THIS POST IS SPONSORED BY
DeLallo, with whom I am thrilled to partner throughout 2023! DeLallo is my longtime go-to for Italian pantry essentials like pillowy-soft gnocchi and beautiful bronze die pasta! All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Silky Smooth Carbonara Made Extra Cozy with Gnocchi
Carbonara is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Back when I worked at an Italian restaurant, I’d often get home late at night after a long shift feeling exhausted, but starving. Pasta carbonara was always the perfect solution: affordable, super satisfying, and easy to make with fridge staples.
This particular Gnocchi Carbonara recipe is a version I’ve been loving lately. It’s a quick adaptation of my tried and true Pasta Carbonara, a recipe I developed using some tips and tricks I picked up during my restaurant days. Swapping pasta with pillowy-soft potato gnocchi dumplings gives the already-comforting dish an even cozier twist. 🥰
If you’ve never made carbonara before, no worries – this recipe is honestly foolproof, thanks to the easy carbonara sauce made with grated cheese and egg yolks. By using just the egg yolks and mixing the sauce off the heat, any possibility of scrambling the eggs is eliminated. This is a less traditional approach, but it always results in a gloriously glossy, rich, and luscious sauce.
Simply toss the creamy sauce with golden-crisp pancetta and your favorite gnocchi (I’ll happily take any excuse to use DeLallo’s Mini Gnocchi – aren’t they the cutest?! 🥺) for a restaurant-worthy comfort food dinner, ready in 20 minutes or less!
If you love cooking with gnocchi, be sure to try my Hearty Gnocchi Bolognese, 30-Minute “Zuppa Toscana” Gnocchi Skillet, or 30-Minute Gnocchi all’Amatriciana, 3 easy dinner recipes that give iconic Italian dishes an even more comforting twist with the pillowy-soft dumplings.
Quick Recipe Background ⇢ What is Carbonara?
Carbonara is a famous Roman pasta dish known for its creamy sauce made of eggs and cheese. While some Americanized recipes recreate this creaminess with butter, milk, or heavy cream, an authentic carbonara gets its signature glossy texture from the emulsification (fancy-speak for “mixture” 🤓) of eggs, rendered pork fat, and starchy pasta water.
It’s most common to see silky smooth carbonara sauce tossed with long pasta like spaghetti. In this recipe, we’re using gnocchi instead! Hearty potato gnocchi dumplings make for a super satisfying carbonara that also happens to be extra cozy and comforting. Perfect for the chilly winter months!
If carbonara is new to you, don’t be intimidated by its fussy reputation. I’ve cooked up 10+ years of experience making it and I have plenty of restaurant-approved tips and tricks to help you along the way!
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Like many traditional Italian dishes, pasta carbonara comes together with just a handful of staple ingredients. This gnocchi carbonara recipe follows suit – you need 8 simple ingredients, all of which are probably already in your pantry and refrigerator.
Note: Full ingredients list and measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
Gnocchi is a pasta dumpling that originated in Northern Italy, where the chillier climate is great for potato farming. A blend of wheat flour, eggs, and potatoes makes gnocchi dough a bit denser than pasta – but it completely transforms as it boils, resulting in the dreamiest pillowy and tender dumplings.
Best gnocchi to use for this gnocchi carbonara recipe? ⇢ While homemade gnocchi is always a fun kitchen project, using a high-quality pre-packaged option is a great shortcut. My favorite comes from DeLallo, whose gnocchi is made in Italy with over 85% potato for traditional flavor. They have 3 awesome options to choose from:
- Classic Potato Gnocchi
- Mini Potato Gnocchi, these super cute mini dumplings are pictured here. 🥰
- Gluten-Free Gnocchi, made with potato and rice, rather than wheat flour.
Other essential carbonara ingredients:
- Pancetta – Carbonara is traditionally made with guanciale, the cured pork jowl that originated in the same region as the iconic pasta. If you can find it, go for it! Since guanciale isn’t quite as readily available here in the U.S., I opt for pancetta instead. Pancetta is cured, unsmoked pork belly – basically Italian bacon! It’s available in most conventional grocery stores, near other cured meats and bacon or cut-to-order at the deli counter.
- Egg yolks – While traditional carbonara makes use of the whole egg (both the yolk and white), this gnocchi carbonara recipe uses just the egg yolks. In my experience, this is a much more foolproof approach since egg yolks do not scramble easily due to their low water content. As a bonus, their high fat content creates an even richer and creamier carbonara sauce.
- Cheese – Classic Roman carbonara uses just pecorino romano cheese (the city’s iconic sheep’s milk cheese!). I like to use a combination of pecorino romano and parmesan cheese for this gnocchi carbonara recipe. Parmesan’s ultra-savory, nutty flavor complements bright and tangy pecorino beautifully.
How to Make Carbonara with Gnocchi
Remember! ⇢ Carbonara is a time-sensitive dish that comes together very quickly. Feeling rushed is what makes it a little tricky! I recommend reading through the directions before you begin cooking this gnocchi carbonara recipe, so you can understand the process and better anticipate what happens next.
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Render the pancetta. Heat a large skillet on the stovetop and add the pancetta, which will render its natural fats as it cooks. Once it’s golden and crisp, add in the garlic, then remove the pan from the heat. Why? ⇢ Removing the skillet from the heat prevents the pancetta and garlic from burning. More importantly, it allows the surface of the skillet to cool slightly, ensuring it isn’t too hot when you assemble the gnocchi carbonara.
Prep the carbonara sauce mixture. Whisk egg yolks, pecorino romano, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in a large mixing bowl. The mixture will be very thick. Why egg yolks? ⇢ While it’s traditional to use the whole egg, using just the yolks helps reduce the likelihood of scrambling the sauce. As a bonus, the high-fat content of egg yolks creates an even richer carbonara. 😋
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Boil the gnocchi in a large pot of salted water. The dumplings only take a few minutes to cook and will float to the surface when they’re ready. Important! Be sure to reserve a cup of starchy pasta water before draining. Why? ⇢ Starchy pasta water is essential for carbonara sauce – it emulsifies with egg yolks to create carbonara’s iconic glossy texture.
Toss the gnocchi carbonara. Transfer the cooked gnocchi to the cooled skillet with the pancetta. Add a little of the hot reserved pasta water to the bowl with the egg and cheese mixture, whisking vigorously to temper the sauce. This is where the magic happens! 🪄 ⇢ Pour the egg mixture over the gnocchi, place the skillet back over medium-low heat, and toss, toss, toss to combine everything well.
Perfect Carbonara Tips and Tricks
I’ve made a lot of carbonara over the years, often late at night after a long restaurant shift. If I can make it bleary-eyed at 2 AM, you can too! 😉 In my experience, it all comes down to a few key tricks:
- Make sure your pan isn’t too hot so the gnocchi carbonara sauce cooks gently, which helps ensure a beautifully luscious and silky texture. Allowing the pan to cool slightly after rendering the pancetta makes a big difference!
- Keep tossing! Repeatedly tossing the carbonara sauce with the gnocchi serves 2 main purposes. The constant agitation helps emulsify the sauce and ensures it doesn’t get too hot and overcook.
- Pasta water is your best friend! Use splashes of this starchy liquid gold to loosen up the carbonara sauce as you toss, bringing it all to life. The pasta water emulsifies with the egg to give the gnocchi carbonara its signature glossy consistency. ✨
Serving and Storage Suggestions
Serving Suggestion. ⇢ I love serving gnocchi carbonara with a couple of untraditional finishing touches: lemon zest for brightness and fresh chives for a pop of color and punchy-fresh flavor. Both are completely optional, so feel free to serve yours as-is if you’re a carbonara purist. 😉
Storage and Reheating
Carbonara gnocchi is always best enjoyed fresh off the stovetop. You can keep any leftovers in your fridge for a few days, but they’ll need a little love when reheating. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for step-by-step guidance.
I can’t wait for you to try this Gnocchi alla Carbonara! It’s one of the coziest pasta dishes imaginable and seriously so easy to whip up. Once you try it, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a staple in your house too!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo and tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!Print
Back when I worked at an Italian restaurant, I’d often get home late at night after a long shift feeling exhausted, but starving. Pasta carbonara was always the perfect solution: affordable, super satisfying, and easy to make. All these years later, it’s is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.
This particular recipe kicks classic pasta carbonara’s cozy factor up a few notches, replacing pasta with pillowy-soft gnocchi dumplings! Between the light and airy gnocchi and the creamy-dreamy carbonara sauce, it’s one of the most comforting dishes you can make. The fact that it comes together in 20 minutes or less is just a fun bonus!
If you’ve never made carbonara before, trust that you’re in very good hands here. This gnocchi carbonara is a quick adaptation of my Tried and True Pasta Carbonara, a recipe I developed using some of the tips and tricks I picked up during my restaurant days. A few secrets – like using egg yolks and tempering the sauce off the heat – help make it especially foolproof.
Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for a lot more detail on all of the hows and whys of this recipe. It’s quickly become one of my favorite “lazy girl dinners,” and I think you’ll love it as much as we do. ♡ Happy cooking!
- 16 ounces potato gnocchi (see Recipe Notes)
- 4 ounces diced pancetta (see Recipe Notes)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup finely grated pecorino romano
- ¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- optional: 1 lemon, zested
- for serving, as desired: additional grated cheese, finely chopped fresh chives, extra virgin olive oil, etc.
- Prep: Before you begin cooking anything, take a moment to read this entire recipe start-to-finish. Carbonara is a time-sensitive dish that comes together quickly once all the components are ready – it’s helpful to already have a sense of the process once you begin cooking. From there, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously season the water with salt. Next, take a few minutes to get everything measured, chopped, and prepped according to the Ingredients List, above: separate the eggs, finely chop the garlic, measure the cheeses, and gather all remaining ingredients. Set aside, within an arm’s reach of the stove for easy, enjoyable cooking.
- Render the pancetta: Add diced pancetta to a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the pancetta becomes golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped garlic. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 1 minute more, until the garlic is slightly softened and very fragrant – your kitchen will smell like heaven! Important: Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Prep the carbonara sauce egg mixture: Meanwhile, as pancetta renders, prep the carbonara sauce egg mixture. Add egg yolks, pecorino and parmesan to a large mixing bowl. Generously season with freshly cracked black pepper. Whisk to combine. The mixture will be thick. Set aside.
- Boil the gnocchi: Once the pancetta is rendered and the egg mixture is whisked together, cook the gnocchi. Remove the gnocchi from its packaging, using your hands to break apart the individual pieces as needed. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the gnocchi float to the top of the pot. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy water, then drain the gnocchi. (Learn more! ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)
- Toss the gnocchi carbonara: Transfer the cooked gnocchi to the skillet with the rendered pancetta and garlic. While whisking constantly, pour about ¼ cup of the reserved starchy water into the prepared carbonara sauce egg mixture. The hot water should loosen the egg mixture up quite a bit and begin to melt the cheeses. Transfer the egg mixture to the skillet with the gnocchi, tossing well to combine. Return the skillet to medium-low heat. Continue to stir and toss, adding additional starchy water little by little, until the gnocchi carbonara sauce is glossy and coats the dumplings well. Finish the pasta carbonara by tossing in the lemon zest, if using. Remove from the heat.
- Serve: Divide the gnocchi carbonara into two of your favorite pasta bowls. Top with extra grated cheese, finely chopped chives, ground black pepper, and a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Jess’ Tips and Tricks:
- Gnocchi: Feel free to use your favorite store-bought gnocchi or prepare a batch of homemade gnocchi for an extra-special treat. My favorite packaged gnocchi comes from DeLallo. Theirs is made in Italy with over 85% potato and it has a really beautiful light, airy texture. Choose between their classic Potato Gnocchi, Mini Potato Gnocchi (pictured – so cute! 🥰), or Gluten-Free Gnocchi – all are delicious!
- Pancetta is cured, unsmoked Italian bacon. Widely available at most conventional grocery stores, you can typically find pancetta already diced up in an individual container near the cured meats and bacon, or cut-to-order at the deli counter. Feel free to swap it out with regular bacon if that’s what you can find easily – thick, center-cut bacon works best for this recipe.
- Make it your own! While completely untraditional, given the richness of the egg yolk carbonara sauce and the heartiness of gnocchi, it can be nice to toss in a handful of finely chopped fresh herbs or leafy greens (e.g. parsley, basil, arugula). As always, have fun with it and make it your own!
- Storage and Reheating: Gnocchi carbonara is best enjoyed fresh, immediately once it’s prepared. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Reheat on the stovetop in a skillet over low heat, adding an extra splash of water or cooking stock to loosen up the carbonara sauce as needed, until warmed through.
Keywords: easy pasta recipes, easy pasta dinners, easy carbonara recipe
Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.