This Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce with Gnocchi is incredibly decadent and rich with so much flavor thanks to a whole head of roasted garlic, bacon, fresh parsley, and plenty of parmesan. The gnocchi are cooked right in the sauce making it an easy one pan meal.
Check out the ingredient list below for what's needed to make this white sauce recipe.
- Garlic: The star ingredient and the best part. You want a decently sized head of garlic (the full garlic bulb, not just a few cloves). This is going to be roasted so the flavor will be mellowed out.
- Bacon: Sautéing some bacon is the first step of this dish because then the shallot gets sautéd in the leftover bacon fat which adds a ton of flavor. The crispy bacon then is sprinkled on top of the finished dish for a nice textural element.
- Shallot: The onion’s more mild sister. Shallot is ideal in this recipe because the flavor is mild but still present, while not overpowering the roasted garlic.
- Chicken broth: This is to initially thin out the sauce so that it’s not too thick when cooking the gnocchi - once the gnocchi are added it thickens up nicely.
- Heavy cream: The heavy whipping cream makes up the creamy base of the sauce.
- Parmesan cheese: This helps emulsify the sauce and adds so much flavor with a sharp nuttiness.
- Parsley: Adds a hint of freshness that this creamy sauce needs to help balance it out.
- Gnocchi: Shelf-stable gnocchi or fresh refrigerated gnocchi are ideal for this recipe. The gnocchi cooks right in the sauce, so frozen would not defrost and cook in time. Also, the residual starch from the gnocchi helps to thicken the sauce.
- Butter: Unsalted butter – it gets added to the bacon fat to sauté the shallots.
- Olive oil: Just a little bit to drizzle over the garlic before we roast it.
- Bacon: to make this vegetarian you can leave out the bacon all together.
- Shallot: while shallot is preferred because it’s a bit more mild, a yellow onion very finely chopped can be used in its place.
- Chicken broth: vegetable broth can be used in place of chicken broth
- Heavy cream: full fat coconut milk can be used to make it dairy free (also would need to use a dairy free parmesan cheese substitute if this is what you’re going for).
- If you don’t have either of these, you can use whole milk to make the cream sauce but you’d need to make a roux to thicken it. So before adding any of the liquid, stir 1 tablespoon all purpose flour in with the sautéd shallot. Let that soak up the liquid and become golden by cooking it for about 2 minutes. Then add in the milk/broth/garlic and continue with the recipe.
- Parmesan cheese: pecorino romano cheese would be a good substitute.
Step by step instructions
This creamy garlic sauce has so much flavor people will think you’ve been slaving away for hours, when really it’s just a few simple steps (and roasting garlic is very hands off!). Check it out below, with the full recipe card at the bottom of this post.
1. Roast the garlic. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Chop off the top quarter of the garlic to expose the cloves. Place the head in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the aluminum foil up over the garlic and roast for 50 minutes.
Let the garlic finish roasting before continuing on with the recipe.
2. Cook the bacon. In a large skillet (such as a cast iron or stainless steel), cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove onto a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pan.
3. Sauté the shallot. Add the butter to the leftover bacon fat. Let it melt then add the chopped shallot and cook for 2 minutes until gently softened and fragrant.
4. Add the liquid and garlic. Squeeze the roasted garlic out into the pot and add the broth, heavy cream, salt, and black pepper. Mix together until it’s a homogeneous mixture and bring to a rapid simmer.
5. Add the gnocchi. Add the gnocchi right into the simmering sauce. Keep it at a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened and the gnocchi are cooked through – about 8 minutes.
6. Add the fresh parsley and parmesan. Once the gnocchi are cooked and the sauce is thickened, reduce to medium-low heat and stir in the fresh chopped parsley and grated parmesan.
Tips and tricks
- Wrap the garlic tightly before roasting it, this will trap the heat and roast it evenly – if you don’t do this, any exposed parts might burn.
- Use a block of parmesan and freshly grate it yourself! Pre-grated or shredded parmesan cheese likely has fillers and won’t melt as smoothly.
- Use a slotted spoon to lift the bacon out of the pan – it’ll help grab just the bacon and leave the bacon fat in there.
- Once you add the gnocchi to the sauce, really stir frequently. This will prevent the gnocchi from sticking together but will also evenly disperse their natural starches throughout the sauce to thicken it.
- You could boil your gnocchi separately and add it to the sauce after, the sauce will thicken on its own, it’ll just take a little more time.
- You can use any pasta you want.Ravioli would be outstanding with this sauce. If you use something other than gnocchi, cook the pasta separately then add to the cooked pasta to the sauce once it’s thickened.
- This sauce is very similar to an alfredo sauce, so anyone who loves a creamy cheesy sauce should love this!
- Stir in some homemade pesto to transform it!
- You can easily grate a large batch of parmesan cheese by using a food processor – just cut it into chunks and pulse until grated. Use what you need for this recipe, and save the rest for something else! (some of my favorite parmesan recipes are air fryer garlic parmesan smashed potatoes, asiago creamed spinach, spinach and ricotta puff pastry pinwheels.
How to roast garlic
- Remove excess skin of the garlic just by giving it a gentle rub.
- Carefully cut the top quarter of the garlic off to expose the cloves.
- Place the garlic cut side up on a piece of aluminum foil that is large enough to wrap around it fully.
- Drizzle the garlic with olive oil and sprinkle it with kosher salt.
- Wrap the aluminum foil all around the garlic, completely covering it.
- Place either directly on your oven rack or on a sheet pan.
- Roast until your desired done-ness. 50 minutes at 400°F is my sweet spot.
Other ways to use roasted garlic cream sauce
If you have leftover sauce, there are so many other ways this creamy roasted garlic sauce can be used:
- Serve on top of some steak or chicken
- Serve with really any kind of pasta (spinach and cheese ravioli would be delicious)
- Add as a béchamel layer in a lasagna
- Pour over some potatoes au gratin
- Use as a sauce on your favorite sandwich
- Use it as pizza sauce in place of a traditional red sauce to make white pizzas
I wouldn’t. Cream sauces have a tendency to separate once they are stored and reheated, so for the first serving of this I’d recommend cooking it right before. It should just take about 15-20 minutes tops of hands-on time! If you absolutely need to, leave the gnocchi out at first, and reheat on medium low heat, whisking constantly. Then cook the gnocchi separately and add right before serving.
I haven’t done it for this recipe, but I don’t see why not. If you are going to freeze it though, leave the gnocchi (or other pasta you used) out. I’d recommend freezing for no more than 3 months.
Similar, but not quite. There are a few extra ingredients in this recipe that aren’t included in traditional alfredo (but it just adds to the flavor!).
Storage and reheating
Storage: allow the dish to cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Reheating: if there’s pasta in with the sauce, warm in the microwave in increments, stirring between each. If you just have the sauce, warm it in a pot over medium low heat, whisking often, until warmed through.
More creamy pasta dishes
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Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce with Gnocchi
- 1 head of garlic
- 4 strips bacon sliced into 1" pieces
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 shallot finely diced
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 16 oz package shelf-stable gnocchi
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Chop off the top quarter of the garlic to expose the cloves. Place the head in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the aluminum foil up over the garlic and roast for 50 minutes. Let the garlic finish roasting before continuing on with the recipe.
- In a large skillet (such as a cast iron or stainless steel), cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove onto a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pan.
- Add the butter to the leftover bacon fat. Let it melt then add the chopped shallot and cook for 2 minutes until gently softened and fragrant.
- Squeeze the roasted garlic out into the pot and add the broth, heavy cream, salt, and black pepper. Mix together until it’s a homogeneous mixture and bring to a rapid simmer.
- Add the gnocchi right into the simmering sauce. Keep it at a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened and the gnocchi are cooked through – about 8 minutes.
- Once the gnocchi are cooked and the sauce is thickened, reduce to medium-low heat and stir in the fresh chopped parsley and grated parmesan.