In 20 minutes with a few store-bought items, this easy veg gnocchi recipe delivers deep, rich Indian flavors with a creamy tomato-based sauce.
Soak it up with naan for a simple and decadent Indian style main dish the whole family will love.
Although gnocchi is considered an Italian food, it’s a great choice for this Indian dish because the soft pillowy dumplings soak up the sauce so well. I use the classic potato gnocchi, the most common type of Italian dumpling.
Here’s an easy Naan recipe for scooping up the sauce if you want to step it up a notch.
The sauce is the star of this veg gnocchi recipe – the same one I use for our Indian Butter Chicken. My daughter Jenna, the other kook, begged me to make a vegetarian version because she loves Indian food so much. (She was pregnant at the time, and I found myself doing whatever she asked).
What to expect
Saucy gnocchi with an Indian-style twist: Pillowy gnocchi is bathed in a flavorful Indian-spiced sauce. A nice change from traditional Italian gnocchi recipes.
Quick 20-minute recipe: It only takes a few simple ingredients and about 20 minutes to prepare this dish. Perfect for an easy weeknight meal.
Versatile sauce: The semi-homemade sauce is way better than the Indian bottled sauce you buy in the store. And you can pretty much add anything you want to it – chicken, vegetables, tofu – or make a dairy free version.
Ingredients – tailored to your taste
- Pre-made gnocchi is most commonly made of potatoes. You can, however, use any store-bought gnocchi variation such as ricotta, pumpkin, spinach, cauliflower gnocchi, etc.
- If you don’t have gnocchi, you can substitute pasta, tofu, legumes and/or cooked vegetables.
- Homemade gnocchi: here’s my favorite recipe for potato gnocchi if you prefer to make your own gnocchi.
- The sauce contains onions, a basic tomato sauce (or marinara), Indian spices and a splash of heavy cream or half and half.
- For a dairy free option, replace the half and half cream with coconut milk – just as creamy but the sauce will take on some coconut flavor. Another good choice is a soy-based cream. And replace the butter with margarine or vegan butter.
- We’re seasoning the gnocchi with Indian spices including garam masala, tandoori masala, curry powder, and cayenne pepper (for heat). Substitute red pepper flakes for heat if needed.
- You can also add some fresh grated ginger and a dash of brown sugar.
- I always finish the dish with fresh baby spinach (or frozen spinach) to bump up the nutrition and color.
- If you don’t have Tandoori or Garam Masala, substitute with curry powder.
Step by step instructions
Gnocchi boil very quickly, usually in 2-4 minutes, so stay close by. Overcooking will cause them to lose their shape and become mushy.
To make 1 teaspoon of Garam Masala, combine: 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon crumbled bay leaves.
A lot of people assume gnocchi is an Italian pasta. Since it is a soft dough primarily made with potatoes, Italians are more likely to call it a dumpling. But it is pasta-like.
If you are only using small quantities or want to experiment, I suggest buying Indian spices in a bulk food store. Otherwise, the spices are sold in East Asian stores and in larger mainstream grocery stores like Whole Foods.
What goes with Indian style gnocchi?
I like to serve it with this naan bread or garlic bread. Between the soft potato gnocchi and the savory sauce, it’s a complete meal all on its own or it can be served with a simple vegetable like microwave green beans, steamed broccoli or peas.
Both these shortcuts are used in this recipe.
- Store-bought tomato sauce such as White Linen Marinara Sauce from Costco.
- Store-bought fresh gnocchi, available in most grocery stores. You can, of course, make your own but most people would never notice the difference.
- Buy pre-washed baby spinach in a package.
- Use frozen garlic cubes or garlic in a jar or tube.
- Buy pre-chopped or frozen chopped onions.
- The sauce for this Indian vegetarian dish can be made several days ahead. I suggest adding the spinach just before serving (to maintain its bright green color). Store it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container.
- It is also a good idea to boil the gnocchi just before serving. But don’t get me wrong. Leftovers are great too, even straight out of the fridge.
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Easy Veg Gnocchi Recipe in 20 Minutes (Indian-Style)
- 400 grams (3/4 lb) fresh Gnocchi in package, store-bought (I used potato gnocchi)
- 3 cups roughly chopped fresh baby spinach (or kale)
- Garnish: chopped parsley or cilantro
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 1 3/4 cup tomato sauce – 15 oz. (bottled or homemade)
- 1/2 cup half & half cream (or more to taste)
Seasonings for Sauce (Note 1)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you like very spicy)
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 tablespoon Tandoori Masala (or curry powder)
- 1 teaspoon Curry powder
- BOIL GNOCCHI: as per package instructions (e.g. in a boiling in large pot of salted water for 2-3 minutes until the gnocchi floats to top). Drain and set aside.
- MAKE SAUCE: While Gnocchi are cooking in boiling water, melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook 4-5 minutes until onions are soft. Stir in seasonings for sauce. Add tomato sauce and cream and cook on medium for 5 minutes to develop flavors. Stir in spinach until it wilts, 30 seconds.
- FINISH DISH: Stir in cooked gnocchi until heated through (2 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt if needed or more spices. Garnish with parsley or cilantro and serve with warm Naan (Indian bread) if desired.
- For seasonings
- If you don’t have Tandoori or Garam Masala, use curry powder instead.
- To make 1 teaspoon of Garam Masala, combine: 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon crumbled bay leaves.
- Instead of butter, use olive oil (but butter is better!)
- For gnocchi: Here’s a recipe if you prefer to make homemade potato gnocchi. Instead of potato gnocchi, try ricotta, pumpkin, spinach, cauliflower gnocchi, etc. If you don’t have gnocchi, you can substitute pasta, tofu, legumes and/or cooked vegetables.
- For seasonings
- For a dairy free option, replace the half and half cream with coconut milk – just as creamy (but note that the sauce will take on some coconut flavor). Another good choice is a soy-based cream. Replace the butter with margarine or vegan butter.
- Try adding a bit of fresh grated ginger and a pinch of brown sugar.
- Make Ahead: The sauce can be made several days ahead. I suggest adding the spinach just before serving (to maintain it’s bright green color). It is also best to boil the gnocchi just before serving as well. Leftovers are great too, even cold straight out of the fridge.