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Date Night Dinners/ Pork

Crispy Gnocchi with Sausage Meatballs

August 17, 2019 (Last Updated: August 10, 2023) by Chris Collins

Here I’ll show you a simple way to make crispy pan fried gnocchi. Paired with a sausage meatball ragu, this truly is the perfect comfort food dinner!

Sure, this dinner takes a little prep, but it’s SO worth it. Follow me…

overhead shot of gnocchi and sausage meatballs in white bowl on brown chopping board


I really don’t use gnocchi enough. It’s quick to cook, delicious to eat and super duper filling. It’s most common to boil gnocchi, which results in soft pillows of goodness. Today we’re going to do just that, but pan frying them after so they go gorgeously crispy.

Preparing the gnocchi

You actually only need to boil gnocchi for a couple of minutes max. Because we’re toasting the gnocchi, you don’t want to completely cook it through. Just long enough to remove some starch and soften it slightly. So whatever the packet says, I’d take a minute off the cooking time. As the gnocchi simmers, I recommend scooping out a mug of the starchy water too, which you can use to thin out the meatball sauce.

Store-bought gnocchi does the trick! Just make sure it’s fresh gnocchi, not dried. You’ll likely find gnocchi in the fresh pasta section in most stores, starting from as cheap at £1.50 for a 500g/1lb pack!

gnocchi in a pot of boiling water, lifting up two pieces on a wooden spoon

Crispy Pan Fried Gnocchi

By boiling the gnocchi you’re essentially removing starch, which in turn is what helps the centre be more ‘fluffy’. Sure, boiled gnocchi is great, but imagine having pillows of goodness that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside? *drools*

How to pan fry gnocchi (quick summary)

  1. Melt butter into a pan over medium heat with a few fresh sage leaves.
  2. Add gnocchi and frequently toss until evenly golden and crispy.
Top Tip #1 – Don’t rinse your gnocchi after it’s boiled. A lot of starch that is removed from the gnocchi will rest on the surface, which when fried will help them go crispy. Plus you’ll just rinse away flavour.

overhead shot of crispy gnocchi in a pan

Sausage Meatballs

So we’ve got our crispy gnocchi, let’s talk sausage meatballs.

I started off developing this recipe using a classic bolognese aka gnocchi bolognese. But, meh. Not creative enough. So beef bolognese led to sausage, and sausage led to mini sausage meatballs. Yeah, that’s literally how simply my mind works 😂

How to make sausage meatballs (quick summary)

  1. Grab a pork sausage and pull out the meat.
  2. Roll each sausage into 5-6 mini meatballs
  3. Repeat. 6 Sausages in total for this recipe.
Top Tip #2 – Try and get Italian style sausages for this recipe. Failing that, just get some good quality pork sausages (Cumberlands are great).

How to make sausage meatballs - 3 step by step photos

Quick Sausage Meatball Ragu

Alrighty, meatballs rolled, onto the sauce. This is actually a really simple sauce, but it still packs in a good amount of flavour.

How to make sausage meatball ragu (quick summary)

  1. Add meatballs to a pan with olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Fry until golden.
  3. Add onion and garlic and fry further.
  4. Stir in tomato puree.
  5. Pour in red wine.
  6. Add tomatoes and herbs and simmer until thickened. Stir through parmesan at the last second.
Top Tip #3 – Make sure you simmer to reduce the sauce before adding the parmesan. Don’t use the parmesan to thicken. If the sauce thickens too much after the parmesan, just add a splash of starchy gnocchi water to thin out slightly.

How to make gnocchi with sausage - 6 step by step photos

Gnocchi and Sausage FAQ

Do I have to toast the gnocchi?

Short answer – no. You could just boil the gnocchi if you’d prefer, but you lose out on the buttery flavour and crisp exterior. If you’ve never tried crispy gnocchi before I’d recommend giving it a go 🙂

Can I use regular sausage meat instead of sausages?

You can use ground sausage meat yes, just definitely make sure it’s not regular pork (sausage meat is seasoned – pork is not!).

Can I use dried herbs instead of fresh ones?

If you can’t find sage, don’t sub dried sage, the gnocchi will still be great without it. You can sub dried rosemary and basil though if you don’t have fresh.

Can I make this ahead of time?

I don’t recommend making the gnocchi ahead of time, but you could make the meatballs and sauce ahead of time (more on this in the recipe card notes below).

close up shot of toasted gnocchi and sausage meatballs in large white bowl garnished with fresh basil

Serving Gnocchi and Sausage Meatballs

I recommend serving the gnocchi and meatballs separate (as in don’t mix them together) just so the gnocchi stays nice and crispy. Serve up with any leftover basil and parmesan you’ve got on hand, then tuck in and enjoy! This dish is awesome as a Date Night Dinner for two. You could also add some Homemade Garlic Bread on the side if you wanted some more carby goodness 😋

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this toasted gnocchi and sausage meatballs shall we?!

fork holding gnocchi and meatball with a bowl in the background full of gnocchi and meatballs

How to make Crispy Gnocchi with Sausage Meatballs (Full Recipe & Video)

overhead shot of gnocchi and sausage meatballs in white bowl on brown chopping board

Crispy Gnocchi with Sausage Meatballs

Here I'll show you a simple way to make crispy pan fried gnocchi. Paired with a sausage meatball ragu, this truly is the perfect comfort food dinner! Serves two, perfect with a side of garlic bread for a date night dinner.
4.89 from 9 votes
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Servings (click & slide): 2
Course: Date Night / Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Calories per serving: 1316kcal
Cost per serving: £5 / $6


  • Large Pot & Colander (boiling gnocchi)
  • Large Frying Pan & Wooden Spoon (for sausage meatballs & sauce)
  • Separate Frying Pan (for frying gnocchi)
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Fine Cheese Grater

Ingredients (check list):

Crispy Gnocchi

  • 14oz / 400g store-bought Fresh Gnocchi (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • few Sage Leaves (not a deal-breaker if you don't have these. Could sub a sprig of rosemary instead)
  • pinch of Salt & Black Pepper, to taste

Sausage Meatballs

  • 6 Pork Sausages (see notes)
  • 1x 14oz/400g can of Chopped Plum Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml Red Wine
  • 1/4 cup / 20g freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 small cloves of Garlic, finely diced (or 1 large clove)
  • 1 small White Onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Puree (Tomato Paste in US)
  • 1 fresh sprig EACH: Rosemary, Basil (or sub ~1/4 tsp dried of each)
  • drizzle of Olive Oil, for frying meatballs


  • Squeeze out 5-6 small chunks of meat from each sausage, then roll the chunks into mini meatballs.
  • Fry the meatballs in a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat until evenly browned. Add onion and fry until soft and beginning to brown, then add the garlic & fry for a minute longer.
  • Stir in tomato puree, then deglaze with the red wine. Simmer for a few mins to reduce down, then pour in tomatoes and a splash of water to swill out the can. Add a sprig of basil & rosemary, season with salt & pepper, then give everything a good stir. Turn heat to low and allow to simmer for around 12-15mins, or until the sauce begins to thicken and the tomatoes have broken down. Stir in parmesan, with a splash of gnocchi water (see below) to thin out the sauce as needed.
  • Whilst the sauce is simmering, pop the gnocchi in salted boiling for 1-2mins until they’re just about cooked through & the water is completely cloudy. As soon as the first piece of gnocchi floats to the top, drain in a colander.
  • Melt butter in a separate pan over medium heat with a few sage leaves & add the gnocchi. Fry until light golden and crisp, shaking frequently (7-10mins). Season with salt & pepper.
  • Remove basil, rosemary and sage from the gnocchi and meatballs, then serve up with any leftover basil leaves and parmesan. Enjoy!

Quick 1 min demo!


a) Gnocchi - Ensure you're using fresh store bought from the fresh pasta section, not the dried variety. You'll only need to boil for 1-2mins, just to remove some starch. Whatever the packet says I recommend taking a minute off. When it comes to toasting the gnocchi, don't go overboard as the inside can become rubbery. Just light golden and crisp will do the trick!
b) Tomatoes - Plum tomatoes give you a richer, sweeter flavour than chopped (usually). As such, I recommend buying a can of peeled plum tomatoes and chopping them in the can with a knife. Failing that, just grab a can of good quality chopped tomatoes.
c) Sausages - If you can find Italian style sausage then use them. If not, just good quality pork sausage will be great. You can also use regular ground sausage meat instead of squeezing the meat from sausages. Just ensure it's sausage meat, not regular pork. Sausage is seasoned, where as pork isn't! For reference, you want the total weight of sausage(s) to be 14oz/400g.
d) Do I have to toast the gnocchi? - Short answer - no. You could just boil the gnocchi if you'd prefer, but you lose out on the buttery flavour and crisp exterior. Not a deal-breaker though 🙂
e) Make Ahead - I don't recommend making the gnocchi ahead of time, but you could make the meatballs and sauce, allow to cool and tightly store in the fridge. Then reheat over low heat with a splash of gnocchi water until the meatballs are piping hot again.
f) Calories - based on 1 tbsp olive oil, no parmesan to top.

Your Private Notes:


Nutrition Facts
Crispy Gnocchi with Sausage Meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1316 Calories from Fat 851
% Daily Value*
Fat 94.51g145%
Saturated Fat 39.052g195%
Trans Fat 0.113g
Polyunsaturated Fat 7.727g
Monounsaturated Fat 39.609g
Cholesterol 237mg79%
Sodium 1264mg53%
Potassium 1679mg48%
Carbohydrates 48.49g16%
Fiber 6.8g27%
Sugar 9.05g10%
Protein 61.68g123%
Vitamin A 1719IU34%
Vitamin C 35.4mg43%
Calcium 287mg29%
Iron 5.93mg33%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'

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Recipe Rating


  • Reply
    Richard Milo
    June 9, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    5 stars
    Good gosh, you are going to make one big fat man out of me… Currently weigh 84kg, 6’2 tall – I’ll give you an update in 6 months

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      June 9, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      Hahaha love it!! I look forward to the update

  • Reply
    January 5, 2020 at 12:18 am

    4 stars
    We Loved the sausage meatballs and sauce! The gnocchi, however, seems more like fried potatoes or tator-tots the hard way. My store didn’t have fresh gnocchi only shelf stable in a vacuum bag so maybe it would be less rubbery if I had the fresh gnocchi.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      January 5, 2020 at 10:47 am

      Hey Kristina! Awesome to hear you loved the sausage and sauce! It’s a shame the gnocchi didn’t go down as you hoped. Admittedly I do usually use fresh gnocchi, so that could have possibly been the problem. But boiled gnocchi does go nicely in this recipe too, so you could always do that if you’re not a fan of toasted gnocchi. Thanks for popping bad and sharing your feedback! Chris x

  • Reply
    Ashley @ Sweetpea Lifestyle
    August 22, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    5 stars
    OMG! This is amazing! I have two bags of frozen gnocchi in my freezer. And those little baby meatballs are so cute, and I’m sure delicious! So glad I found you!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 23, 2019 at 10:51 am

      Ah that awesome! Glad you found me too! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 18, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    5 stars
    Lovely recipe. This gnocchi is super crispy and I love it.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 20, 2019 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks Chichi! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 17, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    5 stars
    The crisp on this gnocchi is spot on! Looks like such a filling meal.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 20, 2019 at 12:53 pm

      Super filling! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 17, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    5 stars
    What a great looking bowl of gnocci. It also sounds delicious which is the best bit. I can’t wait to try it. Cheers for making my mouth water, haha!!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 20, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      You’re so welcome!! 😛

  • Reply
    August 17, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    5 stars
    Love me some gnocchi! This recipe looks delicious and comforting. Perfect for family dinner!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 20, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks Iryna 🙂

  • Reply
    August 17, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    5 stars
    This recipe looks so good and I love your blog name! 🙂

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 20, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      Thank you!!

  • Reply
    August 17, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    5 stars
    Love your blog name and this recipe looks delicious!