Kitchn Love Letters

The No-Boil Grilled Pasta Dish That’s Redefining My Summer

updated Apr 27, 2021
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Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

I map seasons of life with the recipes I make. My quest to master scrambled eggs defined the spring of 2016, while a curry chicken soup will forever remind me of the winter my daughter was born. This summer will be etched in my mind as the season of grilled gnocchi, charred zucchini, and burst tomatoes — a simple summer supper that needs little more than a shower of Parmesan and just-picked basil to finish. 

This recipe started with an easy sheet pan dinner that our Deputy Food Director, Grace, took one step further for summer. I was lucky enough to test this recipe weeks before it published, so I spent most of May, June, and July crisping tender potato dumplings and charring ripe red tomatoes and slivers of zucchini on the grill. The sauce for the gnocchi couldn’t be simpler; it’s made of the natural juices from the tomatoes and zucchini, my two favorite summer vegetables. In fact, it’s the best way I’ve found to use the basket-busting bounty I tote home from the market each week.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

Why You Should Grill — Not Boil — Your Gnocchi

Boiled gnocchi are tender and soft, albeit gummy if not precisely prepared. My perspective on the petite potato dumpling changed when I first tried roasting gnocchi. In the oven, the outsides of the potato pillows brown and crisp, while the insides remain soft and chewy. When grilling season rolled around, we took this technique outside, which resulted in golden, charred gnocchi that tastes like summer in a bowl. 

All the elements of this recipe are grilled, and there are a few ways you can go about it. Sometimes I skewer the gnocchi, tomatoes, and zucchini individually. On other nights, I use a grill basket for the gnocchi and tomatoes, and reserve the skewers for the zucchini. Since refrigerated gnocchi are the only style suitable for skewering (other types will crumble and crack when pierced with skewers), using the grill basket means I can purchase gnocchi based on other factors than their skewer-ability. To keep the gnocchi from sticking, I recommend preheating the grill pan while the grill comes to temperature. If you’ve got a spacious grill basket, you can toss the tomatoes onto one side of the pan after cooking the gnocchi halfway. 

The Smart New Way to Grill Zucchini

I’m an experienced griller — and thick planks of grilled zucchini are a summer staple in my house — but I never thought to grill zucchini in paper-thin ribbons before. Peeling zucchini is something both my 5- and 3-year-old children can do, so it’s a great way to include them in dinner prep. They weave the skinny slices onto skewers, which helps them work on their fine motor skills, and they feel proud to see a task through from start to finish. The resulting zucchini are thin enough to twirl on a fork, but still pick up all that great smoky flavor from the grill.

The Special Sauce Is Built Right In

There’s no need to make a dedicated dressing to serve this meal. The crispy brown nuggets absorb the sweet juices of burst tomatoes and zucchini ribbons, which make their own sauce with no extra effort required. To garnish the dish, I reach down next to my grill and pull a few tender leaves of basil from my container garden, then finish with a generous shower of grated Parmesan. The simplicity and fresh flavor had me hooked from the first time I made the recipe, and I haven’t stopped making it since.