Walnut Cream Gnocchi

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!

By Published On: January 9th, 202059 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

59 Comments

  1. thewackyspoon.com January 9, 2020 at 6:08 AM - Reply

    That sauce sounds amazing! Definitely will be trying this!

    • chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 6:53 AM - Reply

      There are multiple ways to make a walnut cream, but this worked really well!!!

  2. Travel Gourmet January 9, 2020 at 6:23 AM - Reply

    Gorgeous recipe. I love the way Italians use walnuts in their pasta/gnocchi sauces. Great ‘re-creation’, Mimi. And Siena is glorious isn’t it!

    • chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 6:53 AM - Reply

      Thank you. Siena was so much more than I even expected!

  3. David Scott Allen January 9, 2020 at 6:33 AM - Reply

    I love salsa di noci but have never had it on gnocchi. That is something I must try! That sounds like a fabulous trip, Mimi! What a dream!

    • chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 6:55 AM - Reply

      It was a dream trip. We never may get back to Italy – so many other countries to visit. Although I’d like to see Sicily, which is where my father is from. Except for the garlic, which isn’t necessary, I know you’d love this sauce.

  4. Kim Bultman January 9, 2020 at 9:59 AM - Reply

    Mimi, this is infinitely better than bringing home a souvenir, although there are merits to that, too! Food memories evoke immediate recall of flavors, textures, aromas, tastes… aahhh. What a wonderful trip and re-creation. Definitely “last meal” caliber!

    • chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 10:20 AM - Reply

      Yes, definitely! I can’t describe well enough how luscious this is. And you can’t stop eating it!!!

  5. cookingwithauntjuju.com January 9, 2020 at 10:06 AM - Reply

    This looks so good – I made a walnut sauce before and it never made it to my blog. So, thanks for the recipe. I have a couple of curling tools to make homemade gnocchi (from a class I took) and never made any (doubt if I ever will). Think I will pick some up next time I go to my local Italian grocery!

    • chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 10:21 AM - Reply

      I’ve made gnocchi just in rolled “worms” that you cut into the pieces, but am too intimidated by the fork marks and all of that. Fortunately, these store bought gnocchi are really good. Of course not exactly the same…

  6. cookingwithauntjuju.com January 9, 2020 at 10:08 AM - Reply

    We spent almost 2 weeks touring throughout Italy from Venice to the Amalfi coast. Lovely country with lots of history and good food!

  7. Linger January 9, 2020 at 10:48 AM - Reply

    This gnocchi and walnut cream sauce is incredibly lovely and I am sooooo craving it right now. Toasted walnuts, heavy cream, garlic and parmesan cheese with the gnocchi swimming in it – it just doesn’t get any better than this! As always, thanks so much for sharing!

    • chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 10:50 AM - Reply

      No, it really doesn’t! Although being in Italy and eating it would be better…..

  8. Ronit Penso Tasty Eats January 9, 2020 at 1:15 PM - Reply

    Great find! Sounds delicious. I’m very much into walnuts lately, so this came right on time. It’s been a while since I’ve made potato gnocchi. Maybe this dish will give me the push to make them again. But it’s also great to have your recommendation for this brand, just in case… :)

    • chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 1:50 PM - Reply

      They’re not like freshly make potato gnocchi, not quit as pillowy. But still good, and a time saver. Plus I’m incapable of making the cute fork design on gnocchi. Walnuts really are fabulous, but I just usually throw them on salads!

      • Ronit Penso Tasty Eats January 9, 2020 at 5:13 PM

        It’s not too difficult, just time consuming. No doubt that the store bough saves a lot of time! :)

  9. Mary January 9, 2020 at 1:44 PM - Reply

    That Walnut sauce sounds divine and wonder what else I could put it with. I’m a sauce lover but, dare I say it, not a gnocchi lover.
    I will store this recipe away until I have the very thing to marry it with.
    Thankyou Mimi, you’ve hit the jackpot again. :))

  10. chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 1:51 PM - Reply

    Okay, I will put on my thinking cap. Does that mean you don’t like any pasta? Or spatzele? Hmmmm. Maybe you could drink it, cause when I make it I always say that i could just drink it, it’s so good!

  11. Abbe@This is How I Cook January 9, 2020 at 5:52 PM - Reply

    I will have to look for that gnocchi. And as for this sauce? I can’t imagine a more comforting dish in the throes of winter. Just what I need right now!

    • chef mimi January 9, 2020 at 6:03 PM - Reply

      Exactly! Oh, it’s really luscious and lovely. The gnocchi is amazing, and it’s in with dried pasta not with fresh ravioli. But it works!

  12. cookingontheweekends January 9, 2020 at 9:13 PM - Reply

    What a delicious food memory, and what a comforting, warming dish. I’m ready for this. :-) ~Valentina

    • chef mimi January 10, 2020 at 6:28 AM - Reply

      It’s so lovely. It’s rich, but somehow doesn’t feel heavy.

  13. Katherine | Love In My Oven January 9, 2020 at 11:16 PM - Reply

    All I can say is, I’m in! Walnut and gnocchi, two of my favorite things. Looks so comforting, and I love the memories behind it!

    • chef mimi January 10, 2020 at 6:28 AM - Reply

      You will love it. The only people who wouldn’t love this would be people who are allergic to walnuts!

  14. Tandy | Lavender and Lime January 10, 2020 at 2:20 AM - Reply

    I am so going to try this the next time I make gnocchi. It sounds delicious. We loved our time in Sienna, albeit too short for a proper experience.

    • chef mimi January 10, 2020 at 6:27 AM - Reply

      I wish we had stayed longer as well. Such fascinating history.

  15. Rowena January 10, 2020 at 5:57 AM - Reply

    You really can’t go wrong with walnut cream sauce. Ever! There is a dish in Liguria that is divine (filled pasta)….I must look for it now!

    • chef mimi January 10, 2020 at 6:27 AM - Reply

      Yes, I’d have to agree with you!!

  16. FrugalHausfrau January 10, 2020 at 3:37 PM - Reply

    Mimi, you must be a mind reader!! I have a huge bag or gorgeous walnuts that was given to me and I’ve been trying to think of ways to use them. I meant to incorporate them into Christmas baking but honestly, just couldn’t get to them! I love gnocchi (I always meant to make them for my site but my daughter absconded with my ricer and I keep forgetting to get a new one) so it’s very good to know about the brand.

    This must be incredible to have been so memorable! I can’t wait to recreate it, and thanks!!

    • chef mimi January 10, 2020 at 4:00 PM - Reply

      Oh, it is good. Nice that you have fresh walnuts! You’ll love the gnocchi, if you can find it. Not like the real thing, but really good.

      • FrugalHausfrau January 10, 2020 at 4:01 PM

        We have a great Italian deli, I might check there. I bet if they don’t have those they have something fab. They might even sell their own; I haven’t been there in ages.

      • chef mimi January 10, 2020 at 4:07 PM

        Oh right. Cool!

  17. Katerina January 11, 2020 at 4:25 AM - Reply

    I agree, they make the best gnocchi in Italy. I have not had walnut sauce before but love the look and sound of it – this dish is definitely making its way onto my “must make” list. Thanks so much for re-creating this recipe and sharing!

  18. thatskinnychickcanbake January 11, 2020 at 7:32 AM - Reply

    A great reason to pick up some gnocchi ASAP. My daughter loves it and this simple preparation is perfect!!! P.S. I still remember our lunch in Siena years ago, too!

    • chef mimi January 11, 2020 at 8:40 AM - Reply

      Of course you do! Italy is so wonderful.

  19. David @ Spiced January 13, 2020 at 6:46 AM - Reply

    You had me at gnocchi, Mimi! I discovered gnocchi years ago in Italy, and I’ve been hooked ever since. However, I must admit that I’ve never tried ’em with a walnut cream sauce. I was intrigued how to make this one, but it sounds pretty easy…and pretty delicious! This is definitely going on the menu here!

    • chef mimi January 13, 2020 at 7:06 AM - Reply

      Definitely easy. And so worth it! Not the prettiest gnocchi, but I served them to company who didn’t seem to care!

  20. All That I'm Eating January 13, 2020 at 7:16 AM - Reply

    I love the idea of this! I’ve never tried anything similar to it before so I’d like to give it a try.

    • chef mimi January 13, 2020 at 7:17 AM - Reply

      All you have to do is love walnuts! And gnocchi and Parmesan…

  21. Laura January 13, 2020 at 1:59 PM - Reply

    I love Siena so much! What a fascinating and beautiful city! One of my all-time favorites! And this gnocchi sounds heavenly! I’m definitely going to try it! Ive never made walnut cream, thanks for the lesson!

  22. Shannon January 14, 2020 at 4:42 PM - Reply

    OH MY GOODNESS MIMI! There are too many of my favorite things in this dish! You had me at gnocchi, but that walnut cream sauce!! I am dying. This looks and sounds fabulous. And I loved reading about your time in Italy! Such an amazing place with some of the best food in the world. Can’t wait to try your recipe!

    • chef mimi January 14, 2020 at 4:43 PM - Reply

      Eh, France is better! No, kidding, they’re equal. But, France has better cheeses. This gnocchi was so good and I think I did a good job recreating it. Very simple, too, so perfect to fit into your relaxed, unhurried lifestyle! 🤣🤣🤣🤣

  23. Fran @ G'day Souffle' January 14, 2020 at 8:57 PM - Reply

    I think I like the baked version better- but I’m sure both versions are delicious. Plus, using store-bought gnocchi sure makes it easier! Whoop whoop!

    • chef mimi January 15, 2020 at 6:55 AM - Reply

      Definitely. Not the same as fresh, but great in a pinch!

  24. the Painted Apron January 15, 2020 at 11:23 AM - Reply

    Oh goodness, I have got to make this Mimi, it sounds like heaven to me, especially because you used prepared gnocchi! I’m putting this on my February bucket list!!
    Jenna

    • chef mimi January 15, 2020 at 11:48 AM - Reply

      It’s so easy and so satisfying!

  25. Alex January 17, 2020 at 2:32 PM - Reply

    Hi Mimi,
    Just wanted to let you know I recreated your recipe with a couple of changes (penne instead of gnocchi, less cream, some veal stock and veal meatballs. But the spirit of the dish was there – the walnut sauce is awesome! Thanks for the recipe and the inspiration.
    Here is the link to my variation (https://heatneat.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/penne-walnusssauce-kalbsballchen/). Its in German, but there is a translator if you just scroll down a little bit.
    Thanks again,
    Alex from heat’n’eat

    • chef mimi January 17, 2020 at 2:33 PM - Reply

      Oh fantastic! Yes, mine was quite rich. I’ll check it out!

  26. Frank Fariello January 18, 2020 at 9:06 AM - Reply

    I haven’t had this in quite a while, but it’s one of my all time faves. I haven’t toasted the walnuts in the past but want to give that a try. I imagine it brings out the nuttiness of the walnuts very nicely.

    • chef mimi January 18, 2020 at 9:12 AM - Reply

      I always toast nuts. Not sure why I do it without thinking, but it does enhance the flavor I’m quite sure. This is a fabulous dish.

  27. Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward January 18, 2020 at 7:21 PM - Reply

    Well totally make for my kiddos using a gluten-free gnocchi so I can also try it.

    • chef mimi January 18, 2020 at 7:22 PM - Reply

      You could just make the sauce and drink it 🤣🤣🤣

  28. Milisa January 20, 2020 at 1:52 PM - Reply

    This looks absolutely divine. Glad to meet another Oklahoma blogger!

    • chef mimi January 20, 2020 at 2:25 PM - Reply

      Thank you! I only know one other Oklahoma blogger…

  29. 2pots2cook January 25, 2020 at 10:18 AM - Reply

    Mamma mia ! Amazing !

    • chef mimi January 25, 2020 at 10:51 AM - Reply

      Thank you! It’s pretty amazing!

  30. Emma @ Bake Then Eat February 8, 2020 at 10:27 PM - Reply

    Mmm this sounds fab, I’m in that part of Italy in a few months time so I am going to try and hunt this dish down.

    • chef mimi February 9, 2020 at 6:48 AM - Reply

      Oh, exciting! So much good food in that region!

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