Gnocchi di Semolino alla Romana
This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous here in Seattle. Finally we had a little taste of the spring weather we’ve all been craving! It was especially welcome since there were plenty of events over the weekend that were much better when held outside.
Sunday night was my wine tasting club’s 18th gathering. Wines from Lazio (the region of Rome), Molise and Abruzzo were on the schedule. I researched several Italian cookbooks looking for recipes from the same regions as the wine. I came up with several things that were pretty good but one dish was far and away everyone’s favorite – a version of gnocchi made from semolina.
I chose it because it’s a typical Roman dish and because it seemed easier to make than potato gnocchi – always a good thing when you are cooking for a party, even a small one. While it is easier in many ways, this dish like many others makes me really admire those little Italian nonnas and their strength. One step of the recipe calls for stirring the semolina with the milk for ten minutes over heat. The semolina gets thick fast and it takes some muscle to keep the spoon moving for ten minutes!
The results were well worth the effort, though. These gnocchi are a little crispy on the outside but light and fluffy on the inside. They have a great buttery, cheese flavor. Everyone thought they paired well with all the wines we tasted. I suspect it was more that the gnocchi are so good that you don’t care what wine you are drinking with them! Since my group begged for the recipe I decided I’d better get it posted on the blog sooner than later, so here it is.
Gnocchi di Semolino alla Romana (Baked Semolina Gnocchi Roman-Style)
adapted from Biba’s Italy: Favorite Recipes from the Splendid Cities by Biba Caggiano
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 pound semolina flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter to grease the pan
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1/4 pound)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Oil to grease the sheet pan
Generously oil a 1/4 sheet pan or a 9″x13″ cake pan. Next time I make this I will also place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan with a little extending up and over two edges of the pan. I’ll explain why later in the recipe.
Pour the milk into a medium-size heavy pot and place over medium heat. Bring the milk to a gentle boil. Add the salt and then lower the heat to medium-low. As soon as the milk returns to a simmer slowly pour a steady, thin stream of the semolina flour into the milk, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to keep the flour from lumping.
When all the flour is incorporated continue stirring for about 10 minutes until the semolina sticks heavily to the spoon (it starts to become dough-like) and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from the heat. At this point I poured the semolina mixture into my mixer but you can also continue by hand.
Add 1/2 of the melted butter, half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and both eggs. Mix until everything is well incorporated.
Quickly pour into the prepared sheet pan and spread until the mixture is evenly distributed in the pan and the top is as smooth as possible. A spatula dipped in cool water may help with the smoothing out. It will be about 1/2″ thick. Place the uncovered pan in the refrigerator and let chill for at least two hours.
Once the gnocchi is chilled, remove it from the pan by carefully pulling out the parchment paper, if you used it, and placing the gnocchi on the parchment on a cutting board. If you did not use parchment leave the gnocchi in the pan and continue with the instructions. I found it was a little awkward to cut the gnocchi in the pan and was also a little concerned about scratching the pan with the cutter. If you are leaving it in the pan you made need a small offset spatula to help you remove any pieces that are hesitant to leave the pan.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Use a 1 3/4″ to 2″ round cookie cutter or small glass to cut round circles from the sheet of gnocchi. You’ll need to dip the cutter in flour between each cut. Cut the circles as close to each other as possible. (You can save the scraps and later heat them with a little butter and sage or cover with a light sauce.)
Place the circles of gnocchi in a buttered 9″x13″ baking pan, slightly overlapping them. With the cutter size I used one final row needed half moon pieces of gnocchi (on the left in the photo). Once the pan is full, brush them with the remaining melted butter and then sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. At this point you can cover the baking pan with plastic wrap and hold for a couple of days in the refrigerator.
Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.