I was talking with my daughter yesterday who is now living in her first apartment and starting to cook for herself. I asked her what she was making for dinner, and she said gnocchi. Wow, I was impressed.
Homemade gnocchi– that’s amazing. No, she said, she bought it from her regular grocery store. In fact, there were a few brands to choose from, all pre-packed and ready to boil. Wow – that’s impressive too.
And I wondered what she paired with it. Before I could ask her, the conversation changed. Though later, I began to consider all the wonderful choices for side dishes a young homemaker could choose for a simple gnocchi dinner.
There are so many possibilities for side dishes for gnocchi and all of them are perfect for someone just learning to cook or in need of a quick evening meal.
Fresh green vegetables, like green beans, peas and broccoli are a quick healthy side dish. Leafy vegetables, fresh in a salad or sauteed, are another good choice of side dish for this meal.
Or you can just as easily make gnocchi the side dish and pair it with the main course.
- What Exactly Is Gnocchi And How Do You Pronounce It?
- What Is The Best Side Dish For Pasta?
- Delicious Side Dishes For Main Course Gnocchi
- What Protein Goes Well With Gnocchi?
- What Goes Well With Gnocchi When It’s A Side-Dish?
- Can I Serve Bread With Gnocchi?
- Is Gnocchi A Good Choice For Vegans, Vegetarians, And Gluten-Free
- Can I Freeze Gnocchi?
- Final Verdict
- Related Guides
What Exactly Is Gnocchi And How Do You Pronounce It?
Gnocchi – pronounced in the US as NYO-kee, are small oval pillows of kneaded, shaped, and boiled dough. The ingredients are few, just potatoes, flour, and egg. But when this dough is boiled, it puffs into a chewy dumpling that’s truly addictive to eat.
Is Gnocchi A Side Dish Or A Main Dish?
Gnocchi is a simple meal, but there are conflicting opinions about whether gnocchi should be served as a side dish or a main. Wikipedia says it’s a starter or small plate served before the meat course. But Saveur’s History of Gnocchi says Sunday lunch typically includes potato gnocchi baked in the oven.
I’m very practical. If your family loves gnocchi, why limit yourself? Do both.
What Is The Best Side Dish For Pasta?
Gnocchi, though a dumpling, is eaten like pasta. When gnocchi is the main dish, the question is what to pair with it. The sides that pair best with pasta are sautéed green vegetables or a side salad of leafy greens.
In general, something you can prepare while the water is boiling.
Delicious Side Dishes For Main Course Gnocchi
When choosing a side dish for gnocchi, I try to match it with the sauce. Gnocchi itself will pair with such a large variety of vegetables that it’s easier to narrow it down by starting with the sauce.
Here are my 3 favorite gnocchi sauces with side dish combinations that complement their flavors.
Combination 1 – Sage Butter Sauce And Green Spring Vegetables
Gnocchi is most commonly served with a light butter sauce and sage. Just simply warm up butter, pour it on the warm gnocchi, and sprinkle in some dried sage. (Of course, if you have fresh chopped sage, you will taste a difference, but no need to run to the store just for this one ingredient.)
For a side dish, think of all the wonderful Italian spring vegetables, like green beans and peas. Steamed or sauteed, with a hint of lemon and a dash of olive oil, you have a perfect side dish.
If you want to add a little more crunch with your vegetables, include some sliced almonds, pine nuts, or toasted hazelnuts.
For some color contrast, you can sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese over the vegetables. Keep it light, you want to see all the green vegetable color and the cheese is just an accent.
Combination 2 – Mushroom Cream Sauce And Italian Style Earthy Greens
Gnocchi takes on a whole other flavor when paired with a cream sauce. You don’t need a lot of cream, just enough for a light coat to add a little sweetness to each bite.
I also like to add sauteed mushrooms to my cream sauce. First, it adds a rich brown color to the dish. And second, it provides a deep meaty flavor without the meat.
Steamed broccoli with butter would go nicely with gnocchi in mushroom cream sauce. Broccoli is more fibrous than other vegetables and would make a nice contrast with the springy texture of the gnocchi. It also has a stronger flavor and can match the strength of this earthy sauce.
Asparagus, also known for its earthy flavors, is another good choice as a side dish. Just snap off the tough ends, lightly toss with olive oil, season (salt, pepper, and rosemary), and place under the broiler. They cook pretty quickly, so be sure to check on them at the 4-minute mark, and every 60 seconds after that.
Combination 3 – Tomato Sauce And Seasonal Salads
Gnocchi with tomato sauce is something every busy family needs to have in the pantry. The dish can be ready in 12 minutes – including the time it takes to boil the water.
If I’m looking for a fast side for gnocchi during the summertime, my go-to standard is a cucumber tomato salad.
Just peel, seed, and chop the cucumbers. Chop the tomatoes. Mix with a little lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Now it’s ready.
During the fall and winter, I love fresh Brussel sprouts. You can roast them with olive oil until they have a dark caramel glaze. Place them next to the gnocchi and top with shaved parmesan. Simple and satisfying.
What Protein Goes Well With Gnocchi?
Before we leave the topic of gnocchi as a main dish, one question that often comes up is how to add protein to the meal.
Many protein-rich side dishes with soft cheese and beans are a good choice. You can also make the famous one-pot meal, gnocchi alla sorrentina, and add both cheese and meat.
Soft Cheeses – Feta And Chevre
Crisp lettuce with soft cheese, such as chevre or feta, would make an easy and nutritious side for any of the above gnocchi sauces.
The fresh lettuce will give the dish both color and crunch. For more vibrant hues and sweetness, include peeled orange slices and roasted beets.
Soft Cheese – Buffalo Mozzarella
Caprese Salad, named for the beautiful island of Capri, is slices of summertime on a plate. 3-tiered morsels of sliced tomato, soft mozzarella, and basil make up this stunning Italian side dish.
Drizzle a little olive oil over top and you’ll taste the freshness — and maybe even feel the warm ocean breeze.
Beans are a good source of protein and fiber. White beans are frequently added to Italian dishes. Adding them to spinach sauteed in olive oil will complement your gnocchi and is another quick dish to make.
Ground Beef And Sausage – Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina
The famous gnocchi alla sorrentina, from Sorrento, the southern region of Italy, is simply gnocchi layered with diced mozzarella, tomato sauce, and some basil.
Once assembled, bake. I like mine baked until the cheese melts and turns a deep rich brown.
For even more protein mix in some cooked ground beef before cooking. Or for more flavor, try cooked ground sausage or chopped prosciutto.
What Goes Well With Gnocchi When It’s A Side-Dish?
At many Italian multi-course restaurants, gnocchi is served as a small first course before the main course. At home, you can combine the first two courses onto one plate and still be serving it “just like in Italy”
Your choices are endless for main course proteins to pair with gnocchi. It is especially good with fish and poultry. But one word of caution, think of the colors. Nothing is less appetizing than a monochrome plate.
Fish is always my first choice for gnocchi and I prefer salmon. Salmon is available year-round, either frozen or fresh at the market. It’s easy to prepare and doesn’t require special sauces.
Just season, broil, sauté, or grill, and you’ll have this finished in about the same time it takes to make the gnocchi.
Any of the above gnocchi sauces would pair nicely when it’s a side dish for salmon.
Poultry And Pesto Sauce
Chicken breasts, chicken thighs, and turkey also go nicely with gnocchi. If you are removing the poultry skins, make sure you have additional color in your gnocchi sauce.
Pesto sauce for the gnocchi would be an excellent choice for taste and color. The deep green sweet basil and the silky smoothness of the olive oil would be vibrant both on the plate and on your palate.
Can I Serve Bread With Gnocchi?
I finally got back to my daughter to ask what she served with her gnocchi. Hoping to hear about fresh vegetables and protein, (a mother’s hope is eternal) she answered, garlic bread.
This has been a lifelong debate in my house, how many carbs do you really need with your pasta? But it makes her happy and a cheerful table is really what family is all about.
Is Gnocchi A Good Choice For Vegans, Vegetarians, And Gluten-Free
Many popular pasta brands are also making vegetarian and Vegan gnocchi by removing the egg. I have also seen a variety of gluten-free gnocchi with rice flour instead of wheat flour.
All these varieties are boiled, baked, or frozen just like the traditional gnocchi. No cooking adjustments are needed.
Can I Freeze Gnocchi?
Not only can you freeze gnocchi, but it also doesn’t even need to be defrosted. Just boil your already frozen gnocchi, straight from freezer to pot.
There are so many possibilities with gnocchi and side dishes that you can serve it repeatedly and never have the same meal twice. And what’s more, it’s so quick to make.
Just about every green vegetable would pair nicely with gnocchi. Some fresh, others steamed, sautéed or grilled, is all you need to complete the meal.
Gnocchi is also a satisfying side dish, especially with fish and poultry. Just replace your usual starch side dish with gnocchi.
Bread too is also a popular choice, but it does make the meal rather carb-heavy. As I told my daughter yesterday, pleading like so many mothers before me, “Do at least consider vegetables as a side dish for your gnocchi. You’ll thank me later.”
Kelly is a native of California. After graduation from UCLA, she began her travels living and cooking in Europe, Asia, and the Northwest. In Tokyo, she earned the Grand Diplôme, for both Cuisine and Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu.
Kelly is a freelance food writer. She started the website, Tokyo-Table.com, where she reviews Tokyo restaurants from the perspective of a professional chef. Kelly has written for publications in Asia and North America on all aspects of cooking. Kelly now lives in Los Angeles with her family and her vegetable garden.