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!

59 thoughts on “Walnut Cream Gnocchi

    • 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.

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

    • 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…

  3. 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!

  4. 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… :)

    • 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!

  5. 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. :))

  6. 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!

    • 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!

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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!!

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

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

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

    • 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! 🤣🤣🤣🤣

  14. 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

  15. 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.

    • 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.

Leave a Reply. I love 'em!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.