For 4 people, you heat 1 liter (1 quart) of milk with a dash of salt and a bit of butter. When it just comes to the boil, add 250g (½ lb.) of semolina in a slow stream–in Italian they say a poggia or “like rain–into the simmering milk (just like you make polenta). Lower the heat and let the mixture cook until it has become quite stiff, mix in some grated parmesan cheese, and then spread it out thinly–about ½ cm (¼ in.) or so thick–and as evenly as you can on a baking sheet or other flat surface, which you will have lighted oiled or buttered to prevent sticking. (A wet spatula is ideal for this operation.)
Let the semolina mixture cool completely (it speeds things up considerably if you stick the baking sheet into the fridge) and then, using a glass or cookie cutter, cut out disks of the semolina. Arrange those disks in a buttered baking or gratin dish, layering them in slightly overlapping rows like so many roof tiles. Top with copious amounts of grated parmesan cheese and melted butter. Some recipes also call for grated gruyere which, of course, makes for a richer dish. You then either bake the gnocchi in a hot oven (200° C, 400° F) or pass it under the broiler until nicely browned on top. Let the sizzling gnocchi ‘settle’ for a few minutes and then serve them in their baking dish.
NOTE: This dish does not need any kind of sauce, although one correspondent tells me that she serves these with ragu for her husband, who does not care for the taste of butter. Some recipes call for an egg yolk (or two) to be added to the semolina after it thickens, off heat, which will give the gnocchi a richer coloration and a slightly firmer texture. Try it if you like.
I find that the broiler technique is both quicker and more appealing, as baking in the oven takes 15 minutes or more, by which time the gnocchi can dry out a bit.
After you cut out the gnocchi disks, you will be left with scraps of semolina. Don’t throw them out, whatever you do. Save the scraps for later. If you gather them up and press them together into a ball of ‘dough‘. When you are ready for another meal, form little croquettes out of this ‘dough’, roll them in bread crumbs and fry them until golden brown. These croquettes are absolutely delicious–even better, if you ask me, than the gnocchi themselves…