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The smell of ripe tomatoes and basil are a huge part of making the hottest part of the year bearable for me. As booths at my farmers market overflow with rainbows of tomato varieties, it’s hard not to spend my entire budget on the beauties! Thankfully, I love using them, whether its snacking on raw slices or cooked into a silky, dreamy fresh tomato sauce for pasta. This recipe is one I return to again and again…and again, because it’s a simple gnocchi with tomato sauce recipe that uses other delicious summer produce like zucchini and that aromatic basil.
What is gnocchi?
Though its commonly found among the dried pastas at your supermarket, gnocchi is technically a dumpling. It’s commonly associated with Italian cuisine but variations actually exists in many different countries, and even regions within countries.
Traditional gnocchi is made from a combination of potato, flour, egg, and salt, but variations often substitute the potato for alternate ingredients. You may have heard of ricotta gnocchi, one popular alternative, but others exist like cornmeal and pumpkin. In France, gnocchi is even made with the same dough that makes cream puffs, pate a choux.
You know me, I love the homemade game! This particular recipe using gnocchi calls for a pound of gnocchi, be that homemade or store bought. If you’d like to make it yourself, I recommend this gnocchi recipe from Amanda over at Twists and Zests. She has this yummy recipe with fennel caper cream sauce and homemade gnocchi to go with it! I say make a nice big batch and try out both sauces!
One of my absolute favorite things about this gnocchi with tomato sauce is that it’s a fresh tomato sauce. Not that I don’t have canned tomatoes in the cupboard, they’re great, but with amazing fresh tomatoes beckoning…how can you not use them?! With just tomatoes and a few other ingredients, the silkiest luscious vegetable gnocchi recipe will be on your plates.
All you’ll need are a few simple things:
- 1 pound of potato gnocchi
- 1 large zucchini
- 2 large tomatoes
- fresh basil
- white wine
- olive oil
That’s it! Really and truly, that’s all you need. With just a few steps to prep and a some simmering, your on your way to a vibrant fresh vegetable gnocchi recipe.
How to Make Gnocchi with Tomato sauce
Making gnocchi with tomato sauce moves pretty seamlessly when you take a few minutes to prep and get everything ready to go. I have a few tips to make it even smoother!
Step 1 – Boil Water and Chop
Bring about 12 cups of water to boil in a large pot with a lid over high heat. Meanwhile, let’s get chopping.
For the zucchini first wash and trim the ends off. Next slice in half lengthwise, and then each half into half again, creating triangular wedges. Then chop into small pieces about an inch wide. Place in a bowl and set aside.
Go ahead and peel and chop 3 to 5 garlic cloves, you want about 1 tablespoon of it, finely minced. Then just toss it right on top of the zucchini in the bowl.
Place a large skillet over another burner on medium high and let it warm. I use an enameled cast iron skillet, and it’s perfect. It’s wide, deep enough, and retains heat well. I actually use it almost every day!
By now your water should be boiling, perfect for blanching tomatoes. Blanching, very, very briefly helps loosen the skin so you can easily peel it away. I should note that I’m using big beautiful heirloom tomatoes for this, and they have a delicate skin that I probably could have peeled without this step. That being said, most tomatoes are not so simple, and peeling without blanching makes a mess and removes some of the flesh. Since your boiling water for the gnocchi anyway, it’s a simple step to take.
Place your tomatoes stem side down on a cutting board and make shallow slices across the bottom in an X. Prep a large glass bowl full of ice water, you need to be able to submerge the tomatoes into it.
Next add the tomatoes into the boiling water and start counting. 25 seconds, that’s it! Anymore and you’ll cook your tomatoes, altering the flavor and texture. As soon as 25 seconds pass, scoop those beauties out and immediately put them into the ice water. I use my spider strainer to do this, and it’s also helpful later when we cook the gnocchi. Return the lid to the pot to bring the water back to a boil.
Once they’ve cooled, move them to a cutting board again and gently peel off the skin. It should be curled up around the slices slightly and will come off easily. Discard the skin, then chop the tomatoes into a large dice. Try to reserve as much of the juice as possible and place everything into another bowl and set aside.
Go ahead and line up your fresh basil leaves in a nice stack. 6 to 7 leaves will do, then tightly roll them into a bundle like a little basil burrito. Then slice into thin ribbons.
Step 2 – Let’s get cooking!
With all the big components prepped and your pan hot, it’s time to get your gnocchi in tomato sauce cooking!
Make the Fresh Tomato Sauce
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to your hot skillet. Add the zucchini and garlic to the pan and give it a quick stir. Just cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, then add a quarter cup of white wine to the pan. As always I recommend, use a dry, crisp white wine like a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. If you like to drink it, cook with it! But I don’t recommend any sweet wines.
As soon as the wine has come to a rapid simmer, add in your diced tomatoes. Bring it all to a simmer and let it cook. Meanwhile, add a fair amount of salt to the pot of boiling water. You want it salty like the sea.
As it cooks the tomatoes with break down into a sauce. First it will seem very soupy but it will thicken as it boils. Give it an occasional stir to prevent sticking or scorching on the bottom of the pan. When the tomato sauce has thickened to a point that you can drag a spoon through it and see the trail, you’re ready to boil gnocchi. Turn the heat on the sauce down to medium so you maintain a very gentle simmer.
Boil Gnocchi &
Add your pound of gnocchi to the boiling, salted water. Gnocchi cooks pretty fast, within 2 to 3 minutes. As soon as it floats to the top, use your spider to transfer the gnocchi to the tomato and zucchini pan. Once all the gnocchi is moved, transfer about a quarter of a cup of the pasta water to the pan. That’s like a shallow ladles worth.
Let it all simmer together and stir gently. The sauce with get thicker as you do. This is the perfect time to taste it now. Add salt as needed, I added about half a teaspoon to get it where I liked it.
Once your fresh tomato sauce is thickened and creamy and delicious, remove it from heat, stir in the basil, and serve.
Do I have to peel the tomatoes?
Technically no. The sauce will form all the same if you do not peel the tomatoes. Why bother then? When tomatoes cook down to this degree the skins separate anyway, and leave stringy torn, and rather tough pieces floating around in an otherwise creamy sauce. It’s edible, but more pleasant when they aren’t there.
What kind of tomatoes can I use for this gnocchi sauce recipe?
Really you can use almost any kind you like. I’m preferential to the deep red heirloom varieties that have a good sweet and acidity balance. They’re plentiful around this time of year, but when I can’t get those I like a good beefsteak tomato. You can use Roma, or your favorite pick, just be aware that you’re looking for juicy tomatoes that are heavy for their size. I’d avoid cherry tomatoes, as they will produce tons of skin, and are a pain to peel.
Can I use other types of summer squash?
You can absolutely use yellow or Mexican summer squash in place of the zucchini yes.
Can I used dried basil?
For this dish dried basil really affects the flavor of the sauce. I’d personally leave the basil out before I replaced fresh with dried.
Will this sauce work for pastas?
Yes, I’ve used this technique for making fresh tomato sauce for other pastas before! I recommend short pastas, like penne or orecchiette rather than long thin noodles.
You can also use other dumplings if you like, a ricotta gnocchi would be delicious here!
Can I freeze this?
Tomato sauces freeze remarkably well, even fresh tomato sauces. However gnocchi does not once cooked, it turns rather mushy once frozen and thawed. If you’re looking to meal prep this vegetable gnocchi recipe I recommend cooking the sauce without the basil and freezing that separately. When you’re ready to enjoy it, heat the fresh tomato sauce in a saucepan until thaw and thickened, then combine freshly cooked gnocchi with tomato sauce. Gnocchi uncooked freezes well, so even if your making a homemade gnocchi you can freeze the extras before cooking for later use!
This vegetable gnocchi will keep in the fridge for about 3 days also!
Is this a side or a main dish?
You can enjoy it however you like! This recipe serves about 6 as a side, and 3 as a main dish. I’ve served it as both, and particularly like it with some homemade bread like my homemade garlic bread rolls.
Enjoy this Recipe using gnocchi!
This is one of my all time favorite gnocchi sauce recipes, I truly truly love gnocchi and I think this particular gnocchi in tomato sauce is just perfect for the end of summer when tomatoes and basil and summer squash are at their best. I hope to bring you many, many recipes using gnocchi in the future, and in the meantime, Happy Eating!
- 1 lb potato gnocchi
- 1 large zucchini about 2 cups
- 2 large red tomatoes about 2 cups
- 1 tbs garlic minced
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine dry
- 1/2 tsp salt optional, to taste
- 7 leaves basil
- 1/4 cup pasta water reserved from gnocchi pot
Bring a large pot of water with a lid to a boil over high heat. Prep a large bowl with water and ice and set beside stove.
Slice zucchini into half lengthwise and then in half again. Chop the four strips into 1 inch wide triangles. Place in a bowl and set aside.
Mince 3 to 5 garlic cloves until you have 1 tablespoon of garlic and add to zucchini bowl.
Slice a shallow X into the bottom of each tomato and drop into the boiling water for 25 seconds. Remove quickly and submerge into the ice water. Salt the water and replace lid to return to a boil.
Place a large, wide rimmed skillet at over medium high heat to get hot. Remove the tomatoes from the ice water and peel off the skins by pulling gently from where the skin has curled around the X cut. Dice tomatoes and place in a bowl, set aside.
Layer your basil leaves in a stack and roll tightly into long cylinder, then slice across to form thin ribbons of basil. Set aside.
In the hot skillet add the tablespoon of oil followed by the zucchini and garlic, stir and saute until garlic is fragrant, between 30 seconds and 1 minute.
Add in wine and allow to simmer for a minute then add tomatoes and stir. Bring to a rapid simmer* and cook until tomatoes have broken down and thickened into a sauce. Continue to stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
When tomato sauce has thickened to the point that you can draw your spoon across the bottom of the pan and see the trail, drop gnocchi into the boiling water. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes or until gnocchi float to the top.
Transfer the gnocchi to the sauce with a ladle of pasta water, about 1/4 cup. Stir and simmer until sauce has thickened and coats the gnocchi. Taste and add salt if needed.
Remove from heat, stir in basil and serve.