Pan-fried gnocchi are served under a blanket of seared mushrooms in a creamy, garlicky, cashew butter pesto sauce. Make the sauce while the water comes to a boil for the gnocchi to get this flavorful and comforting dinner ready in under 20 minutes!
It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how good cashew butter is. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it before, I just never bought it. I use cashews in a lot of my recipes to create creaminess and to thicken in a nutritious way, so I’m surprised I hadn’t used actual cashew butter before. Well, game changer! It’s so good! I put it on the kids toast the other morning with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and they said it tasted like chocolate. I’m not sure I agree with that description, but they hammered it down so I’m not arguing with them!
There’s some differences between using raw cashews blended up with soup stock to make a cream sauce, and using cashew butter which thickens and flavors the sauce. First is the flavor – raw cashews are really mild. Indeed, this is one of their best qualities because they can be used in savory and sweet dishes. Cashew butter has a stronger flavor which is lovely in its own right, and is further enhanced when the cashews are roasted prior to being ground into a butter. Its nutty, umami flavor is perfect for enhancing a savory dish sauce like this one!
If you’re not familiar with umami, it’s one of our five basic flavors (next to saltiness, sweetness, sourness and bitterness). It’s the flavor some people miss most when they give up animal-based products like roasted or fried meat and dairy cheeses which are rich in umami. The good news is we can increase this savory flavor with plant-based ingredients which are also naturally rich in umami. Miso, mushrooms, nuts (the cashew butter), wine, and garlic are the main umami sources in this recipe. You can get umami from lots of other plant-based sources like tomatoes, soy sauce and tamari, tempeh, potatoes, carrots, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, green tea…the list goes on! Roasting and caramelizing helps bring out the umami, as well.
Not a lot of cashew butter is needed to thicken and flavor the sauce. A couple of tablespoons are all we need here. Cashews tend to be one of our more expensive pantry staples, so using a bit of cashew butter instead of a cup or so of cashews is a nice, less expensive change.
Tips for Pan-Fried Gnocchi and Seared Mushrooms with Cashew Butter Pesto Sauce:
- seared mushrooms maximize juiciness, taste and texture. The high heat as the mushrooms hit the pan caramelizes them, locking in their juices which carry their strong umami flavor. Stirring or pressing mushrooms over a low heat and seasoning them with salt too soon encourages the water in the mushrooms to come out, leaving them rubbery and lacking flavor.
- the gnocchi is not salted in this recipe because I find store-bought gnocchi to be really salty already. The sauce also gets a hit with salt from the miso and pesto. Feel free to taste for salt at the end and add more if desired.
- don’t skip the miso! It adds such a delicious flavor. Miso is a salty paste made out of fermented soybeans. Other grains and legumes are sometimes used in making miso for different flavors. I used a light colored miso (Shiro) in this recipe, but any miso would do. It’s kept in the cooler section of most grocery stores. I love adding it to soups (sometimes instead of soup stock), sauces, and gravies.
- if you’re short on time, you can just boil the gnocchi according to the package directions. Usually the directions tell you to just boil the gnocchi until they float to the surface of the boiling water. This normally takes about 3 minutes. The additional step of pan-frying in this recipe gets some crispy browning on the gnocchi which is really nice, but not necessary.
- if you chose to pan-fry the gnocchi, I’d avoid using an untreated steel pan. Non-stick or a well seasoned cast-iron pan are best so the gnocchi don’t stick.
If you make this mushroom gnocchi recipe, please let me know in the comments below and feel free to give it a rating! Also, I love connecting on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes. Thanks for reading along and I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Pan Fried Gnocchi and Seared Mushrooms with Cashew Butter Pesto Sauce
- 1 lb gnocchi (store-bought or homemade)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the Seared Mushroom and Cashew Butter Pesto Sauce:
- 16 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/4" thick
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup white wine (or vegetable stock)
- 1 tbsp light miso paste (white or yellow)
- 2 tbsp smooth roasted cashew butter
- ¼ cup vegan basil pesto
- Prepare the gnocchi according to package directions. If the directions are only for boiling, you can eat as is, or you can then pan fry the boiled gnocchi. To do so, heat a large non-stick skillet and olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi from the pot, shaking off the water, to the skillet. Cook the gnocchi in a single layer, for about 2 or 3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the gnocchi. Remove from heat.
For the Seared Mushroom and Cashew Butter Pesto Sauce:
- In a large skillet (seasoned cast-iron if best but non-stick is great, too), heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the skillet and oil are hot (a drop of water will dance in the pan), add the mushrooms. Let them cook for about 3 minutes or until seared, then flip and let them cook another 3 minutes. At this point, reduce the heat to medium so they don't burn. Stir them occasionally for another 3-5 minutes or until golden all over.
- Stir in the garlic, cooking for 30 seconds. Deglaze with the white wine (or vegetable stock), and whisk in the miso paste, cashew butter and pesto. Cook for another minute to cook off the alcohol and get the flavors to marry. Spoon over the gnocchi, or toss together if you prefer. Serve with nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan, if desired.