Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Butter & Basil Sauce

Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli
Italian Cuisine Expert and Food Blogger
Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert

Pan-frying gnocchi gives it a nice golden color and deepens the flavor, and the fresh basil and grated Pecorino Romano cheese further add to the excellent taste of this delicious dish that represents Italian comfort food at its best. Whether you make homemade gnocchi from scratch using our homemade potato gnocchi recipe or head to the store to purchase a package of fresh pre-made gnocchi, the results will dazzle your taste buds.

pan-fried gnocchi in a bowl

If you love gnocchi like we love gnocchi, you will probably make your pan-fried gnocchi with every type of sauce eventually, but this recipe is perhaps our favorite and couldn’t be simpler to make. If you can melt butter, you’ve pretty much mastered it already. A dash of salt and pepper and your basil and freshly grated cheese you have pan-fried gnocchi that makes the perfect weeknight dinner.

Equipment

To make these crispy pan-fried gnocchi you will need the following items in the kitchen:

  • large frying pan or large skillet
  • pot
  • slotted spoon or hand-held strainer
  • wooden spoon
  • cheese grater
  • garlic press (optional)

The entire recipe takes less than thirty minutes from start to finish. Delicious gnocchi fried to perfection will be your new favorite weeknight dinner when you don’t have time for something more elaborate.

Ingredients

pan-fried gnocchi ingredients
  • Fresh gnocchi (1 pound) – store-bought gnocchi is what works best for this recipe, you can find them in the refrigerated pasta section. You can also consider making homemade gnocchi from mashed potato if you prefer and follow the same instructions below for crispy gnocchi.
  • Unsalted butter (6 tablespoons) – you can substitute butter with about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil if you prefer for your gnocchi.
  • Basil leaves (1/2 cup) – they must be fresh and fragrant for this pan-fried gnocchi recipe.
  • Salt (1/2 teaspoon) – use fine sea salt or other fine salt you have in your pantry.
  • Black pepper (1/2 teaspoon) – a dash of freshly ground pepper or if you prefer you can turn these crispy gnocchi spicy with cayenne pepper instead.
  • Pecorino Romano cheese (1/4 cup) – we love the sharper, stronger flavor of Pecorino Romano cheese, but if you are looking for something milder you can use freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or even Parmesan cheese to go with your crispy gnocchi.

Step-by-step instructions for pan-frying gnocchi

These potato dumplings are so easy to make. Just: boil gnocchi, cook gnocchi, eat gnocchi!

In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter until it starts to bubble, then add a dash of salt and pepper and turn off the heat (photo 1).

If you want to boil the potato gnocchi first. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh pre-made gnocchi and cook for 2 minutes, or until they float to the top of the boiling water (photo 2).

pan-fried gnocchi procedure: melted butter on a skillet, gnocchi put out from boiling water

Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon or hand-held strainer and place them spaced out on a serving platter lined with a clean tea towel (photo 3). Gently pat them dry, being sure they don’t stick together.

Turn the heat back on under the skillet with the butter and after a minute or two transfer the gnocchi to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes or until golden brown, they should have crispy edges and sides (photo 4).

gnocchi on a plate with paper towels. pan-fried gnocchi on a skillet

If you want to pan-fry gnocchi without boiling them first. Add the gnocchi directly to the melted butter and coat completely and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, mixing and turning the fried gnocchi as they pan fry.

Mix in the fresh basil leaves and Pecorino Romano and gently stir, pan-frying it all together.

pan-fried gnocchi with cheese and basil on top

Transfer the fried gnocchi to a serving plate or medium bowl and serve hot.

pan-fried gnocchi in a bowl beside a bowl of grated romano cheese

Expert tips for the perfect fried gnocchi

  • Don’t dump them in a lump. You do not want to dump your boiled gnocchi into a colander in the sink as they are very likely to stick together and get mushy.
  • Don’t overcook fresh gnocchi. Store-bought gnocchi takes just 2 minutes to cook in boiling water, so watch them carefully, and as soon as they float, remove the boiled gnocchi and follow the other steps of the recipe.

Variations

Other gnocchi recipes to try out:

Keep things interesting by trying variations on this recipe each time you enjoy gnocchi pasta.

  • Swap out the basil with rosemary, sage, or fresh parsley. You can easily substitute the basil with 2 sprigs of rosemary (then remove the sprigs before serving), 6 large sage leaves, or a sprig of parsley chopped and added only at the very end.
  • Extra virgin olive oil for the win. If you prefer using olive oil instead of butter with your fresh gnocchi, it’s no problem at all. Substitute 1/4 cup of olive oil for the butter.
  • Add tomato sauce or sun-dried tomatoes. We love pan-fried gnocchi with tomato sauce, try our recipe for authentic marinara. If you just want to add some color to this recipe, you can add a 1/4 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the brown butter.
  • Garlic lovers everywhere. If you love garlic, don’t be afraid to add some minced garlic to the butter and make this crispy gnocchi into a garlic lover’s dream. We recommend adding just one garlic clove, but you can certainly add more. A garlic press also works really well for mincing the garlic instantly while making gnocchi.
  • Make this recipe spicy. Another optional ingredient we love to incorporate is red pepper flakes when you are frying the gnocchi over medium-high heat.

Sauces to pair gnocchi with:

FAQs

Which pre-made gnocchi are the best?

Please do not buy the vacuumed-packed boxes of “gnocchi” that are not refrigerated; they will ruin the dish. You should be able to buy good quality, pre-made gnocchi in your local supermarket’s refrigerated section or at an Italian specialty food store.

How can I store and reheat fresh gnocchi?

Pan-fried gnocchi are best eaten immediately and are challenging to reheat. They can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To reheat, we recommend preheating the oven to 180° C and then putting the gnocchi in an oven-safe container with a few drops of water, a drizzle of oil, and a generous amount of cheese and baking in the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until the Parmesan cheese has melted, similar to what we recommend with reheating homemade gnocchi.

Another idea would be to reheat them directly in already-cooked tomato sauce until warm through and then serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

What are dry or dried gnocchi pasta?

Dry or dried gnocchi pasta are not the same as fresh gnocchi in the refrigerated pasta section of the grocery store that we are using in this recipe. They are usually a wheat flour pasta formed into a hard shape (like other dry pasta) and they do not contain potatoes at all. Dry gnocchi pasta will not work in this recipe.

pan-fried gnocchi in a bowl
pan-fried gnocchi in a bowl

Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Butter & Basil

This easy pan seared gnocchi recipe will not disappoint, prepare it for a quick but romantic dinner or as the perfect weeknight dinner. It starts with fresh gnocchi found in the refrigerated pasta section, so it is super quick and easy, but we also have the recipe to make your own homemade gnocchi if you have the time.
4.50 from 26 votes
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Course: Pasta
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 360kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh gnocchi
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese freshly grated

Equipment

  • 1 large frying pan or large skillet
  • 1 pot
  • 1 slotted spoon or hand-held strainer
  • 1 Wooden spoon
  • 1 cheese grater
  • 1 garlic press optional

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter until it starts to bubble, then add a dash of salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

If you want to boil the gnocchi first.

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh pre made gnocchi and cook for 2 minutes, or until they float to the top of the boiling water.
  • Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place them spaced apart on a serving platter lined with a clean towel. Gently pat them dry, being sure they don't stick together.
  • Turn the heat back on under the skillet with the browned butter and after a minute or two transfer the gnocchi to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes or until golden brown.

If you want to pan fry gnocchi without boiling them first.

  • Add the gnocchi directly to the melted butter and coat completely and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, mixing and turning the gnocchi as they pan fry.
  • Once the gnocchi are pan fried, mix in the fresh basil leaves and Pecorino Romano and gently stir, then turn off the heat.
  • Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.
Serving: 100g | Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 753mg | Potassium: 23mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 710IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 4mg
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