Searching for a meal that’s not only elegant but also effortless? We found the perfect vegan pesto gnocchi recipe for you in the cookbook Effortless Vegan: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes with Easy Instructions, Few Ingredients, and Minimal Clean Up by Sarah Nevins.
This classic dish is full of flavor, fresh veggies, and fast clean up. You’ll immediately impress your guests with this timely, tasty dish! The gloriously green pesto greets the eye and satisfies the stomach.
Grab your gnocchi, pinch some pine nuts and bust out the basil—it’s time to cook!Print
This dish comes together with such little effort that I always feel like I’m forgetting something when I make it. The prep is nothing more than chopping up a few vegetables, tossing everything together, and then baking for about twenty minutes. The end result is a bright and vibrant meal that’s bursting with juicy roasted veggies and soft, pillowy, pesto-coated gnocchi pieces. If you want to make this with frozen gnocchi, simply add an extra ten minutes to the cook time and you’re all set.
For the Pesto:
- 2 cups of fresh basil or greens such as kale, spinach, carrot tops or arugula
- 2 cloves of garlic (or ½ teaspoon of minced garlic)
- 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons of pine nuts (or other nuts/seeds such as walnuts, cashews, almonds or hulled pumpkin seeds)
- ½ teaspoon of sea salt, plus more to taste
For the Gnocchi & Veggies:
- 1 (16-oz) package uncooked vegan potato gnocchi
- 1 small zucchini, sliced into 1⁄4-inch (6-mm) thick pieces and cut in half
- 8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon of pine nuts
- 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup of Pesto, divided
- A small handful of fresh basil
For the Pesto:
- Add the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, olive oil, pine nuts, and salt to a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
- Add a tablespoon or two of water to thin out the consistency if desired.
- Keep leftovers stored in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
For the Gnocchi and Veggies:
- Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7) with a rack positioned in the middle of the oven. Lightly grease a 9 x 13–inch (23 x 33–cm) casserole dish.
- Add the gnocchi, zucchini, tomatoes, onion and pine nuts to the casserole dish. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and add ¼ cup of the pesto. Use a spoon to mix the veggies and gnocchi well in the oil and pesto. Spread the mixture evenly across the dish.
- Place the baking dish in the middle of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are bursting and the gnocchi exposed at the top are slightly crispy.
- Stir in the remaining ¼ cup of pesto and serve immediately, topped with fresh basil.
Tester’s Tip: Our recipe tester Taylor recommends adding 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the pesto for some added brightness.
Keywords: vegan, italian, gnocchi, pasta, dinner
Promises of Pesto
Did you know that people have had the pleasure of pesto since Roman times? It wasn’t until the early 19th century that Genovese basil was added to the traditional pesto recipe. Before that time, a mashed mixture (called “moretum”) was made using crushed garlic, salt, olive oil, parmesan cheese, herbs, and vinegar.
In 1863, gastronomist Giovanni Battista Ratto gifted the recipe its basil component and included it in his book, “La Cuciniera Genovese.” He also mentions marjoram or parsley as players in the pesto package. Walnuts were used way before pine nuts, mainly during the Middle Ages in Genoan cuisine (called “agliata”).
How do you prefer your pesto? Are pine nuts your prime choice or do walnuts win your heart? You can find an incredible walnut-based pesto in The Friendly Vegan Cookbook. Does the boastful basil beat out the smooth tasting spinach? We’d love to know!
Okey Dokey Gnocchi
For those of you who are like me, you may not be used to this food or this word. This is how to pronounce “gnocchi”: nok-ee, noh-kee or (Italian) nyawk-ee. Yup, the “G” is silent! Though the pronunciation is kind of confusing, the food itself is fantastic.
Now that we know how to say the word, what exactly is it? Gnocchi is a variety of pasta made of either potato, semolina, or wheat flour that is formed into adorable dumpling shapes. Vegan varieties are constructed without cheese or eggs.
Usually served with a savory sauce, gnocchi is also downright delicious with roasted veggies. The more, the better! To perk up this vegan pesto gnocchi dish, add a ton more cherry tomatoes or even some elegantly cubed eggplant! You can also step up the salt by boosting a briny-flavor using artichoke hearts, capers, or olives.
Though it may seem like there are many parts to this pesto, it’s actually very easy to prepare. Each item can be made ahead of time until you’re on the brink of baking. Place the pleasantly green pesto in a jar and carefully cut up veggies in a container in the fridge. Half an hour before dinner, preheat your oven, add the ingredients to a casserole dish, and bake for 20 minutes.
While pre-packaged gnocchi is more convenient (and often accidentally vegan), it’s not always the most cost-effective. Trader Joe’s offers a variety of options at their store, including creamy cauliflower and curly kale, if you’re really in a rush. Homemade gnocchi is an alternative that gives you the most variety and value for your money if you have the talent and the time.
Store leftovers in an oven-safe dish so that you can easily pop the Vegan Pesto Gnocchi & Roasted Veggies in to bake at any time. Add extra pesto (or cover the dish with foil) to decrease dryness. This dish is still delicious the next day!
Personalize this Vegan Pesto Gnocchi & Veggies with these helpful tips!
- Banish the Basil – if you’re not a basil lover (or if basil is not in season), try fresh arugula (creates a more peppery pesto), carrot tops (a nice way of reducing food waste) or spinach (for a more mild flavor).
- Nut Negotiation – although pine nuts are traditional, they’re also crazy-expensive. You can substitute any type of nut you’re nuts about in this recipe. Cashews (creaminess), walnuts (texture), almonds (crunch), and pumpkin seeds (extra iron and chewiness) would all work wonderfully in this dish.
- Streamline the System – if you’re truly strapped for time, use a jar of ready-made pesto (make sure it’s vegan, with no parmesan cheese) instead of making the pesto from scratch. Simply cook up the gnocchi and veggies, pour on the pesto, and your dinner is done!
The Cookbook Author
Sarah Nevins is the founder of A Saucy Kitchen, a popular food blog that focuses on easy everyday recipes along with helpful resources for gluten-free vegan living. Her recipes have been featured by BuzzFeed, The Kitchn, and Brit + Co. Sarah lives in Sheffield, England.
Her cookbook Effortless Vegan would make an incredible gift for a new vegan, especially if they are gluten-free! I’ve already put this on my list of “must-buy” cookbooks for my family and friends because of its super simple and effortless approach to vegan and gluten-free cooking. I love the easy-to-read format, lovely layout, and the bright and beautiful photographs. Buy your copy here!
We asked Sarah why she loves this vegan pesto gnocchi recipe so much, and here’s what she had to say:
“There is just something undeniably delicious that happens to veggies as they roast. Juicy, bursting cherry tomatoes. Lightly charred zucchini slices. Beautifully caramelized red onion pieces mixed in with the soft and pillowy pesto-coated gnocchi. There’s just so much to love in this dish!
One of my absolute favorite things about this Pesto Gnocchi and Veggies is just how easy and low maintenance it is to throw together. So long as you have your favorite jar of vegan pesto and a bag of gnocchi ready in the cupboard then preparing this recipe is simply a matter of piling everything into a baking dish, mixing it together and popping it in the oven for 20 minutes. Of course, if you’re feeling more adventurous there’s a lot of room for flexing your culinary ability here as you can easily make your own homemade pesto or even the gnocchi from scratch. However, you choose to make it—this dish is a winner!”
Do you love Italian inspired vegan recipes? Check out these recipes!
This recipe for gluten-free Vegan Pesto Gnocchi & Veggies was reprinted with permission from the Effortlessly Vegan cookbook by Sarah Nevins (Page Street Publishing Co. 2020). Photography by Sarah Nevins. Please note that this article contains affiliate links that help support our work at World of Vegan!