12 Ways To Upgrade Store-Bought Gnocchi

Of course, the lightest, fluffiest, and most delicious gnocchi is homemade — or made by chefs — but often, time and money means opting for store-bought gnocchi. You can find gnocchi at grocery stores in a range of forms: chilled, frozen, and shelf-stable. Some are better than others, but all can be improved with a little home upgrade.

If you want to take your weeknight dinners up a gear, we have 12 ways to upgrade store-bought gnocchi for you to learn about and potentially try. You might be surprised to find out how delicious you can make basic packaged gnocchi taste just with a few simple tweaks. You'll often find crispy gnocchi in restaurants, so a few simple upgrades involve roasting, frying, and air frying. However, it's not just about the cooking method but what you put on them. You can make gnocchi taste special by fancying up the sauce with brown butter or wine. Or perhaps you want to take inspiration from other dishes, such as lasagna or pierogi.

There are so many distinct ways to upgrade store-bought gnocchi that you'll be wanting gnocchi for dinner every day for the next week or two, just to try out your options. Not every meal has to be labor-heavy or difficult to make — but even the simple ones can be delicious. You'll never look at packaged gnocchi the same.

1. Roast them

You might have noticed that gnocchi in fancy restaurants is often slightly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. This is achieved by roasting or frying the gnocchi, rather than boiling it. So, if you want crispy gnocchi, roasting them is a great place to start.

You can roast gnocchi to achieve a delicious, crispy texture similar to roasted potatoes — after all, gnocchi are mostly made from potato with some flour and sometimes egg as a binder. Roasting gnocchi on their own is a great idea, as you can add sauce or serve them as a side after cooking. However, you can also pair gnocchi with other ingredients to create a flavorful sheet pan meal.

To roast gnocchi on its own, first preheat your oven to around 375 F to 425 F. Toss the gnocchi in olive oil and add salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste. Spread the gnocchi on a baking sheet in a single layer and cook for around 20 minutes or until they are golden brown and crispy, turning them halfway through to ensure even cooking.

You can also make a sheet pan meal with gnocchi, plus veggies, such as broccoli, pumpkins, mushrooms, and anything else you think is good roasted. To make this kind of meal, chop up your choice of veggies into chunks of a similar size to the gnocchi, toss everything with olive oil and seasonings and cook at 425 F to 450 F for around 30 minutes.

2. Pan fry them

If you want crispy gnocchi, roasting isn't the only way to achieve this. While roasting gnocchi is great if you want to just put something in the oven and leave it, the texture of pan fried gnocchi is a little fluffier on the inside and crispy on the outside without being hard.

To pan fry gnocchi, start with a generous glug of olive oil or a healthy heap of butter. Once heated, add the gnocchi straight from the pack. You don't need to boil them before pan frying — they cook in the pan. If you boil them first, the texture gets heavy and the exterior overly crunchy. Your gnocchi will be done in around 10 minutes or once they look evenly golden on both sides. This will take a little longer for frozen gnocchi than chilled or ambient shelf-stable gnocchi.

Once they're done, you can treat them the way you'd normally treat gnocchi, adding them to a sauce or drizzling them in oil or butter. Or, you can treat them like they're mini roasted potatoes, serving them as a side to the main meal of your choice.

3. Air fry them

Finally, on the crispy gnocchi front, comes air frying. When you air fry gnocchi, you get a similar crispy exterior and pillowy interior as you get from pan frying your gnocchi, but with a more even, all-over browning. Plus, you get the ease and convenience that comes with being able to chuck the gnocchi in the air fryer and leave them to do their thing. No need to stand over the stove or get busy with a spatula.

Like pan-fried or baked gnocchi, you can either treat them the same way you would regular gnocchi — tossing them in a sauce — or you can serve them as you would roasted potatoes. In the air fryer, they're so crispy from all angles and have such a great texture that you can also serve them as a snack to dip in sauces, like you might serve fries, tots, or wedges.

Want to air fry your gnocchi? Heat your air fryer to 390 F, toss your gnocchi straight from the package in a little oil and seasonings, and cook for 11 to 14 minutes. Add an extra two to three minutes to the cooking time for frozen gnocchi.

4. Coat them in brown butter

One of the simplest and most delicious ways to upgrade your gnocchi is with the help of brown butter. Imagine perfectly cooked gnocchi complemented by the rich, complex toastiness of a brown butter sauce and you've got an elevated meal right there.

So, what is brown butter? Also known as beurre noisette in French, brown butter is born of a cooking technique where butter is heated until it reaches a golden brown color. During this process, the milk solids in the butter caramelize, giving the butter a rich, nutty flavor and aroma. Brown butter instantly makes a dish feel elevated and fancier, so it's a simple yet effective way to level up your gnocchi.

If you want to make this dish, cook your gnocchi in your chosen way — whether boiling, pan frying, air frying, or roasting — then heat unsalted butter until browned and toss the gnocchi in the butter. You can invite extra flavor to the party by adding some sage leaves or garlic to the butter while it's browning.

5. Make use of wine

If there's one thing that's certain about using wine in cooking, it makes dishes seem elevated in a way that other ingredients just don't. Using wine in your gnocchi is a simple and extremely tasty way to upgrade your store-bought gnocchi.

Of course, you can't just pour wine over your gnocchi and hope for the best. That would result in a dinner that you'd be feeding to the trash can. Instead, you should use wine as part of a sauce to toss your gnocchi in once cooked. There are all kinds of ways that you can incorporate wine into sauces and reductions and a huge range of wines you could potentially use. But, if you're not sure where to start, white wine generally works well in rich, creamy sauces, while red wine works well in tomato-based sauces.

Of course, this is a simplification, so feel free to branch out in other ways. However you end up using wine in your gnocchi recipe, it's bound to make you forget you're using pre-packaged gnocchi.

6. Turn them into a soup

If you're looking for a new way to enjoy gnocchi, how about in soup? We're not talking about blending gnocchi into a soup — though if you want to try it, more power to you — but rather about adding them to soup the way you might add pasta to dishes like minestrone.

The beauty of gnocchi in soup is that you can use them in a wide range of soup recipes and they take on different nuances in each. For instance, in a thin tomato-y broth with plenty of herbs, gnocchi will have a pasta-like quality by virtue of the other ingredients and the associations we have with them. Whereas if you throw some gnocchi in a rich, thick, creamy soup you might imagine them more akin to dumplings.

What's great about adding gnocchi to soup is that you can just drop them straight in there from the packet and cook them according to the directions. You don't need to cook them first, which makes this a quick weeknight option. Whatever types of soups you enjoy, try adding some gnocchi and see what happens — it might fall into regular rotation.

7. Make them crispy and cheesy

Perhaps you've seen the crispy Parmesan potatoes that went viral on TikTok? You know the ones — they're perfectly roasted with a crunchy Parmesan crust. They went viral for a reason and that reason is that they're delicious. Well, let us tell you that you can save time both in cooking and in prep work by using gnocchi in place of potatoes. Making crispy Parmesan gnocchi involves simply sprinkling your gnocchi with Parmesan or other hard cheese and seasonings of your choice before baking until crispy.

Unlike making the same dish with potatoes, there's no need to peel and chop, which saves you time and effort. Plus, if you want perfectly fluffy roasted potatoes, you should par-boil them before roasting. However, this step isn't needed when cooking gnocchi in the oven. In fact, if you boil them first, they end up heavier than they do if you just stick them straight in the oven, so it's a step you should skip.

Make almost anything crispier and cheesier and it's an upgrade, and it certainly rings true for gnocchi. It's simple and it doesn't take long but it will make your grocery store gnocchi taste restaurant quality.

8. Add plenty of herbs

Herbs bring so much flavor to cooking with very little effort on the part of the cook. So, anyone looking to level up their gnocchi game should consider letting herbs play a starring role. The amazing thing about herbs is that there are so many ways in which you can use them and so many flavors they can impart, that every herby gnocchi is a brand new dish.

You can use dried herbs in your gnocchi if that's what you've got to hand. They're especially great if you're frying or roasting your gnocchi, as you can toss them in these herbs, along with a high-quality olive oil, before cooking, coating them in flavor. However, fresh herbs also play a role. You could add fresh chopped herbs into a sauce or toss soft herbs, like basil or parsley, with the gnocchi and some butter or olive oil just after cooking for a bright, fresh meal. Or maybe you want to make a herby pesto and toss your gnocchi into that.

Which herbs you use matters, too. Sage is a classic choice with butter, while basil brings an Italian flair that works well with gnocchi. Cilantro is more commonly associated with Latin American or Asian cooking but could provide a twist. Feel free to mix different types of herbs and experiment to find your perfect combo. 

9. Cook your gnocchi lasagna style

We can all agree that lasagna is great, but what about gnocchi lasagna? Okay, it's not really lasagna without sheets of pasta, but you can keep all the other components the same to make a rich, delicious gnocchi bake. And, because you don't have to layer it, this meal comes together more quickly than conventional lasagna.

We love the fact that this is a versatile meal with plenty of variations. You could opt for a classic lasagna-style dish with a heavy ragù, a rich bechamel, and lots of cheese on top. Or, perhaps you could use beans or lentils in place of the meat in the ragù for a vegetarian option.

Not so keen on tomatoes? Then you can replicate a white lasagna with a creamy ricotta and spinach sauce instead of a tomato-heavy ragu. The choice is yours — there are as many variations as there are types of lasagna. So, decide on your favorite lasagna recipe and simply swap out the lasagna sheets for gnocchi and you're on your way to a delicious dinner.

10. Make gnocchi mac and cheese

Similarly to making gnocchi lasagna, you can try a gnocchi "mac" and cheese by replacing the macaroni with store-bought gnocchi. Sure, it's not truly mac and cheese anymore without the mac, but it's a creamy, cheesy oven-baked gnocchi dish and if that isn't a tasty way to upgrade your packaged gnocchi, we don't know what is.

Ultimately, the way you choose to make it is up to you. Perhaps you already have a favorite mac and cheese recipe. In which case you can make the cheese sauce as you usually would, mix in your gnocchi, and bake the whole lot in the oven until the gnocchi is cooked through. Alternatively, you can find gnocchi mac and cheese recipes online or you have the option to find a great mac and cheese recipe and gnocchify it.

Just like standard mac and cheese, the beauty is in the extras. You might want to add breadcrumbs or thick slices of tomato to the top of your dish before baking. Or, maybe you'll add in some broccoli or kale. However you choose to customize it, you can cater to your tastes and your whims, giving you a meal just the way you want it.

11. Create a pierogi-inspired meal

It might seem strange to serve your gnocchi pierogi style, but it makes sense when you think about it and it makes for a change from Italian-inspired gnocchi recipes. Although there are many pierogi fillings, potato pierogi are some of the most popular. And, gnocchi are effectively potato dumplings, as well, just in a different form and without a filling.

So, how do you make your gnocchi more like pierogi? It's all about how you serve them. We'd recommend either boiling or pan-frying them, depending on the cooking method you usually use for pierogi. Then serve them with charred, pan-fried cabbage, dill, sauerkraut, and a hearty dollop of sour cream.

It isn't exactly like pierogies but it's in the same vein — and it's delicious. Of course, you can add your extras, if you choose to, such as sauteed onions, butter, breadcrumbs, and extra veggies. Stir everything up together until it's just combined. We've found that it's nice if you have some noticeable pockets of sour cream, rather than an even coating over the gnocchi.

12. Cook up an alternative caprese salad

A Caprese salad is a simple, classic Italian dish that traditionally consists of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. The salad is named after the Italian island of Capri, where it is believed to have originated. The basic elements of a Caprese salad represent the colors of the Italian flag: red from the tomatoes, white from the mozzarella, and green from the basil.

This all sounds very delicious, but what does it have to do with gnocchi? Well, sometimes you might appreciate the vibe of a Caprese salad but be looking for something warm and heartier. In this case, you might consider upgrading your gnocchi turning it into a riff on this iconic salad.

Instead of fresh, raw ingredients, you mix the tomatoes and mozzarella with gnocchi and olive oil and stick it all in the oven for around 20 minutes. This causes the tomatoes to become roasted and melts the mozzarella into a delicious cheese blanket. The gnocchi cooks through and may get slightly crispy, although the juices from the tomato helps to soften them up. After all this, you top it with fresh basil to get the classic Caprese salad red, white, and green color.

The resulting dish is fresh and tasty, but significantly more hearty than a classic Caprese salad. The gnocchi makes it more filling and the cooked mozzarella is deliciously melty, which makes it feel like an indulgent meal.