Pan-fried Mascarpone Gnocchi with Dreamy Basil Pesto

I first had gnocchi in an Italian restaurant near my house and I had to find out all about it; where it was from, how it was made and it’s variations. They told me they used mashed potatoes and other ingredients to make the teeny pillows of heaven. I really wanted to put them in this book, but I needed a quicker method, so I threw tradition to the wind and made up my own version with flour and mascarpone drawing on British dumplings for inspiration. They are great to make in bulk and freeze raw. Also try experimenting with other sauces, such as All’arrabbiata.

Time from start to finish: 45 minutes

Serves 4


  • Pesto:
    • 25g Parmesan cheese
    • 1 garlic clove (preferably roasted)
    • 2 x 30g packs of fresh basil
    • 50 ml (2 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
    • 50g (2 oz) toasted pine nuts
  • Gnocchi:
    • 100g  (4 oz) Parmesan
    • small handful of fresh thyme sprigs (or 1 tbsp of dried oregano)
    • 350g (12 oz) mascarpone
    • 300g (11 oz) plain flour + extra for dusting
    • 2 medium sized eggs
    • olive oil
    • 50g (2 oz) butter
  • To serve:
    • 70g bag of rocket
    • 25g (1 oz) toasted pine nuts
    • 1 lemon
    • salt and pepper


  • grater, blender or food processor
  • medium bowl
  • large frying pan
  • large bowl.


  1. First, prepare the pesto. Finely cut the Parmesan and tip it into a blender or food processor. Peel the garlic, tear the leaves from the bunch of basil and add both along with the oil and pine nuts. Blitz to a paste, season to taste and set aside.
  2. Now for the gnocchi, finely grate the Parmesan and tip it into a medium bowl. Pick the thyme leaves and add them (or the dried oregano) along with the mascarpone, plain flour, eggs and salt and pepper. Mix together to give a soft dough. Then tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead together to form a smooth ball.
  3. Divide the mixture in three and roll each one out into a sausage about 60cm (23½ in) long.  Cut each ‘sausage’ into 2cm (¾ in) pieces to give about 30 (so 90 in total). Half way through, put a large frying pan on a medium to high heat with a drizzle of oil and knob of butter.
  4. Divide the gnocchi between the two pans and turn down low. Leave the gnocchi to cook on one side for a minute, before carefully turning them over with a fish slice. Cook for a further 4 minutes, continuing to gently turn them every so often until they are crisp and golden all over and warmed through.  If the gnocchi didn’t fit in your pans then tip the cooked ones in a bowl, cover with tin foil to keep warm and cook the remainder adding more oil and butter as necessary.
  5. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, stir the pesto through until evenly coated. Toss in the rocket leaves and mix together. Then, divide between four serving plates and scatter the pine nuts over. Give a good grind of black pepper and serve.