As I wrote in the title of this post, the Romans do it again… and again… and again. Roman cuisine is one of our favorites and Rome is one of our favorite cities to visit and eat in. This dish, gnocchi alla romana, is a dish that reminds me how versatile, creative and (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again) simple Roman cooking can be.
Traditional methods of making gnocchi are some of the oldest ways to prepare food – the first noted recipe dates back to the 13th century. The original gnocchi were made with flour and water and had more of a consistency to pasta. It is possible that gnocchi actually pre-date pasta. These days, any “gnocchi” made with flour and water are called pasta, while gnocchi will be a dumpling made with anything else. The most well-known and traditional ingredient is the potato. Have you ever wondered why some people specify their gnocchi as “potato gnocchi“? Well, that’s the reason. Gnocchi does not exclusively mean using potato. Also, the shape of gnocchi also changes in Italy from region to region. Which brings me to my dish – Roman Gnocchi. The Romans put their own spin on gnocchi by using semolina in lieu of potato, by cutting them into larger ‘discs’ and baking the dish. Originally this type of gnocchi was made using crustless bread. Those delicious Romans also add plenty of eggs, cheese and butter to the dish to make it seem like it would taste pretty heavy but, believe me, it tastes weirdly light at the same time. Ok, ok, so traditionally there should be about a half of pound of butter and cheese as the topping. Seriously, guys, it tastes weirdly light! Much lighter than a bowl of traditional potato gnocchi.
Give this easy and different type of gnocchi a try. I’m sure it would be a conversation starter if you made it for friends. You could make different toppings (pesto, meat sauce, etc.) and pair it with roasted vegetables or an arugula salad to make it more of a balanced meal. Whatever you do, give it a try – but maybe wait till the summer is over in order to blast up that oven.
GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA (ROMAN GNOCCHI)
Ingredients (**Note: We used less butter and cream in our dish because we were feeling like fat asses – it still turned out delicious. If you’re feeling thin, adding the extra butter and cream to the topping will create a delicious and fattening sauce.)
- 4 cups of milk
- 1 cup semolina
- 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
- 1 egg plus 2 yolks
- 1/3 cup of parmigiano reggiano, grated
- pinch of salt
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup grated parmigiano
- Rub butter in a baking tin to grease.
- Beat together butter, parmigiano and egg/egg yolks and season with nutmeg and salt and set aside.
- Heat milk in a large saucepan. When milk is boiling, turn heat down and pour in semolina while stirring. Make sure you pour in a slow and steady stream.
- Increase heat again to medium. Cook until milk has been absorbed and mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan in one mass (about 6 to 10 minutes).
- Remove semolina from heat and beat in the butter/parmigiano/egg mixture. When smooth, spoon mixture into baking tin – spread evenly in the pan. Use a knife or a spatula if necessary. The semolina should be about 2 inches thick. Set aside to cool for 1/2 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease another baking dish. Remove cooled semolina from other dish (it should slip out if properly greased) and place on counter/board. Using a cookie cutter or 3 inch-diameter juice glass (or whatever else that is about 3 inches wide and circular) cut semolina slices.
- Arrange these slices slightly overlapping in your newly greased baking pan.
- Make the topping by blending the butter and cream and pour over the unbaked gnocchi. Sprinkle parmigiano on top.
- Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Feel free to put under the broiler for 3 minutes to make top extra-crispy.
Check out some other Roman-cuisine themed posts you might enjoy:
- Cacio e Pepe (recipe)
- Perciatelli (Bucatini) al Amatriciana
- Cacio e Pepe, NYC (restaurant review)
- Remembering Italy with Thin-Crust Pizza