Easy Pan-Fried Gnocchi With Lemon Ricotta and Herbs

Crispy pan-fried gnocchi dressed in a herby vinaigrette and topped with zesty ricotta, roasted nuts and chives make a lovely vegetarian main dish or side. We use store-bought gnocchi for a quick and easy shortcut.

The recipe takes about 20 minutes to make.

Pan-fried gnocchi with lemon ricotta, nuts and chives on plate.

The idea comes from a Milk Street zucchini salad recipe my sister Kathy made for us one night. I simplified it a bit and replaced the zucchini ribbons with gnocchi. It works!

What to Expect

In a nutshell, here is how to make the recipe:

  1. Pan-fry the gnocchi
  2. Prep the add-ons: while the gnocchi is cooking, mix the lemon zest and ricotta, roast the nuts, and make the herby dressing.
  3. Assemble: Toss the gnocchi with the dressing, then garnish with lemon ricotta, nuts and chives.

The gnocchi is crispy on the outside and slightly chewy. The lemon flavor shines through with the addition of lemon zest and herby lemony dressing. You can play with the ingredients and flavors to make it your own. We have a few suggestions below.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

Store-bought gnocchi, ricotta, lemon, fresh herbs, chives, nuts, oil, salt, pepper, honey.
Store-bought gnocchi, ricotta, lemon, fresh herbs, chives, nuts, oil, salt, pepper, honey.

Gnocchi: For this recipe, I recommend buying fresh potato gnocchi in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. You can use frozen gnocchi instead, but it will take a little longer to cook and is best if you boil them first for a couple of minutes. The shelf stable gnocchi found in the pasta aisle has more presevatives and a denser texture.

Ricotta cheese: I prefer whole milk ricotta or Buffalo milk ricotta because they are creamy and fluffy. Other kinds (including light ricotta) tend to be drier, denser or more crumbly. The ricotta is mixed with lemon zest and a bit of olive oil.

Herb vinaigrette: Lemon juice, honey, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

Herbs: Use whatever mix of herbs you like. Fresh is best, but you can mix in some dried herbs if you like. Mint is a wonderful addition here – it adds a lovely freshness. Basil is another good alternative. I also use rosemary, oregano and/or thyme if I have them on hand.

Toasted nuts: Pistachios, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, and hazelnuts are all great choices.

  • try sweet potato gnocchi or homemade gnocchi.
  • add heat with red pepper flakes
  • use feta instead of ricotta (it will be much tangier)
  • substitute chopped green onions for the chives
  • sprinkle on freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving
  • for fluffier gnocchi, boil them for two minutes before pan frying.
  • for a festive Christmas touch, add pomegranate seeds on top

Step-by-step instructions

Gnocchi sauteed in skillet.
Pan fry gnocchi and oil and butter for 8-10 minutes.
Mix ricotta with zest, oil, salt and pepper. Toast nuts.
Herb dressing in glass measuring cup.
Stir together herb dressing ingredients.
Crispy gnocchi with herb dressing.
Add dressing to gnocchi in the pan. Then transfer gnocchi to a serving plate.
Pan-fried gnocchi with lemon ricotta, nuts and chives on plate.
Top with lemon ricotta, toasted nuts and chives.
Pan-fried gnocchi with lemon ricotta, nuts and chives on plate.

Tips

For softer less chewy gnocchi, boil them first until they float (about 2 minutes). Then pan fry.

Don’t use all butter to fry the gnocchi – it will burn. I use part oil and part butter for added richness.

 

Shortcuts

  1. Skip the pan-frying and just boil the gnocchi for a few minutes. No crispy gnocchi though! You will cut the time in half to about 10 minutes.
  2. Buy toasted nuts instead of toasting them yourself.

Make Ahead

You can make the ricotta, nuts and dressing ahead, then assemble with the gnocchi before serving. You can also make the gnocchi ahead and warm it in the microwave for a few seconds or serve it at room temperature.

What to serve with pan-fried gnocchi and ricotta

For a light summer meal, I love to serve the gnocchi with argula peach salad with walnut dressing or fresh grilled peach halves. Or a nice chilled soup like gazpacho (smooth or chunky) or sweet corn soup with fresh herbs.

As a side dish, the gnocchi is great with sweet and spicy baked salmon, maple ginger salmon with peach salsa, pecan-crusted salmon, marinated grilled pork chops, or smoked chicken thighs (without a smoker).

Christmas idea! Sprinkle on pomeg1ranate seeds for a festive red, white, and green effect.

Recipe FAQs

What is gnocchi?

Gnocchi is an Italian dumpling typically made from potatoes, flour, and sometimes eggs. It’s a versatile ingredient that you can find in various forms at the grocery store. It is not a pasta. In Italy, traditional gnocchi is mostly commonly eaten with a light butter sauce or extra virgin olive oil and fresh sage.

What types of gnocchi can I buy?

There are 3 types of gnocchi you can buy at most grocery stores: shelf-stable (found in the pasta aisle – these have more preservatives), fresh gnocchi in the refrigerated section, and frozen gnocchi.

What is the best way to toast nuts?

Here’s an article on how to toast nuts in the microwave, stove top or oven. I prefer toasting nuts in a dry pan on the stovetop as it’s easier to cook the nuts evenly, it’s quick and you are right there to ensure they don’t burn. I like the oven method as well but it takes a bit longer.

Pan-fried gnocchi with lemon ricotta, nuts and chives on plate.

More gnocchi recipes

If you like your gnocchi with a sauce, try one of these recipes:

If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸwith a comment in the recipe card below. Thanks so much!

Pan-fried gnocchi with lemon ricotta, nuts and chives on plate.
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5 from 3 votes

Easy Pan-Fried Gnocchi With Lemon Ricotta and Herbs

Crispy pan-fried gnocchi dressed in a herby vinaigrette and topped with zesty ricotta, roasted nuts and chives make a lovely vegetarian main dish or side. We use store-bought gnocchi for a quick and easy shortcut.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian-American
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 2 large mains (or 4 sides)

Ingredients

  • 350 grams pre-made potato gnocchi, Note 1 (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or a combination of unsalted butter and oil)

Herb Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped herbs, Note 2
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon each, salt and black pepper (or more to taste)

Lemon Ricotta

  • 1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta, Note 3
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of kosher salt

Garnish

  • 1/4 cup toasted nuts, chopped, Note 4
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • optional: more fresh herbs, pomegranate seeds, more lemon zest

Instructions

  • PAN FRY GNOCCHI: Melt butter and oil in large skillet on medium-high heat (I use 7/10). When hot, add gnocchi in single layer. Don't overcrowd. If doubling the recipe, do two batches. Cook gnocchi for 8-10 minutes total, until golden brown and crispy, shaking pan occasionally to flip gnocchi (you will have to turn a few with tongs or a spoon). Lower to medium heat if browning too quickly.
    If using frozen gnocchi or if you want more pillowy gnocchi, boil them first for a few minutes, then pat them dry with paper towels before pan frying.
    While gnocchi is cooking, make ricotta and herb mixture.
  • COMBINE HERB MIXTURE: Mix chopped herbs, lemon juice, honey, salt and black pepper in a small measuring cup or bowl.
  • MAKE LEMON RICOTTA: Combine ricotta, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • ASSEMBLE: When gnocchi is crispy and cooked, stir in the herb mixture. Transfer the gnocchi to a serving plate (or leave it in the frying pan). Top with dollops of lemon ricotta, sprinkle on toasted nuts and chives. Add extra lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil if you like. Serve.

Recipe Notes

  1. Gnocchi options: I recommend buying packaged fresh potato gnocchi in the grocery store’s refrigerated section. You can use frozen gnocchi instead, but it’s best if you boil them first for a couple of minutes. You can use shelf stable gnocchi but it will be chewier and denser and it has more preservatives.ย 
  2. Herb choices: Use any mix you like. Fresh is best, but you can mix in some dried herbs if you like (1 tablespoon fresh =1 teaspoon dried). Good options are mint, basil, rosemary, oregano, and thyme.
  3. Ricotta: Whole milk ricotta or Buffalo milk ricotta is creamy and fluffy (highly recommend). Other kinds of fresh ricotta (including light ricotta) tend to be drier, denser or more crumbly.ย 
  4. Nuts – and how to toast them: Good choices are pistachios, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. To toast:
    • Pan method:ย dry fry them over medium-high heat, shaking them to avoid burning, for a few minutes.
    • Oven method: bake at 350F/177C for 5-7 minutes.
    • Microwave method: place in single layer on plate and microwave in 30-second intervals for about 1 1/2 minutes total, stirring in between.
  5. Variations
    • try sweet potato gnocchi orย homemade gnocchi.
    • add heat with red pepper flakes
    • use feta instead of ricotta (it will be much tangier)
    • substitute chopped green onions for the chives
    • sprinkle on freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving
    • for fluffier gnocchi, boil them for two minutes before pan frying.
    • for lower calories, skip the oil in the ricotta mixture. You can also use lower-fat or skim milk ricotta but it won’t be as rich and creamy.ย 
  6. Shortcuts:
    • Skip the pan-frying and just boil the gnocchi for a few minutes. No crispy gnocchi though! You will cut the time in half to about 10 minutes.
    • Buy toasted nuts instead of toasting them yourself.
  7. Make ahead: You can make the ricotta, nuts and herb mixture ahead, then assemble with the gnocchi before serving. You can also make the gnocchi ahead and warm it in the microwave for a few seconds or serve it at room temperature. Store leftover gnocchi in an airtight container for up to 2 days.ย 
ย 
Nutrition information is estimated using whole milk ricotta.ย 

Nutrition

Calories: 580kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 920mg | Potassium: 131mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 578IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 7mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!
5 from 3 votes

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