocchi was actually IN Italy. Pesto gnocchi was served to us on a hiking tour through the villages of Cinque Terre. We stopped for a mountainside lunch at Ristorante Cecio in Corniglia, just before embarking on the longest part of the hike.
Fresh homemade pesto and freshly made gnocchi are incredibly hard to beat. Of course, homemade gnocchi is time-consuming and not always an option, so for simplicity, you can opt for store-bought gnocchi. It’s delicious, easy to cook, and allows you to quickly pull together an authentic Italian dish in 15 minutes. It’s magic.
If you want to make this dish right and really impress your guests, take the extra 10 minutes to make your own homemade pesto. It’s 100 times better than store-bought and will ultimately make or break such a pesto-driven dish.
Tips for Making Homemade Basil Pesto
Homemade pesto is really easy to make and is so much better than store-bought. My basil pesto consists of fresh basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper. Everything is blended together to render a smooth, yet slightly granular sauce. It only takes about 10 minutes to make so let’s dive in.
- Pesto is best made in a food processor, however, I’ve been making it in a single-serve smoothie blender for a long time. The key is to pulse the blender so as to not overblend the pesto and turn it into slime. Shake the contents to help mix as needed.
- Pesto should be thick and slightly granular in appearance. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil to help thin it out a bit. Pesto can be adjusted in a bowl by simply stirring in extra olive oil.
- Always use extra virgin olive oil and FRESH ingredients. Do not substitute canola or vegetable oil.
- Do not use dried basil! Always use fresh basil leaves.
- If your pesto is too thin or runny and you’ve run out of fresh basil, you can add some baby spinach. You can also stir in a little cornstarch. This will help to thicken the sauce without adding any flavor. I would merely consider this a last resort but it works in a pinch.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust pesto with additional salt afterward. The salt helps to bring out the flavor and really makes pesto pop.
- Fresh garlic is best, but you can substitute garlic powder.
- Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts. I prefer pine nuts, but walnuts work in a pinch. You can usually find pine nuts in the baking aisle with the other nuts.
How to Cook Gnocchi
Gnocchi is incredibly easy to cook and only takes minutes! Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil and cook gnocchi for about 3-4 minutes, or until those tiny pillows float to the surface. Frozen and fresh gnocchi cook at relatively the same speed. As a rule of thumb, when they float to the surface, they’re fully cooked and ready to eat.
Pan-searing is another popular method of cooking gnocchi. Pan-searing gnocchi forms a golden brown exterior that adds a crispier texture with a denser interior. Boiled gnocchi is much softer and tender throughout. I personally prefer boiled over pan seared.
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- Cheesy gnocchi bolognese
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- Shrimp pesto pasta
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- Sweet potato gnocchi
A simple and authentic Italian weeknight pasta recipe using premade gnocchi and homemade pesto.
- 16 ounces gnocchi
- 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
- 3/4 cup basil pesto (use homemade for best results)
- olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional 1/4 cup cream (see note below)
homemade basil pesto
- 3 loosely packed cups of basil leaves, about 2.5 ounces
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the pesto
- Combine all pesto ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend/pulse until mixed and smooth.
- With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until combined. Pesto should not be too soupy or fine. Set aside. Can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed container. Cover with plastic wrap seated directly on top of the surface to prevent browning/air exposure.
For the pesto shrimp gnocchi
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and red pepper flakes and season all over with salt and pepper. Cook the shrimp until fully cooked through and no longer translucent, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add a big pinch of salt and add gnocchi. Boil for about 2 minutes or until gnocchi float to the surface, about 3-4 minutes. Strain well and transfer to the pan with the shrimp. Reduce the heat to low and add in the pesto, stirring until fully green and coated in the pesto. Add additional olive oil as needed if the pesto feels too thick.
- Serve immediately with extra Parmesan cheese on top if desired.
You can add an optional 1/4 cup of light or heavy cream along with the pesto to make the dish a little more creamy.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a standard blender or single-serve blender instead. Just don’t blend the ingredients too aggressively or it will turn into a creamy paste. If using a single-serve blender, combine all ingredients together and pulse until smooth. Shaking the containing in between blends will help to mix the ingredients if they get “stuck.”
Make pesto in advance. always tightly cover pesto with plastic wrap to prevent browning. Ensure plastic wrap is touching the surface of the pesto so it’s completely sealed from the environment. To freeze pesto, place portions in small ziplock baggies and remove as much air from the bag as possible. Pesto can last several months in the freezer. To defrost, let the pesto rest on the counter for 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, you can freeze pesto in ice cube trays for simple small portions that quickly defrost when added to hot dishes.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 583
- Sugar: 2g
- Sodium: 484mg
- Fat: 25.9g
- Saturated Fat: 4.9g
- Carbohydrates: 56.7g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 30.2g
- Cholesterol: 160mg
Keywords: gnocchi recipes, pesto gnocchi