Gnocchi alla Romana, also known as Semolina Gnocchi, is an ideal dish when you need Italian comfort food. When hearing the word “gnocchi”, most of us will automatically think of the small pillows of potato dough. However, there are many types of gnocchi and I love them all. Gnocchi alla Romana, meaning “gnocchi in the Roman manner”, is an easy dish to make. They are crispy and golden on the outside and tender on the inside. So good!
Why we love this recipe:
This is a versatile dish; serve it as a starter, either as it is or with some Roasted Cherry Tomatoes. Alternatively, serve as a side dish with our Mediterranean Beef Stew, to absorb the delicious flavours.
They are perfect to make when entertaining. For a start, you can make a small or large quantity. However, the great advantage is that you can prepare the gnocchi in advance. Just put them into the oven shortly before you’re ready to serve. Be assured, they are always popular, much like my Stuffed Pasta Shells.
Unlike potato gnocchi, these are baked, not boiled. This hands-free cooking process leaves you to get on with preparing other elements of your meal.
The Semolina Gnocchi bake to golden, crispy, cheesy deliciousness – it is pure Italian comfort food.
Ingredients in this recipe:
Please see the recipe card further along in the post for exact quantities of ingredients and the full method.
Milk – use either full cream or low-fat milk.
Coarse kitchen salt – sometimes known as kosher salt. Do not use iodised salt or table salt as it is stronger than the coarse salt.
Ground nutmeg – adds a gentle spice note to the gnocchi. Where possible, use freshly ground nutmeg for the best flavour.
Semolina – semolina flour is finely ground, made from durum wheat. It is a bit coarser than regular flour and is slightly more golden in colour. It is not gluten-free.
Egg – I use a large, free-range egg.
Parmesan cheese – for the best flavour, use good quality Parmesan, freshly grated. I use Grana Padano, it is cheaper than Parmigiano Reggiano but has great flavour.
Butter – I use lightly salted butter.
Step by step instructions:
- To begin, in a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, bring milk, salt and nutmeg to a boil. Reduce the heat and very gradually add the semolina. Whisk constantly to avoid the semolina forming lumps.
- As the mixture becomes too thick to use the whisk, switch to a wooden spoon and continue cooking, uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, combine the beaten egg and 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Add to the semolina mixture and stir well.
- Spread the mixture onto an oiled Swiss roll pan or baking tray until it is 5mm (1/4”) thick. Refrigerate about 30-60 minutes, or until the semolina is firm.
- Cut 5cm (2”) circles using a cookie cutter.
- Arrange the dough, overlapping, in a greased, oven-proof dish.
- Pour over melted butter and sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.
- Bake 15-20 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden.
- Serve and enjoy!
Tips for success and FAQs:
To prevent lumps, add the semolina to the milk slowly in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly to combine.
After you have whisked the semolina into the milk, it will thicken. You will need to change to a wooden spoon. Stir constantly to avoid lumps forming and cook until the mixture is very thick and dense and pulling away from the side of the pan.
When we think of gnocchi, we mostly think of little Italian dumplings which are made from potato and flour. However, there are other types; some are made from ricotta and others, such as Gnocchi alla Romana, made from semolina. As well, there are variations in all types.
Yes, they certainly can. When entertaining, it is a great help as you can make this dish a day in advance, cover with cling wrap and keep in the refrigerator. It may take a few minutes longer to become golden and crispy as it will be cold from the refrigerator.
Use it to coat chicken and fish for a crispy exterior or make pasta.
More delicious recipes for you to try:
If you are fans of Italian and Mediterranean food like we are, be sure to try some more of our favourites:
- Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells
- Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta
- Creamy Tuna Pasta
- Pumpkin, Ricotta and Sage Pasta Shells
- Marinated Tomato Salad
- Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad
- Eggplant Involtini
- Roasted Olives
- Spelt Focaccia served with Mediterranean Dipping Oil
If you’re keen to replicate the flavours of Italy in your kitchen, please give these tender, cheesy, Gnocchi alla Romana a try. They are not difficult to make and emerge from the oven gloriously crispy and golden with a soft, cheesy texture beneath. You will love them.
Please let me know in the comments below if you do.
This post was originally published in March 2019. It has been updated with new photos and more information. The recipe remains the same.
This recipe has been adapted from a recipe in the original Australian Women’s Weekly Italian Cooking Class Cookbook.
Gnocchi Alla Romana (Semolina Gnocchi)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil To grease the sheet pan
For the Gnocchi:
- 3 cups (750 ml) milk See Note 1
- 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt See Note 2
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 2/3 cup (110 g) semolina flour
- 1 large egg – lightly beaten
- 1 cup (85 g) grated parmesan cheese See Note 3
- 1/4 cup (60 g) butter – melted
- 1/2 cup (45 g) grated Parmesan cheese See Note 3
- Brush a 26cm x 32cm (10 ¼ inch x 12 ½ inch) sheet pan or Swiss roll pan with olive oil. – see Note 4Prepare a large ceramic or enamelled cast-iron casserole dish or two smaller dishes in which to bake the gnocchi. – see Note 5Preheat your oven to 200 Degrees C (400 F).
- In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, bring milk, salt and nutmeg to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and very gradually add the semolina in a thin, steady stream. Whisk constantly to avoid the semolina forming lumps. – see Note 6As the mixture becomes too thick to use the whisk, switch to a wooden spoon.
- Continue cooking, uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, combine the beaten egg and 1 cup (85 gm) of the Parmesan cheese.Add to the semolina mixture and stir well.
- Spread the mixture onto the prepared Swiss roll pan or baking tray. Use a wet spatula or dampened fingertips to smooth the dough until it is 5mm (1/4”) thick. Refrigerate about 30-60 minutes, or until the semolina is firm.
- Cut circles using a 5cm (2”) cookie cutter. See Note 7.Arrange the dough in your baking dish (oil side down), overlapping, in oven-proof dish/dishes.
- If cutting in circles, you will have some leftover dough. Push it together with your fingertips as best you can and continue cutting circles. Do this until all the dough is finished.
- Pour the melted butter over the dough circles.Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden.
- Use full cream or low-fat milk.
- Use coarse kitchen salt, sometimes known as kosher salt. Do not use iodised salt or table salt as it is stronger than coarse salt.
- For the best flavour, it is important to use a good quality Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself. Do not use packaged, pre-grated parmesan cheese. It frequently has unnecessary additives. I like to use Italian Grana Padano; it is less expensive than Parmigiano Reggiano but it has a fantastic flavour.
- If you only have a larger baking tray it is not essential to use one with the exact measurements. The mixture doesn’t run so just spread it out to 5mm (1/4”) thick and leave a gap at one end of the tray.
- I used two dishes in which to bake the gnocchi. One was an oval dish, 27cm/2 ½” long 20cm/8” wide and a 22cm/9” round pan. That way I was able to keep one dish to use for another meal. You can, of course, bake the gnocchi in one large baking dish.
- I find that a whisk is best to avoid lumps forming. And, it is essential that the semolina is added very slowly. If lumps should form, it is impossible to smooth them out – and this I know from experience. If this should happen to you, tip the mixture into a food processor and blend until the lumps are gone.
- Although round discs are traditional, to speed up the process you could use a knife and cut the gnocchi into small squares. They will taste just as delicious.
- Please note, the nutritional information is based on this recipe serving four people. It does not include what the dish is served with. Please note, the nutritional information is an estimate only.