‘Water’ Gnocchi with Sage Pesto (Gnocchi all’Acqua al Pesto di Salvia)

Different types of pasta can be found all over Italy. Especially the shapes are different everywhere, but there are also differences in the pasta dough. Generally speaking, fresh pasta is made with eggs and 00 flour in the North, and water and semolina flour in the South. Sometimes salt, white wine, or olive oil are added to the dough as well, and sometimes dough is made with buckwheat flour. Other additions are to give pasta color and sometimes flavor, such as saffron or spinach.

As I have tasted and prepared many different types of pasta, I was excited when on Marina’s blog Le Recette di Baccos I discovered a new type of making pasta dough: adding flour to boiling water, similar to making dough for eclairs or puffs. In Italy this is called gnocchi all’acqua (water gnocchi) or gnocchi di farina (flour gnocchi). It turned out that these gnocchi have the same texture (but not the potato flavor) of good homemade potato gnocchi, but are a lot easier and quicker to make.

Marina served the gnocchi with a seafood sauce, but in the comments one of her followers mentioned that she always serves them with sage pesto (pesto di salvia). As I have a lot of fresh sage in my garden but had never tried sage pesto before, I was eager to try that as well. Not surprisingly, sage pesto ended up being strongly flavored, so you need less of it than of regular basil pesto (pesto alla genovese). I think adding strips of prosciutto to a dish of gnocchi all’acqua with sage pesto would take it over the top.

I’ll definitely make the water gnocchi again, as they are so easy and such a fast way to make fresh pasta as there is no resting time involved and the dough is so easy to work with. From start to finish, this dish with homemade pasta made from scratch and homemade sage pesto made from scratch only took about half an hour. If you have never prepared your own pasta before, perhaps this is a good start. You can use these gnocchi  for all recipes that use potato gnocchi, but just keep in mind that the gnocchi won’t have a potato taste.


For 2 servings

For the gnocchi all’acqua

150 grams (1 cup) 00 flour (although I expect all-purpose flour will also work just fine for this)

250 ml (1 cup) water

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

pinch of salt

For the sage pesto

25 grams (1 oz) fresh sage leaves

15 grams (1 Tbsp) pine nuts

40 grams (4 Tbsp) freshly grated pecorino

80 grams (8 Tbsp) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

100 ml (7 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil


2 cloves garlic


Combine the water, olive oil and salt in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil, then add the flour all at once. Turn off the heat.

Stir with a wooden spoon.

Keep stirring until the dough has come together. Allow it to cool somewhat while you prepare the pesto.

Combine sage leaves, pine nuts, roughly chopped garlic, and salt in a blender.

Blend until pureed.

Add the cheese and process until the cheese has been incorporated.

The sage pesto is done. Put the sage pesto in a non-stick pan over very low heat. I recommend to start with only half of the pesto, as it has a very strong flavor. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the gnocchi.

As soon as the dough has cooled enough to handle it (but is still warm), knead it a bit on a floured work surface until it is smooth.

Take a piece of dough and roll it out into a thin ‘snake’ of about 1 cm (1/3 inch) thick.

Cut the ‘snake’ into gnocchi of about 1 to 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) long.

Repeat until you have used up all of the dough.

Add salt to the boiling water as well as the gnocchi. Turn down the heat if the water is boiling too vigorously, as you don’t want to break up the gnocchi.

Cook the gnocchi until they rise to the surface.

As they rise to the surface, take them out with a slotted spoon (skimmer)…

…and transfer them to the pan with the sage pesto. Repeat until all the gnocchi have been transferred.

Gently shake the pan to coat the gnocchi with the pesto without breaking them up. Taste and add more pesto only if needed.

Serve on warm plates, sprinkled with some freshly grated parmigiano.


Time flies, as the blog post indicates that I have been making fresh homemade ricotta for over two years already. Although it does take some patience, it is so easy and tasty that I haven’t bought ricotta since.


20 thoughts on “‘Water’ Gnocchi with Sage Pesto (Gnocchi all’Acqua al Pesto di Salvia)

  1. I love this recipe. Pesto is a personal favorite, and I have often experimented with the base (EVOO, garlic, pingoles, pecorino or (in this case – and) parmigiano reggiano). Last night, I tried shrimp, garden tomatoes, fresh Italian pasta and an fresh artichoke pestol Your post certainly inspired me to try some sage next time. Here, chicken or poultry is often paired with sage, so it might go nicely in the dish. Your gnocchi look perfect. Another amazing meal, Stefan.


    1. Thanks, Shanna. In Italian cooking, sage and pork are classic but who am I telling that 😉 The combination of both pecorino and parmigiano provides a fuller flavor as they complement each other — parmigiano for the “width” of the flavor and pecorino for a more “pointy” flavor if that makes any sense.


  2. Hi Stefan, I’m used to make the classic potatoes version. This water/flower alternative looks dead-simple. In your opinion, is it as good as the traditional potatoes gnocchi?
    definitely going to try it soon !


    1. Hi Roman,
      The texture is as good or even better than many traditional potato gnocchi, as many people add too much flour and they become rubbery. This risk is not there with the water gnocchi. If you use nice potatoes, potato gnocchi do have more flavor than flour gnocchi. You will notice this most with a sauce that is not strong-tasting.


  3. I make these gnocchi, better known as “Parisian gnocchi” a lot, adding cheese and sometimes herbs to the dough. You can even use leftover gougere dough, just boil it instead of baking… very light, especially lovely with spring vegetables!

    Liked by 1 person

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