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Creamy Red Pesto Gnocchi

This creamy red pesto gnocchi is the perfect quick and easy one-pot dinner that packs in some big flavors. It’s rich, cheesy, absolutely delicious, and ready in less than 20 minutes

an overhead shot of this cheesy red pesto gnocchi in a casserole dish, topped with melted mozzarella and fresh basil

I love creating quick one-pot vegetarian dinner recipes because many of you, like me, don’t want to spend our entire evening in the kitchen – but still want to have a hearty and delicious meal to fill our bellies and nourish our souls!

This creamy red pesto gnocchi is a blend of my super popular red pesto butter beans recipe and also inspired by this gorgeous gnocchi alla vodka. For more gnocchi goodness, you might also like this French onion gnocchi recipe!

Ingredient Notes

The exact quantities of the ingredients you need for this recipe are included in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. 

Here, I’ve added a few notes on the ingredients you need, plus a few potential substitutions you could make if you can’t eat/find a certain ingredient.

Olive Oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Any neutral oil like vegetable oil or canola oil will also work, though.

Red Onion: Use a small red onion, finely diced, for this recipe. If you don’t have a red onion, a white onion, or a couple of shallots will also work!

– Garlic: Freshly minced garlic is best. I love buying the larger heads of garlic because I’m a garlic addict! Use as much as suits your tastes.

Tomato Paste: Also known as tomato puree.

Red Chili Pesto: This gives the dish its unique flavor and pacts as big punch for a small quantity! If you can’t find red chili pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto with a pinch of red pepper flakes works well too.

Heavy Cream: This is what gives the sauce its delicious creamy texture – don’t substitute for single cream or milk, as this will make the sauce too thin! You could use cream cheese instead if you prefer. Also known as double cream in the UK.

Gnocchi: Fresh or store-bought gnocchi work equally well.

Mozzarella: Thinly sliced mozzarella melts perfectly over the top of the gnocchi creating the gorgeous golden, crispy topping. Feel free to use shredded mozzarella if that’s what you have.

Seasonings: The pesto adds such a punch to this dish that the only other seasonings used are salt, black pepper, and fresh basil. 

crispy and golden red pesto gnocchi with grilled mozzarella and fresh basil on top

Variations & Substitutions

This recipe is versatile, so feel free to make it your own. It can be served as a main meal, or used as a base to pair with more protein or vegetables. 

Here are some ideas:

Protein Additions: Add cooked chicken, crispy bacon pieces, or sausage for extra protein. I’m vegetarian, so I buy the vegetarian meat substitute versions for myself!

Add more veggies: Stir in some spinach, roasted red peppers, capers, or zucchini to pack out the veg in this recipe.

Lighter Version: Substitute the double cream with a lower-fat alternative like reduced-fat cream cheese or a plant-based cream, such as coconut milk. You could also omit the mozzarella at the end of this recipe and just grill the tops of the gnocchi so you still get the crispy edges without the cheese.

How To Make This Creamy Red Pesto Gnocchi

The exact step-by-step instructions and ingredient quantities will be in the recipe card at the bottom of this page. 

Below is an overview of making this recipe, plus some process shots to help you visualize how this recipe should turn out.

Step 1) Saute Onion and Garlic

Heat the oil in your casserole pan and add the minced onion. Sauté for 5-8 minutes until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.

1) saute the onion and garlic until it’s soft and translucent (~5-8 minutes)

Step 2) Add Pesto, Tomato Paste, and Seasonings

Stir in the tomato paste, red chili pesto, salt, and pepper. Cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes to let the flavors meld.

2) add the tomato paste and the red pesto

Step 3) Add The Cream and Gnocchi

Pour in the double cream and stir well. Add the gnocchi and mix until fully coated in the sauce. The sauce may look a little thin at first – but it will thicken up once you grill the dish so don’t worry!

Step 4) Melt the Cheese

Layer the mozzarella slices over the top and place the pan under the grill for about 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the gnocchi are golden and crispy on top.

Scatter over plenty of fresh basil and enjoy!

Top Tips \ Chef’s Notes

  • Make sure you stir the ingredients frequently when adding the tomato paste and pesto to prevent burning. The colors of the paste/pesto should deepen slightly as they release their flavors, but should not turn black.
  • Keep an eye on the gnocchi while it’s under the grill to ensure the cheese melts perfectly without burning.
  • Add the basil right before serving to keep its vibrant color and flavor. I like to gently roll a stack of basil leaves into a cigarette and then slice thinly for ribbons of basil.
  • Use fresh or shelf-stable gnocchi for this recipe – most only require a couple of minutes to be ready to eat, so cook perfectly fine in the sauce and when placed under the grill. You could also make your own!
an overhead shot of the red pesto gnocchi being scooped out by a spoon


Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding a splash of cream if the sauce has thickened too much.

How To Serve Your Red Pesto Gnocchi

Serve this creamy red pesto gnocchi hot, straight from the casserole pan. Personally, I think it pairs wonderfully with a simple green salad and a glass of crisp white wine. For an extra touch, sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top before serving along with the fresh basil (it really does make all the difference!).

Alternatively, you could serve the gnocchi as a side dish alongside your protein of choice.

More one-pot recipes you might like that are similar to this dish are this Greek Baked Feta Orzo, Creamy Pesto Beans, Pesto Alfredo Sauce Recipe, and these beautiful Creamy Butter Beans.

close up shot of creamy red pesto gnocchi in the pan


Can I make this dish ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare the sauce and gnocchi ahead of time and store them separately. Combine and reheat before serving.

Can I use homemade gnocchi?

Absolutely! Homemade gnocchi will make this dish even more special. Make your gnocchi and then follow the recipe instructions as normal.

Is there a non-dairy substitute for double cream?

Yes, you can use coconut cream or a plant-based cream substitute to make this dish dairy-free. You could either omit the mozzarella on top, or use your preferred plant-based version.

What is red pesto?

You should be able to find red pesto in most major supermarkets and stores. Here, the one I used was a combination of tomatoes and red chilies to create the fiery red chili pesto that adds a bit of kick to the dish.

A standard tomato red pesto or a sun-dried tomato red pesto would also be delicious! For the same spicy kick, add a teaspoon of red chili flakes. 

If you are vegetarian, be sure to check the ingredients list in your pesto as some contain animal rennet – I always make sure the one I buy has a “Suitable for Vegetarians” label.

close up shot of creamy red pesto gnocchi in the pan

Creamy Red Pesto Gnocchi

Yield: 3 portions
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This delicious creamy red pesto gnocchi is ready in under 20 minutes and the perfect one-pot dinner that’s quick and easy but full of beautiful flavors.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp red chili pesto
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 300g gnocchi
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 30g thinly sliced mozzarella
  • 20g fresh basil


  1. Heat the oil in your casserole pan and add the diced white onion, sauting for 5 - 8 minutes. 
  2. Then add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the red pesto and the tomato paste to the pan along with your seasoning, and stir everything together. Let the pastes cook down and release their flavors, cooking on low heat for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Pour in the cream, stir, and then add the gnocchi. Stir the gnocchi to fully coat it in the sauce, and layer over the mozzarella slices.
  5. Grill the dish for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the tops of the gnocchi have turned golden and crispy.
  6. Scatter over your fresh basil and serve!


You should be able to find red pesto in most major supermarkets and stores. A standard tomato red pesto or a sun-dried tomato red pesto would also be delicious if you can’t find a chili red pesto. For the same spicy kick, add a teaspoon of red chili flakes. 

Do not substitute the heavy cream (double cream) for single cream or milk, as it won’t have the same consistency. You could use cream cheese or coconut milk.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 520Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 998mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 13g

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