Walnut Cream Gnocchi

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Years ago my husband and I vacationed in Italy, visiting Lake Como, Venice, Verona, the Dolomites, Varenna, Cinque Terre, Florence, Umbria, Siena, and Rome, plus delightful villages in between. One day we had lunch in the beautiful and historically fascinating city of Siena. I remember it like it was yesterday – not only the city but also my lunch.


We had walked away from the touristy part of town, and discovered a restaurant-filled alley. We checked out posted menus, and finally just picked one eeny-meeny-miney-mo style. Honestly all of the restaurants had fabulous menus.

I ordered gnocchi with a walnut cream sauce, which could definitely be my last meal on earth if I had a choice in the matter. The gnocchi were bite-sized pillows – just what you’d expect in Tuscany. But the walnut cream sauce was heavenly.

I took before and after photos of my lunch, and fortunately, have never deleted them from my computer. They’ve been a constant reminder to try and duplicate the sauce. And yes, I left one gnocchi just to not feel piggy! But seriously, look at that serving?!

Once home, I pondered the different ways you can make a walnut cream sauce. It really depends how thick or thin you want it; one of my options was to make a walnut bechamel, but I chose to make a somewhat thinner sauce.

To keep it simple, I used gnocchi from the store. This is a fabulous product.

So here is my recipe for gnocchi in a simple walnut cream sauce, subtly infused with garlic. The prepared gnocchi can be served tossed in the sauce, with grated Parmesan passed around, or baked with the sauce and cheese first. Your choice!


Walnut Cream Sauce for Gnocchi
serves 2 or 4

6 ounces walnuts
12 ounces heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2
4 ounces unsalted butter or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces gnocchi
Grated Parmesan

Toast the walnuts in a heavy skillet just until lightly browned. Let cool. I try to avoid the nut dust after toasting them.

Combine the walnuts and the cream in the blender jar. Process until smooth. You can see how thick the walnut cream becomes.

Turn on the oven to 400 degrees F if you’re going to bake the gnocchi. See * below. Prepare the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the garlic and gently warm it in the butter for a few minutes. Add the walnut cream to the garlic butter and whisk until combined.

* Fold in the prepared gnocchi gently, making sure they are all coated with the cream. Add the salt and taste. Once heated through, place them in a serving dish.

At this point the gnocchi can be enjoyed as is, with grated Parmesan passed around. This is how I had it in Siena.


For the baked version, pour the walnut-cream covered gnocchi into a buttered baking dish, and generously top with Parmesan.


Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until there’s some bubbling and browning. The baking dish could alternatively be placed under the broiler for a few minutes prior to serving.

I have to add that this isn’t the prettiest sauce in the world. The walnuts make the cream a bit off in color, but it’s so good I’m not sure anyone would care.

I also think some panko bread crumbs could be used on top for a little crunch, but next time…


Since creating this recipe, I’ve repeated it for company using 3 pounds of gnocchi, and for the sauce used 16 ounces of walnuts and 1 quart (32 ounces) of cream. It worked out perfectly, so I don’t think the nut-to-cream ratio is that critical.

This recipe is so good, and I’m stating that even though I “created“ it. Duplicating delicious meals, especially from traveling, is always fun.

Both versions, the baked and non-baked are fabulous. If you want to taste most closely what I had in Siena, don’t bake the gnocchi!

Croxetti with Smoked Salmon

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Last April when my husband and I visited New York City for my birthday, we went to Eataly. I could have spent much more time there, but my “other half” has limited patience shopping. We checked out the whole place, which requires a map if you want to do it in an orderly fashion, and then ate an incredible lunch.

My husband convinced me to shop online at Eataly.com instead of dragging groceries back home in my suitcase. In retrospect I think it was a trick to keep me from really shopping, but nonetheless I did grab a few Italian goodies.

One was Croxetti, a beautiful embossed pasta that I’d never seen before. I have since learned that the spelling can vary, but these “pendants” are Ligurian in origin.

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Over the many years of Croxetti development, the “traditional” designs have varied. The following photo is an example of a wooden stamp used for embossing, taken from the blog A Path To Lunch.

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I highly recommend reading the blog post I highlighted above. The blog’s authors, Martha and Mike, describe and photograph a meeting with the craftsman Mr. Pietro Picetti, who custom designs croxetti stamps in his workshop in Varese Ligure, Liguria.

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For the croxetti, I chose a light cream sauce with smoked salmon, hoping it would be a delicate enough sauce to not destroy the integrity of these delicate pasta discs once cooked.
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No real recipe is required. The pasta is cooked according to the package directions.
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I sautéed a few minced garlic cloves in hot olive oil, just for a few seconds, then added cream to the pot. Pour enough in the pot to lightly coat the pasta, about 12 ounces of cream for the 1.1 pound of croxetti.

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Julienne thin sliced of smoked salmon or lox, and add them to the cream. Heat through.

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Gently add the drained pasta discs to the cream and let sit, stirring once or twice as necessary to allow the cream sauce to coat the croxetti and get absorbed.

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Serve warm and sprinkle with capers, if desired.

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If you would prefer a thicker sauce, consider adding a little Marscapone or ricotta to the cream.
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Other options for this simple recipe would be to use butter instead of olive oil, and one could include clam juice with the cream for a fishier yet less rich sauce. Also, lemon zest would be a nice touch.

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If you happened to have fresh dill, a few leaves would be pretty on the pasta, but I only had dried dill leaves.

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The croxetti actually didn’t end up being as delicate as I assumed they would be. Of course I treated them gently as well. They were really fun to eat!

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