Gnocchi alla romana (Roman Semolina Gnocchi)

Gnocchi alla romana (Roman Semolina Gnocchi)

In gnocchi, Lazio, primi piatti by Frank39 Comments

Here’s a linguistic quandary: The Italian word gnocchi is usually translated as ‘dumplings’, and the dictionary defines the word ‘dumpling’ as “a small mass of leavened dough cooked by boiling or steaming” or “a piece of dough, sometimes filled, that is cooked in liquid such as water or soup”. Well, gnocchi alla romana defy these definitions: they’re not made with a dough, not  filled and not cooked in liquid or by steaming either.

So these gnocchi bear no resemblance to the classic potato gnocchi we all know and love. But at the end of the day, none of that really matters, because whatever you want to call them in English, gnocchi alla romana are really delicious. Here’s how you make them:

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 liter (1 quart) milk
  • 250g (1/2 lb) semolina
  • A good knob of butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • 75g (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 egg yolks (optional)

For topping:

  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • More butter, q.b.

Directions

Heat the milk with a dash of salt and a nice nob of butter. When the milk just comes to the simmer, add the 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. Off heat, whisk in the egg yolks if using.

Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet or other flat surface, which you will have lighted oiled or buttered to prevent sticking. Spreading it out thin—about ½ cm (¼ in.) or so thick—and as evenly as you can. (A wet spatula—or your wet, freshly washed hands—are 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.

Gnocchi alla romana-5

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 an even richer dish.

Gnocchi alla romana-3

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.

Gnocchi alla romana

Notes on Gnocchi alla romana

Gnocchi alla romana are very rich, so you do not need any kind of sauce, although one correspondent tells me that she serves these with ragú for her husband, who does not care for the taste of butter. The egg yolk (or two) is optional; it gives the gnocchi a richer coloration and a slightly firmer texture. Try it if you like.

Personally, 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. But if you want to prepare the gnocchi ahead of time, the oven-baked method is the way to go.

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—almost better, if you ask me, than the gnocchi alla romana themselves…

Gnocchi alla romana (Roman Semolina Gnocchi)

Rating: 51

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 liter (1 quart) milk
  • 250g (1/2 lb) semolina
  • A good knob of butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • 75g (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • For topping:
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • More butter, q.b.

Directions

  1. Heat the milk with a dash of salt and a nice nob of butter. When the milk just comes to the simmer, add the 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.
  2. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet or other flat surface, which you will have lighted oiled or buttered to prevent sticking. Spreading it out thin—about ½ cm (¼ in.) or so thick—and as evenly as you can. (A wet spatula is ideal for this operation.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Let the sizzling gnocchi ‘settle’ for a few minutes and then serve them in their baking dish.
http://memoriediangelina.com/2014/10/24/gnocchi-alla-romana/

Comments

  1. Amazing recipe Frank! It’s truly remarkable, how your ancestors managed to cook such delicacies with so little. We loved the recipe and we’ll be trying it out with graviera from Naxos.
    Oh…and the idea for croquettes with any leftover dough is equally amazing!:):)
    Thanx so much!

  2. I’m not at all familiar with this form of gnocchi but wish that I was. They sound delicious and love the idea of the crunchy exterior that the broiler would develop. I need to try this recipe. Thanks, Frank, for sharing and for today’s lesson.

  3. What an interesting dish! Never heard of this type of gnocchi, but I like it. And you can never have too much butter, so I’d pile in on (although the idea of a ragu is appealing, too).

    1. Author

      Thanks, John! I don’t make these too often, but they’re a nice change of pace. And they’re actually less fuss than making potato gnocchi.

  4. Ciao Frank! Big favourite in this house! And I do chill the dough…so much easier to cut the rounds. I use a wet off-set spatula to spread out the mixture and that seems to work well. Yummy stuff! I could eat them for breakfast…OK fessing up we have with an egg…I know…weird…or maybe not…depending on how you look at it!

    1. Author

      Well, I have to say, I just learned what an “offset spatula” is. Hadn’t ever used one—but it looks like the perfect instrument for the job. Thanks for the tip! (And as for eggs on these gnocchi, why not?)

  5. Wonderful! I can imagine the meatiness of this dish, but with the lightness of gnocchi. Almost like a semolina version of polenta!

  6. I didn’t know you had these on your site already! I’ve never made Gnocchi alla Romana yet, isn’t that a crime? 🙁 I love the sound of the breaded leftovers, too! Reminds me of what we call, “pizzellele”: the squares we cut up from leftover pasta dough and use to make pasta and beans (I like them better than the pasta that was made)! 😉

  7. Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Good! I first discovered these at Rosa Salva in Venice and would order them often to take home. Once I discovered how really easy they were they’ve been a staple. Plus, the scraps are a big treat

  8. Frank – I don’t know how I can call myself an Italophile having never made this iconic Roman dish. Well, that is going to need to change soon, isn’t it? I’ll report back…

  9. Great recipe, Frank! The rendition I have is from my mamma – hers was gnocchi in brodo. She used cream of wheat, parmesan cheese, and egg or eggs depending on how many she wanted. Her gnocchi were so light they dissolved in our mouths. So when I started looking in Italian cookbooks for a recipe similar to hers, the closest I found was the Gnocchi alla Romana. I’ve always promised myself I would try it and I can’t wait to do so. Buon weekend.

  10. Hi — this version comes out great. One note: what I learned to do with the scraps after the disks are cut, was to lay them in the baking dish first as a base layer, before you make the tile arrangements on top. That way, no leftovers!

    I sometimes stir in minced fresh oregano, and/or some sauteed bit of bacon, if I have them on hand.

  11. I like your tip for what to do with the leftovers. I usually press them together and roll them out to make a few more disks, but they always look a little sloppy. Your idea is much better!

  12. I’ve only made these with potatoes – and that winds up being too heavy for me. Will be trying this. A nice comforting side as opposed to an entire meal would do nicely! Loving the idea of using the scraps for “breadcrumbs.”

  13. sono buonissimi sia in questa versione semplice che in quella più ricca che faccio qualche volta. Aggiungo fra una fetta e l’altra del prosciutto e formaggio, a volte del ragù di carne, insomma è una ricetta versatile che piaceveramente a tutti ! Buona settimana Frank !

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  15. These have to be one of my favorite comfort foods. I make them more often than the “potato” version and they freeze well too, in the uncooked state. I’ve got some from last winter waiting to be cooked. Thanks for reminding me.

  16. Oh, but we love this one in our house. I just made some last week to go along with a nice pork roast. It finally felt like fall here, so I went for it.

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    1. Author

      You know, I hadn’t made it in years, either. Nice to come back to a favorite recipe, like meeting an old friend… 🙂

  18. Hi, Zuza! Thanks for your comment. Your gnocchi dish sounds wonderful–and I love your website. You know, I actually lived in Rio for 6 months, a long time ago… wonderful memories!

  19. Hi. I'm from Brazil and morew than the recipe, I really liked your vision over what to do with the dough out of the disks. Nice idea. I sell that gnocchi with a mignon ragu with porcini and red wine. You can put a little bit of cinnamon. Try. Nice to meet you.

    Zuza

    http://www.zuzabuzios.com.br

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