Roman Gnocchi (Gnocchi di Semolino)

The name may be misleading, because these are not the typical “gnocchi” made from potatoes. These elegant dish is called Gnocchi Roman Style, or more appropriately “Semolina Gnocchi” because that is what they are in fact.

Semolina Flour

This flour looks like the yellow corn flour used for polenta, but it isn’t. However, this flour is made from wheat. Specifically, it’s the coarsely ground endosperm of durum wheat, the same variety used to make most dried Italian pasta and Moroccan couscous. 

You can find durum semolina flour in many supermarkets near the flour or specialty grains (Bob’s Red Mill durum semolina flour) and in Italian and Indian markets.

Sunday Brunch

Semolina gnocchi are an ideal first course from a dinner with friends, or better yet they are very suitable for a Sunday brunch.

A mixture of semolina, milk, butter and eggs, then gratinated in the oven with a sprinkling of cheese to create a delicious crispy crust, which makes them irresistible. Born from the poor cuisine of Lazio region, a way to use the few resources available to prepare a nutritious and healthy dish for adults and children: a portion of gnocchi alla romana contains about 400 calories!

Semolina gnocchi are simple to prepare, you do not need to have a great dexterity or use special tools: a simple saucepan, a round cookie cutter or a glass and quality ingredients that are easy to find.

I made them on Boxing Day. I had a couple of friends over for lunch, and I thought they were an ideal dish for the day after Christmas.

Ingredients (about 6 people)

  • 250 gr of semolina
  • 100 gr of butter (unsalted)
  • 5 tablespoons of grated Parmesan
  • 3 yolks
  • 1 lt of whole milk
  • Nutmeg grated
  • Salt

How to prepare gnocchi alla romana

Soften 50 g of butter and cut into small pieces. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add 1 pinch of salt and the pieces of butter and a grated nutmeg. Put on the stove and slowly bring to a boil. When the milk is boiling (the butter must have completely melted), lower the heat and pour the semolina; mix vigorously with a whisk to dilute any lumps.

The mixture will cook for roughly 15 to 20 minutes total, or until it becomes very thick and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. It will be very loose for the first few minutes and will thicken to the consistency of a loose pudding within about 5 minutes. Once the mixture thick enough that it becomes difficult to continue whisking, switch to a wooden spoon. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon, scraping the sides of the pan as well, until the mixture begins to form a loose-ish mass and begins to pull away from the sides (approximately 15 to 20 minutes of total cook time ). Remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for a minute or two.

Stir in 2/3 of the grated parmesan cheeses, the yolks one at a time, mixing well before adding the second one, and third.

Moisten a half sheet pan with cold water over a sink and allow the excess water to drip off the pan. Spoon the hot semolina mixture onto the moistened sheet pan, spreading it with an offset spatula into an even layer that is just under 1/2-inch thick. Let cool for 30-40 minutes.

I actually do this over a sheet of aluminum foil, then with a second sheet on top I press gently with a rolling pin to have a layer evenly thick.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of an oven-safe baking dish, with butter. Using a small biscuit cutter (2.5-inch), cut the semolina into disks, dipping the biscuit cutter into water continuously to prevent sticking. Place the semolina rounds into the greased baking dish, overlapping the slices slightly.

Place the remaining butter in small pieces over the Gnocchi on the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining grated cheese. All this can be done even a day in advance, then covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.

Bake uncovered at 425F for 15 to 20 minutes or until a light golden crust is formed. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

In Italy we eat gnocchi by itself first, than the rest. But it is up to you, if you like to pair it with some vegetables or a salad. But I won’t suggest adding tomato sauces, nor pairing it with meat.

The meat should be eaten right after if you have to! 🙂

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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