18 Ways to Turn a Package of Tortellini or Gnocchi Into Dinner
Got some prepared Italian dumplings? You’re halfway to an easy weeknight dinner.
Between the holidays and life in general, there’s a lot going on these days. Which is why I make sure to keep a package each of gnocchi and tortellini on hand. Either one gives me a great shortcut to dinner.
There’s definitely something to be said for making your own versions of these classic Italian carbs. But as delicious as homemade gnocchi and from-scratch tortellini pasta recipes may be, each takes hours to make. On a busy weeknight, that ain’t happening.
Given the space constraints of my New York City kitchen, I prefer to buy frozen cheese tortellini and shelf-stable potato gnocchi. Frozen tortellini cook faster than the dried kind, and a vacuum-packed container of gnocchi is ready in minutes. They don’t need many other ingredients to make a tasty main course or side dish, either. So, with some chicken broth, frozen or baby spinach, diced tomatoes, salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning, and a few cloves of garlic, I’ve got options that will please the whole family.
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What to do with cheese tortellini
My local grocery store carries the filled pasta dumplings in a variety of flavors. Most recipes call for cheese tortellini, but you can almost always substitute your favorite kind. Once you’ve got a package in your kitchen, the possibilities for main dishes are endless.
Tortellini soup recipes
On a blustery day (or heck, even on a clear and sunny one), I love a bowl of soup. Especially when it’s studded with plump tortellini, vegetables, and maybe some beans. Tortellini soup needs nothing more than a crust of bread to be a complete meal.
I know, with something that cooks as quickly as tortellini, the Crock Pot seems counterproductive. But this clever, no-chopping-required recipe has you add the tortellini for the last 15 minutes. It goes in along with heavy cream, baby spinach, and Parmesan cheese. The rest of the time, you’re slow-cooking chicken in pesto-enriched chicken broth. So good — and so easy.
Don’t let the no-frills name fool you — this recipe is anything but ordinary. Italian sausage and chicken make it nicely hearty, and with loads of fresh (or frozen) vegetables in a tomatoey broth, it's super nutritious.
Looking for a filling vegetarian soup that eats like a stew? This one starts as a curry-scented pot of red lentils and tomatoes, which is delicious enough. But when you add tortellini, spinach, and lemon juice, it checks all the boxes.
Tortellini bake recipes
Tortellini al forno means “baked tortellini” in Italian. It sounds — and looks — elegant, but in reality, this is a simple way to make a deeply satisfying dinner.
Let’s take advantage of tortellini’s cheese or meat filling: Mix the dumplings with marinara sauce, top with cheese, and bake until bubbly. You get something that tastes an awful lot like lasagna — but with almost no work. This is my go-to when we want something fast and comforting.
Five ingredients and 25 minutes? All you have to do is layer cheesy tortellini, spinach, red pepper flakes, and shredded cheese in a baking dish, then pour heavy cream on top? Sign me up for this heavenly meatless creation. It’s perfect for a busy weeknight when I’m too frazzled to fuss.
Nothing beats a dump-and-bake casserole. Here, it stars frozen tortellini, frozen vegetables, jarred Alfredo pasta sauce, leftover chicken, and cheese. This easy version of tortellini primavera is a definite weeknight winner, full of creamy, cheesy flavor.
More easy recipes using tortellini
Tortellini cooks quickly, and its filling adds a flavor (and protein) boost. That makes it ideal for fast weeknight meals requiring just a handful of ingredients.
Made with crisped-up bacon (regular bacon or Italian prosciutto), eggs, and cheese, traditional carbonara sauce doesn’t get cooked. The heat from the pasta is enough to set the eggs into a luxurious coating. Normally, you’d use a strand pasta like spaghetti or fettucine, but sometimes, I find that to be a little one-note. Thanks to those cheesy pasta pillows, tortellini carbonara is a creamy, eggy wonder.
I like quick and easy tortellini recipes even better when there’s minimal cleanup. This tempting one-pan dinner has you cook tortellini in the tomatoey sauce, so you’re only dirtying one skillet. With sausage and spinach along for the ride, you’ve got all your food groups in a single bowl. Total time: just 15 minutes.
Pasta salad gets interesting when you use tortellini pasta. For such a simple salad, this sure packs a punch: Sweet jumbo shrimp meets zingy red onion, crunchy celery, salty capers and olives, and fresh herbs. You toss it all with ricotta-and-spinach tortellini and a red wine vinaigrette. If you’re in the mood for a warm salad, don’t cool down the tortellini and shrimp after cooking.
What to do with gnocchi
Like tortellini, gnocchi come in different varieties. Carbohydrate-packed plain potato is the standard, but grocery stores also carry sweet potato gnocchi, spinach gnocchi, or cauliflower gnocchi. The latter are often gluten-free, a nice bonus. (Looking for a fun cooking project? Try ricotta gnocchi, which skips the potato and can be ready in less than 30 minutes.)
Gnocchi soup and stew recipes
When I’m looking for a gnocchi recipe that’s soothing and comforting but still on the lighter side, I turn to soups and stews.
This bowl is deceptively gorgeous — you’d never imagine it’s on the table in just 30 minutes. The trick: simmering zucchini and garlic until they’re very soft, then adding basil leaves and puréeing. You wind up with a lovely vegetarian soup base filled with flavor for the gnocchi to soak up as they cook. When I want it to be a little heartier, I stir in a can of white beans at the end.
A copycat version of the restaurant’s popular soup: Shredded rotisserie chicken + prepared gnocchi + diced vegetables = a perfect weeknight soup, an entire meal in a bowl. Adding half-and-half makes a lusciously creamy gnocchi soup, but the baby spinach you stir in at the end makes it feel almost healthy. This recipe includes stovetop and slow-cooker instructions.
Steak and potatoes make a classic combo, so it’s no surprise that potato gnocchi and beef complement each other so well. This recipe is just the thing to cook on a lazy Sunday afternoon — it’s got all the flavors of a classic long-simmering beef stew, but using gnocchi instead of the traditional spuds gives it an Italian spin.
Gnocchi bake recipes
On a chilly winter night, a bubbling casserole filled with gnocchi that are fluffy inside and crispy on top seems exactly like what I want to eat. Garnish with some grated Parm or chopped herbs for extra oomph.
Super cheesy thanks to Gruyere and fontina, a pair of mellow and nutty melting cheeses, plus sharp and salty Parmesan cheese — all stirred into a quick cream sauce, this fast casserole might just replace your grandma’s mac & cheese recipe.
Think of this as loaded baked potato skins, only much easier (and possibly, even more indulgent). The recipe has you bake up potato gnocchi, bacon, sour cream, and cheddar cheese with green onions for pungent contrast. I’m pretty sure this recipe is the very definition of comfort food.
This starts out as a fairly straightforward tomato sauce scented with fresh herbs. But once you add cooked gnocchi and top the whole thing with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, you’re heading in a very interesting direction indeed. Running the dish under the broiler gets that cheese bubbling and browned ... and excuse me — I have to go make it right now.
More easy recipes using gnocchi
One big reason I love packaged gnocchi: They make it easy to get dinner on the table quickly. Most kinds cook in less than three minutes! In these easy gnocchi recipes, you just add a few ingredients, and you’re eating before you know it.
If you love Alfredo sauce, the Italian-American favorite, just the name of this recipe may have you itching to get started. I love it because it all comes together in one pan and in just a quarter-hour — and because cooking the gnocchi in the sauce makes everything extra-creamy. Serve this with a quick arugula salad with an olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette.
I’ve made some version of this pasta dish more times than I can count. We had it last night, in fact. It’s endlessly adaptable: As long as you’ve got grape tomatoes, which roast up juicy, plus another vegetable that softens in about 20 minutes, like bell peppers or diced butternut squash, you can roast almost any other veg alongside the gnocchi. My picky son loves how crispy the dumplings turn out.
You need only four ingredients besides the dumplings to make this remarkably satisfying gnocchi dish: butter, fresh sage leaves, pancetta or bacon, and Parmesan cheese. Trust me — eating sage leaves crisped up in brown butter is life-changing. I could see this one working beautifully with sweet potato gnocchi, too.
Hooray for pasta!
Whether Italian, Italian-American, or Asian, pasta boasts such variety and versatility — there are always delicious dishes to discover, cook, and enjoy. If you’re noodling over pasta recipes and craving more options, the following articles will help satisfy your appetite for knowledge.
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