Gnocchi alla Romana, also known as Semolina Gnocchi, is an ideal dish when you are in need of 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. Over time, many of them will appear here.
This version is, as the name implies, prepared in the Roman style. Roman-style gnocchi are made from semolina flour.
To begin, I prepare
However, although they carry the name of Rome, and are greatly enjoyed in the Eternal City and the surrounding region of Lazio, their precise origin is often the subject of debate.
Wikipedia advises there is evidence of a similar version in Ancient Rome. Despite this, the main reason for the dispute is that the use of butter, cheese and milk in this recipe is more typical of a northern Italian region, such as Piedmont or Lombardy. Regardless of the precise history, no-one would question how delicious they are.
I make Gnocchi alla Romana using finely ground semolina, which is readily available at supermarkets.
Semolina is a type of flour made from durum wheat. It is mostly grown in the Middle-East. You will notice that it is a bit coarser than regular flour and is slightly more golden in colour. Semolina is predominantly used in Italy, mainly in the making of pasta. Pasta makers prefer it for its high gluten content. The gluten strengthens the pasta, helping it to hold its shape during cooking.
Semolina flour is also used to make Couscous, which is popular throughout North Africa. Additionally, it is also used in general baking, in pizza and bread making. Further, you can use it to make a porridge which is a nice variation from the more familiar oatmeal version.
I prepared the Gnocchi
alla Romana for a recent dinner party. It is an ideal dish 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.
Serve alone as a starter, topped with a simple tomato sauce, or served as a side dish to various meat dishes. If you’re keen to replicate the flavours of Italy in your kitchen, please give these tender, cheesy, gnocchi a try. Please let me know in the comments below if you do.
Alex and Faye xx
This recipe has been adapted from a recipe in the original Australian Women’s Weekly Italian Cooking Class Cookbook.
P.S. Would you like to read more about how It’s Not Complicated Recipes started?
Have a look at a recent interview we did here.
Gnocchi Alla Romana (Semolina Gnocchi)
Gnocchi Alla Romana (Semolina Gnocchi) is a delicious, traditional Italian dish. It is serious comfort food. The Gnocchi have a golden, crispy top above a tender, cheesy interior.
- 3 cups milk 750 ml
- 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2/3 cup semolina 110 g
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese*, divided 120 g
- 60 g butter melted
Oil a 26cm x 32cm sheet pan or Swiss roll pan.*
Grease a large casserole dish or two smaller dishes in which to bake the gnocchi*.
Preheat 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. Whisk* constantly to avoid the semolina forming lumps*.
As 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 heat.
Meanwhile, combine the beaten egg and 1 cup (80 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.
Arrange the dough, overlapping, in oven-proof dish/dishes.
Pour over the melted butter.
Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden.
*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 fantastic flavour.
*I use a baking tray which is larger than this measurement. It’s not essential to have a tray with the exact measurements. The mixture doesn’t run so just spread it out and leave a gap at one end.
*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
*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. This happened the first time I made this recipe. All was not lost. I just tipped the dough into the food processor and whizzed it a few times until the lumps were 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.