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Gnocchi with chili crisp sauce is on the table in 20 minutes. Honest.

(Photos by Rey Lopez for The Washington Post; food styling by Nicola Justine Davis for The Washington Post)
Gnocchi With Chili Crisp Sauce, Capers and Parmesan
Total time:20 mins
Total time:20 mins

Stephen Colbert once tweeted: “Every thirty minute recipe is a lie.”

My immediate reaction was to chastise the famously Catholic late-night talk show host for breaking the ninth commandment, but then I did a little self-reflection and I got where he was coming from.

Too often, we food writers say that a dish can be pulled together in a flash, but then we hear from home cooks who say it took them much longer.

Many factors can influence how long it takes to prepare a recipe, including cooking experience, available tools and appliance variations, but this recipe from “Great British Bake Off” finalist Ruby Tandoh’s soon-to-be-published cookbook, “Cook As You Are,” is the real deal.

All you need are two big-flavored, common ingredients, a little fat and a hot skillet, and in about 10 minutes, you will have a salty, spicy sauce to go with your favorite pasta.

To make the dish, you first put the gnocchi on to boil. Then you spoon capers and chili crisp into melted butter in a skillet and sizzle them together for a couple of minutes. When your sauce is good and hot, you add the cooked pasta to the skillet, with a bit of reserved pasta water if needed, and stir and toss until it is well-coated and slick with the oil.

You scoop that into a bowl, top it with grated parmesan, and you’re off to the races.

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I had to pick up gnocchi at the supermarket, but I had everything else I needed to make this dish, including the brand of chili crisp that Tandoh recommends, Lao Gan Ma.

If you don’t keep chili crisp at home, consider doing so. It and other flavorful condiments are a key to quick weeknight cooking because they are an effortless way to boost umami and, in this case, add texture, too.

How much do I use it? When our staff picked our favorite condiments in 2020, chili crisp was my clear choice because you can toss it with noodles or vegetables, mix it into eggs and stir-fries, and spoon it over soups, such as the Coconut Corn Soup that recently prompted my colleague Aaron Hutcherson to write a primer all about chili crisp’s history and uses.

There’s a wide world of chili crisp. These are our favorites.

In the piece, he explained that the mixture of oil and fried spices has been a staple in Chinese kitchens for generations, and gained traction with home cooks around the world when Lao Gan Ma started selling it in jars in the 1990s. He also names his top four brands, which is helpful because with so many on the market now, you need guidance to get one that’s got just the right spice and crunch for you.

Can cooking serve as a balm for depression? For one British author, it saved her life.

And that cookbook by Tandoh? It will be out in the United States in November. I was tempted by other recipes in the chapters on low-effort cooking, so I may revisit it, but I couldn’t resist sharing this recipe now because it truly is a dinner in minutes.

Gnocchi With Chili Crisp Sauce, Capers and Parmesan

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Where to Buy: Chili crisp can be found at Asian markets, well-stocked supermarkets and online.

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  • 2 pounds potato gnocchi
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (may substitute vegan butter, such as the Miyoko’s brand)
  • 3 tablespoons capers in brine, well drained, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chili crisp
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated parmesan cheese (may substitute vegan parmesan cheese)

Step 1

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook according to the package instructions.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the gnocchi.

Step 2

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Once it’s sizzling, add the capers and chili crisp, making sure to get spoonfuls of the crispy chili flakes — not just the oil on top — and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add the gnocchi to the pan, along with a couple of tablespoons of the reserved cooking water, then stir or shake the pan until the gnocchi are well coated and everything is hot, about 1 minute, adding more water as needed if the pan is dry.

Step 3

Remove from the heat and serve right away, with the parmesan on the side.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (1 1/2 cups)

Calories: 528; Total Fat: 18 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 35 mg; Sodium: 1269 mg; Carbohydrates: 79 g; Dietary Fiber: 8 g; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 16 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “Cook As You Are” by Ruby Tandoh (Alfred A. Knopf, 2022).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to

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