Gnocchi in Brown Butter Herb Sauce
This gnocchi recipe with lemony brown butter sage sauce elevates store-bought gnocchi to the next level and is a breeze to make! This easy yet elegant dinner rivals any restaurant - perfect for special occasions like Valentine’s Day or even busy weeknights surrounded by family. To make this recipe, the potato gnocchi are pan seared until crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside then drenched in an intoxicating nutty, garlic, brown butter sage sauce spiked with lemon and fresh Parmesan. It’s heavenly! Serve this quick-cooking gnocchi and sauce with a simple green salad or roasted butternut squash along with garlic bread and dinner is served!
Servings 6 servings
- 2 16 oz. pkgs. shelf stable gnocchi
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
Brown Butter Herb Sauce
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 25 fresh sage leaves
- 1 1/2 tsps EACH chopped fresh basil, oregano or scant ½ tsp dried
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of salted boiling water just until they float to the top, about 2 minutes. This should be about 1 minute less than the package directions. Drain the gnocchi and gently toss with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add half the gnocchi in a single layer and cook each side until golden and crispy, turning with tongs. Remove to paper towels. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.
Brown Butter Herb Sauce:
To the same nonstick skillet (if it has a light bottom) or a large sauté pan with a light bottom (such as a stainless steel pan), melt the butter over medium heat, whisking constantly. Once melted, add sage leaves and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook and whisk for 2-3 minutes until you see brown bits on the bottom of the pan, the butter has turned a light brown color and it smells nutty.
Remove from heat and add basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest. Whisk off heat for another 30 seconds. Season with 1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper (you can start with less and add more after you add the Parmesan).
Add gnocchi and Parmesan and stir to evenly coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Recipe Tips for Success
- Gluten free: Use your favorite gluten free gnocchi. Trader Joe's has a great gluten free cauliflower gnocchi.
- Halve the recipe: Two pounds of gnocchi might sound like a lot, but it's not the same as two pounds of pasta because gnocchi is denser (so it takes less gnocchi to make 2 pounds). The gnocchi in this recipe is also bathed in a light sauce so it goes down easy! Still, if you would like to halve the recipe, simply halve all of the ingredients.
- Gnocchi: This recipe works best with uncooked, shelf-stable gnocchi that you can find in the dry pasta aisle. Fresh or homemade gnocchi will not work as well because they are more delicate and can fall apart. I’m not saying fresh gnocchi can’t work, but I would hate for your gnocchi to turn to mush!
- Use unsalted butter! Unsalted butter allows you to control the salt in the recipe otherwise it may be too salty with all that butter! Secondly, salted butter tends to foam up more, which makes it difficult to discern the true color of the butter as it's browning.
- Use fresh herbs: If possible, please splurge on fresh herbs for this gnocchi recipe. You can use a mixture of dried and fresh herbs, of course, but fresh is best in my opinion, especially the sage. Its earthy and delicate quality is a defining feature of this dish. To store fresh sage, remove the leaves from the stems, wrap them in a paper towel and place in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge; use within four to five days. Fresh leaves can also be placed in a container and covered in olive oil and stored for about three weeks in the refrigerator. Either method will work for this recipe.
- Lemon: You can use more or less lemon juice and zest depending on how dominant you want the lemon flavor.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese is a must! To create thin ribbons of Parmesan, shave it with your carrot peeler.
- Recipe variations: See post for recipe ideas such as adding protein, veggies and nuts.
- Prep ahead: Have all your gnocchi sauce ingredients ready to go because one you start browning that butter, you are minutes away!
- Use a light-colored pan: A light bottomed pan allows you to easily spot exactly when the butter has browned and before it burns. If you don’t have a stainless steel or light bottom skillet, you can use a light-colored cast iron pan or even Dutch oven if that’s all you have.
- Whisk the butter constantly while it browns: It’s important that you continually whisk the butter at all stages of cooking because those golden-brown bits can go from perfectly golden brown to burnt in a matter of seconds. Once the butter starts to smell caramelized and nutty, remove it from the heat so it doesn’t continue to cook.
- Don’t go too dark with the brown butter sauce: We are going more medium golden-brown butter than dark brown butter. Continue to whisk until the butter reaches a shades above your desired degree of darkness because it will continue to cook when we add the fresh herbs.
- Don’t try and salvage burnt brown butter: If you burn the butter, you MUST start over with the gnocchi sauce because burnt butter is incredibly bitter and can’t be saved. Dispose of the butter, wipe the skillet clean and start again, decreasing the heat and/or time.
- Thoroughly coat the gnocchi in the sauce: Once you add the gnocchi and Parmesan, get in there with your spatula and gently but thoroughly give it a good stir to ensure the gnocchi is fully coated in the sauce before serving. Don’t worry about the Parmesan breaking -that just means more evenly distributed flavor!
How to Store and Reheat Gnocchi
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
- Reheat: I recommend reheating leftover gnocchi in a skillet over medium heat. This will crisp the gnocchi up slightly without making it rubbery like the microwave can.