Gnocchi salad is a fast, incredibly flexible pasta salad idea that is a true crowd-pleaser. Tossed in pesto, this potato gnocchi salad recipe is made with tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula, and roasted gnocchi. It’s a keeper, and your family will ask for it again and again.
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What is gnocchi salad?
Gnocchi salad is a type of pasta salad where gnocchi, which are small potato dumplings, are used instead of pasta. It contains chopped veggies (like tomatoes or peppers), lettuce (e.g., spinach, kale), protein (like cheese or grilled chicken), mixed with dressing.
Gnocchi salad is one of the best pasta salads you’ve ever tried. It’s packed with crispy, fried gnocchi, juice tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls, sautéed onion, peppery arugula, and tasty basil pesto. Lots of delicious flavors here!
The classic caprese combo – tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto – is one of my favorite flavor blends. Pair those summery aromas with pillow gnocchi, and you’re left with a scrumptious meal.
My family loves pasta salad all year long, but especially in summer. This gnocchi salad is such a satisfying dish, holds up well in the refrigerator, and feeds a crowd. It’s to bring to a BBQ or potluck!
Why you’ll love caprese gnocchi salad
- Super aromatic: Gnocchi, mozzarella, tomatoes, and pesto are always a winning combination. Though the ingredients are simple, you’ll enjoy an explosion of flavors and textures.
- Crowd pleaser: Gnocchi salad is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. It’s fabulous for bringing to summertime cookouts and picnics because it feeds a crowd, and kids love it.
- Quick: This gnocchi recipe comes together quickly and will be on the table in around 30 minutes – just like this gnocchi bake and sheet pan gnocchi.
- Make-ahead: It’s the perfect dish to make in advance! Gnocchi pesto salad holds up great in the fridge and carries well.
This gnocchi tomato salad is full of flavor, filling, and delicious. It’s easy and the ingredient list is pretty short. To make it, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Gnocchi: Refrigerated potato gnocchi are my go-to for this recipe, but other types of gnocchi are fine, too.
- Cherry tomatoes: Grape tomatoes or diced Roma tomatoes also work well.
- Mozzarella pearls: Mini mozzarella and mozzarella pearls are my favorites, but a diced mozzarella ball makes a great substitute.
- Arugula adds a peppery note. You can also switch it up with baby spinach or other lettuce.
- Red onion: Roasted red onion adds a hint of sweetness and nice bits of color throughout.
- Basil pesto duties as salad dressing and major flavor giver.
- Olive oil is needed to roast the gnocchi and onion.
- Salt: You want to simmer the gnocchi in salted water to add some flavor.
- Black pepper: A few cracks of black pepper round out the other aromas.
For specific ingredient measurements, refer to the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
How to make gnocchi salad
Let’s take a look at the process for making crispy gnocchi salad. Like many pasta salad recipes, it’s all about getting the texture of the gnocchi right. To avoid a sad, soggy salad, cook the gnocchi for 1 to 2 minutes at the most, and then pan-fry to get those crisp edges. It’s easy!
Step 1: Cook gnocchi
- Add water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Add the gnocchi and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let the gnocchi simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until they start floating at the top of the pot.
- Drain the gnocchi well.
Step 2: Fry gnocchi
- Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan using medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is warm, add the gnocchi and red onion. Fry for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the gnocchi are crisp and golden, and the red onion is softened.
Step 3: Toss the salad
- Tip the gnocchi and roasted red onion into a large salad bowl.
- Add the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, arugula, and basil pesto.
- Gently toss together until everything is well combined and coated in pesto.
Step 4: Serve
- Season with black pepper according to your taste.
- Serve the gnocchi salad warm or at room temperature with crusty bread, garlic bread, or breadsticks.
There are so many ways to tweak the recipe. Feel free to make it your own by trying a few of my favorite ideas to customize your gnocchi salad:
- Pesto: A simple way to mix things up is using another type of pesto such as pesto rosso, Sicilian pesto, or bell pepper pesto.
- Cheese: Feel free to swap out mozzarella for crumbled feta cheese, parmesan, provolone, or burrata.
- Lettuce: Instead of arugula, try mixed lettuce, baby spinach, baby kale, radicchio, frisée, endive, or watercress.
- Protein: While my gnocchi salad is meat-free, you can certainly add a protein like shredded chicken, sliced ham, bacon bits, grilled shrimp, or roasted salmon.
Gnocchi salad dressing
In case you don’t have or like pesto, prepare the salad with Italian dressing. Use your favorite store-bought salad sauce or create your own gnocchi salad dressing. You’ll need:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp granulated (white) sugar
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
Place the ingredients into a jar and shake well to combine. Store in the fridge for up 2 weeks.
What to serve with gnocchi salad
This gnocchi salad recipe is a delicious summer staple. You can serve it as a big batch picnic salad, for BBQ spreads, a dinner side, or as a handy quick meal or work lunch.
It makes a whole dish on its own and serves beautifully as a side to all sorts of baked + grilled protein and summertime barbeque recipes.
My tip is to enjoy this salad warm or at room temperature. Few things are best fridge cold, but gnocchi salad is not one of them. So take the dish out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you plan to eat it to warm it up.
What are gnocchi?
Gnocchi are Italian potato and flour dumplings and taste like a cross between mashed potatoes and pasta. They are soft and pillowy on the inside, and crispy on the outside when fried like in this salad recipe.
What are the best gnocchi for this dish?
I recommend fresh or frozen potato gnocchi over shelf-stable for this dish. You can also experiment with different gnocchi flavors and make the salad with pumpkin gnocchi, beet gnocchi, spinach gnocchi, or ricotta gnocchi.
Can I substitute pasta?
Yes, you can substitute gnocchi with short pasta (like penne, butterfly noodles, elbow pasta, or rigatoni) or stuffed pasta (such as tortellini and ravioli). Be sure to cook the pasta al dente, sauté only the red onion, and then prepare the rest of the recipe as instructed.
How to store gnocchi salad
- Room temperature: Gnocchi pasta salad can sit out at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours during serving.
- Fridge: Wrap the salad bowl tightly with plastic wrap (cling film) or store the salad in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep the salad refrigerated and consume within 3 to 4 days.
Making gnocchi salad ahead of time
I enjoy preparing this cold gnocchi salad in advance because it tastes even better on the second day. As it marinates in the fridge, the aromas mingle together, and the gnocchi soak up even more flavor.
To make it ahead of time, cook the gnocchi and toss the salad as described in the recipe. Let cool completely, and then store airtight and refrigerated. As I’ve mentioned, let warm up to room temperature before eating.
Can you freeze gnocchi salad?
No, I don’t recommend freezing this salad because the ingredients will become soggy and soften too much after defrosting.
- 1 lb / 450 g / 16 oz gnocchi
- 2 red onions, sliced
- 3 cups / 450 g / 16 oz cherry tomatoes, cut in half (can sub for grape tomatoes)
- 8 oz / 225 g mozzarella pearls (mini mozzarella)
- 2 cups / 40 g / 1.4 oz arugula
- 1/4 cup / 60 g / 2 oz basil pesto
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- ground black pepper, to taste
- Cook gnocchi. Add water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the gnocchi and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let the gnocchi simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until they start floating at the top of the pot. Drain the gnocchi well.
- Fry gnocchi. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan using medium-high heat. Once the oil is warm, add the gnocchi and red onion. Fry for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the gnocchi are crisp and golden, and the red onion is softened.
- Toss the salad. Tip the gnocchi and roasted red onion into a large salad bowl. Add the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, arugula, and basil pesto. Gently toss together until everything is well combined and coated in pesto.
- Serve. Season with black pepper according to your taste. Serve the gnocchi salad warm or at room temperature with crusty bread, garlic bread, or breadsticks.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 408Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 499mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 15g