This gnocchi marinara skillet is so easy to prepare and makes for a perfect weeknight dinner recipe for the whole family. Includes pre-made potato gnocchi, marinara sauce and a simple cashew cream sauce. Amazing vegan (and dairy-free) comfort food meal!
This is probably our new favorite weeknight dinner: Gnocchi in marinara sauce with a gooey cheesy cashew cream.
My husband Chris begs me for more potatoes and I am a pasta addict. So I picked potato gnocchi to make it. Which made this meal kind of a half pasta-half potato recipe. Right? Everyone was happy ✌️.
But other than being so delicious, this recipe also is a speedy fuss-free meal that's super easy to make. I used store-bought pre-made gnocchi and I even grabbed a jar of already-made marinara sauce at the grocery store, because life gets busy with kids sometimes, so I had to skip making my own sauce from scratch this time.
And this recipe was inspired by my vegan baked ziti which has been a much loved meal by you guys. It features pasta tossed in a marinara sauce layered with a cashew cream sauce, similar to a lasagna. In this case, the cashew cream sauce stays on top to replace a typical mozzarella cheese used in gratin recipes and makes for a nice cheesy topping.
So yes, this recipe is completely vegan and dairy-free, but I promise you won't miss the cheese at all!
The way the cream sauce infuses the rich marinara is omg so amazing and balances perfectly the chewy bites from the gnocchi. It is cozy, satisfying and so filling. Add a little touch of basil for some freshness and make sure to have some bread to scoop up all that amazing sauce.
So if you do just like me and get store-bought marinara, all you will have to do is prepare the cashew sauce, roast the gnocchi in a pan for a few minutes, combine with both the marinara and cream sauce and then bake. All done under 40 minutes without any chopping required!
Hope you give it a try! ❤️
What's to love about this recipe
- Simple and easy
- Use pre-made gnocchi and jarred marinara for a speedy meal
- Max of flavor for minimal fuss
- Perfect weeknight dinner recipe
- Satisfying comfort dish
- Dairy-free and vegan
What are gnocchi
Since this is my first gnocchi recipe on the blog (wait, what?!?), then I thought I would quickly share what gnocchi are.
They are made with potatoes, but really look and feel more like pasta.
Gnocchi actually are an Italian kind of dumpling. They are mini "blobs" of dough usually made out of mashed potato, wheat flour, eggs and salt. The wheat + potato combination gives them a similar texture to pasta and often are served just the same way, tossed in a sauce. They come in oval shaped mini balls and have a nice chewy consistency.
As a side note, they are usually cooked in salted water similarly to other kinds of dumpling, although the cooking method will vary widely depending on the recipes. Here, we are not boiling the gnocchi, but instead roasting them in a pan and then baking them with a sauce in the oven.
Also, although not considered classic gnocchi, they can be made using different ingredients such as sweet potatoes, herbs, cauliflower, ricotta, other flavoring ingredients and much more. You will also often find them made without eggs, which makes them a great addition to your meals if you follow a plant-based diet.
Ingredients you'll need
- Pre-made potato gnocchi: there are a few brands offering naturally vegan gnocchi. I used the classic gnocchi from the brand Taste of Inspirations (found at Hannaford), but I know that De Cecco also have egg-free gnocchi available in different supermarkets. Aim for about one pound or 16 oz of gnocchi. I like using shelf-stable gnocchi (comes in a vacuum bag) so I keep them in my pantry ready to go for a last minute meal.
- Marinara sauce: you can make your own marinara for this recipe. It is pretty quick and usually healthier than store-bought. You can follow my homemade hearty marinara recipe if you want, which would be perfect here, or also this quick pomodoro sauce using canned tomatoes. Or, use your favorite marinara sauce at the grocery store. Try using a healthier one with less added salt and oil, if possible.
- Fresh basil: optional, but works great to finish up saucy Italian-style recipes with some freshness.
- Raw cashews: used to make the cream sauce.
- Nutritional yeast: adds a cheesy and deeper umami flavor to the dish.
- Garlic: included in the vegan white sauce for flavor.
- Lemon juice: a little bit of tanginess boosts the cheesy flavor from the nutritional yeast.
- Water + salt
How to make it
Make the cheesy white sauce
You can find the detailed recipe for this vegan cheesy white sauce on my website, but here's how it goes:
Start by soaking the cashews in boiling water for about 10-15 minutes. Then drain well and transfer to a blender.
Add the water, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt.
Blend on high for at least a whole minute until super smooth and creamy without any pieces of cashew left. Set the sauce aside.
If you are making the marinara sauce from scratch, then make it at this time too.
Both the white sauce and marinara sauce can be made the day before!
Roast the gnocchi
Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
Warm up a large cast-iron skillet on medium heat with a little oil (I like using avocado oil spray).
Then, roast the gnocchi for about 7-10 minutes flipping them once in a while. They are done when they are softer and browned on each side.
Combine and bake
Then, pour the marinara sauce over the skillet (careful as it might splash if the skillet is super hot). Also add the basil and stir to combine. Heat up the marinara for a few minutes until it starts to simmer and remove from the heat.
Then, drizzle the vegan white sauce over. You might be left with some extra white sauce, which you can keep in the fridge for another meal. Check out the post for more ideas on how to use it.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until it starts to brown. Serve right away with a side of bread, more fresh basil leaves and sprinkle some red pepper flakes for a little heat.
Watch how to make it
- Don't skip roasting the gnocchi first! They will get nicely browned on the outside and softer inside, which I find gives better result and adds more flavor to the dish. No need to pre-boil the gnocchi!
- The vegan white sauce comes to a better smooth texture if using a high-speed blender like the Vitamix. If you don't have one, then be sure to soak the cashews enough to soften them (might want to do longer than 15 minutes) and also, blend for longer taking a break of two to scrape the walls and bottom until the sauce is as smooth as you can make it.
Other kind of gnocchi you can use in this recipe
I used pre-made potato gnocchi, which are easy to find, but use any type you like and fits your diet!
I like this skillet recipe for a quick dinner, but if you feel like a weekend date night in, then feel free to make your own potato gnocchi from scratch! It would definitely add extra steps to your dinner prep, but will totally worth it and be fun too. For a quick dinner for me and my family, the store-bought gnocchi really does the trick.
There are other kinds of vegan gnocchi you can use, such as these vegan cauliflower gnocchi (sold at Trader Joe's in the freezer section) or these GF vegan sweet potato gnocchi (sold at Target in the freezer section). You can experiment with different kinds just for a change in your routine.
Best pan for this recipe?
The gnocchi are first roasted in the skillet, then the same skillet will go in the oven to finish up cooking. So, use a pan that can both support stove and oven cooking methods.
If you don't have one of these pans, then simply use a regular non-stick pan to roast the gnocchi and combine with the marinara, but then transfer in an oven-safe baking dish before topping with the vegan white sauce and baking.
This simple recipe can be customized in so many ways! A great way to make it healthier and to boost with more nutrients would be to add tons of veggies. If you do include more adds-on, then be sure to add more sauce to compensate. You can roast the veggies first in the pan so they are browned with better flavor and also softened. Here are a few ideas:
- Large chunks of sweet onion
- Red pepper (or roasted red pepper from a jar)
- Leafy greens such as spinach or kale (add them to the pan when adding the marinara so it can just wilt a little).
To boost your meal with more plant-based protein, feel-free to add cooked lentils, tofu, tempeh or seitan.
Also, as a side note, you could skip the vegan white sauce altogether and top the dish with vegan mozzarella cheese. It might be less healthy and it has a flavor you need to get used to, but would definitely make your dinner super easy and quicker too without having to use your blender.
Leftovers keep well in the fridge in an air-tight container for a few days. Reheat in the microwave until heated through.
More tomato sauce recipes
- Penne pomodoro
- Quick creamy tomato pasta
- Tofu bolognese
- Vegetable pasta sauce
- One-pot whole wheat tomato pasta
- Vegan baked ziti
- Vegan American goulash
- TVP bolognese
- Vegan bagel mini pizza bites
- Hearty marinara
- Vegan lasagna roll-ups
- Vegan eggplant rollatini
Try these quick dinner meals next
- Flatbread bruschetta
- Easy pan-fried tempeh
- Bok choy tofu stir-fry
- Vegan Mediterranean tray bake
- Lentil walnut tacos
- Easy sticky tofu
- Bucatini pomodoro
I hope you like this gnocchi marinara skillet as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Gnocchi Marinara Skillet
- 16-18 oz potato gnocchi
- 2 cups marinara sauce - homemade or store-bought
- 10-15 leaves fresh basil - sliced, plus more for serving
- 1 batch vegan white sauce - see note for recipe
- Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
- Warm up a skillet over medium heat with a little oil. Then, add the gnocchi and roast them until browned while stirring once in a while, about 7-10 minutes.
- Pour the marinara sauce over (be careful, it will splash if the skillet is super hot) and stir to combine. Also stir in the fresh basil. Once the marinara is warm and starts to simmer, then remove from the heat.
- Drizzle the cashew white sauce over the marinara gnocchi (I used about ¾ of the batch, keep the remaining for another meal) and then transfer in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until it starts to brown.
- Serve while still warm with a side of bread, more fresh basil and some red pepper flakes for some heat.
- If you don't have a pan that's safe for both the stove and the oven, then simply use a non-stick pan to roast the gnocchi with the marinara sauce and then transfer to a baking dish to bake in the oven.
- Store any leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 3-4 days (longer than that and it might dry out). You can use the microwave to reheat.
- You can add some veggies to this dish, such as cauliflower, broccoli, leafy greens, mushrooms, etc. Roast them first or let the leafy green wilt in the sauce before baking.
- I used the vegan potato gnocchi from the brand A Taste Of Inspiration (2 bags of 9 ounce each) that I found at Hannaford. De Cecco also makes shelf-stable gnocchi that are vegan (you can find them in most grocery stores and online).