Gnocchi alla romana is a typical ‘pasta’ dish from Lazio. It is easy to make, no special skills are needed, but, believe me, the result is astonishing! Prepare gnocchi, place them in a baking pan, add cheese generously and bake for a few minutes: it is a done deal! You will never be able to forget their crunchy golden brown surface.
Combine semolina, milk, butter and cheese, then bake until a tempting crust forms! You can’t resist them!
It makes a perfect lunch for all the family, children and adults alike; provide yourself with a creative biscuit cutter set, and cut gnocchi into several shapes, animals for instance, your children will go crazy with joy! But I think they will appreciate gnocchi even in their traditional round shape!
Don’t be cheated by its name, which refers to Rome, of course it is a genuine dish from Lazio, but it is believed to have originated in Piedmont and then have spread widely all over Italy. The abundant use of butter, very common in Northern Italy, supports this hypothesis.
At the beginning I was a bit reticent about tasting it, because I was quite hard to please as a child: I used to like ham and mortadella; my parents had to work hard in order to convince me to try something new. Tasted once, they have become one of my favorites.
First of all, you really don’t need to be great at cooking to make this dish, it always turns out right!
Second; the ingredients are healthy and very easy to find:
- Semolina: it comes from the grinding of a few grains; it is composed of finer or courses yellowish grains. Wheat semolina is the most common one-according to the size of its grains, it is divided into coarse semolina (semole), and fine semolina (semolini). Opt for the latter which has got a more powdery texture. Genuine, easy to digest, and cheap, it comes from the poor peasant tradition.
- Milk: you may opt for either whole or half skimmed milk, but I think the former suits the best;
- Butter: it must have a very strong aroma as it makes the dish incredibly flavorful; no margarine (unless you are vegan);
- Ripe cheese: the mix of Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, undoubtedly makes this dish super toothsome, you won’t forget its taste, believe me! If you can’t find them both or they are not affordable, use only Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano, which is the same).
- Eggs: use only the yolk, as gnocchi have to be soft and smooth; if you used the whites too, they would get chewy;
- Spices: the genuine recipe wants only nutmeg, but I think cinnamon fits well too.
Traditional Italian Gnocchi alla Romana recipe (Roman-style semolina gnocchi)
- 1 l whole or half skimmed milk
- 250 gr semolina
- 100 gr butter
- 2 eggs yolk
- 80 gr Parmigiano Reggiano DOP
- 50 gr Pecorino Romano
- fresh sage
- First, in a pot, heat milk with 50g of butter;
- When the milk is about to boil (you can see the bubbles- prevent it from overflowing), stir in the semolina;
- Stir vigorously with a whisk, and cook until a cornmeal mush texture. At the beginning it will be quite liquid, don’t worry, because it will get compact, almost difficult to stir;
- Whisk well to avoid any clumps;
- Cook for a few minutes more until it gets thick;
- Remove the pot from the heat;
- Add the slightly beaten egg yolks and stir with a wooden spoon until an even mixture;
- Stir is 3-4 spoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano;
- Season with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg (its flavor is richer) to your taste;
- Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly combined;
- The mixture of your gnocchi is ready: it is time to shape them; you may follow two methods;
- Method 1: pour the mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper or a marble board (don’t use the wooden board, because the mixture sticks to it);
- Cover with another parchment paper sheet and flatten it with a rolling pin until 2 cm thick;
- Allow to cool down for about 30 minutes;
- Shape 5cm round disks with a biscuit cutter or a pasta stamp ;
- Rinse the pasta stamp regularly to prevent the dough from sticking to it; you want your gnocchi to be regular and smooth;
- Flatten the leftovers into a regular dough sheet and cut more disks;
- Method 2 (this is what I usually do): put your hand into cold running water (in a few seconds you will realize why…you won’t get burnt):
- Pour half of the hot dough onto a sheet of parchment paper and use your hands to shape it into a 5-6cm diameter cylinder; wrap it into the parchment paper;
- Repeat with the remaining part of the dough;
- Refrigerate the cylinders for about 20 minutes;
- In the meanwhile butter a baking pan where you will place the gnocchi;
- Once cooled, the cylinders will be compact and easy to cut;
- Rinse a cook knife under cold running water and cut the cylinder into 2cm thick disks;
- You will have about 30 disks:
- With a spatula, gently place them onto the baking pan slightly overlapping the slices;
- Season gnocchi with 25g of melted butter (it must not be too hot! You may add also some sage leaves to flavor the butter); sprinkle with grated Pecorino and Parmigiano cheese, top with the remaining butter divided into small pieces, and the nutmeg;
- Pre-heat the static oven at 180°C-200°C (356°F-392°F) and bake for about 20 minutes (170°C-338°F in fan oven for 15 minutes);
- Start the grill in the last 5 minutes;
- Serve gnocchi very hot with a spoon; garnish with a little more grated cheese … it will strings… so toothsome!!!!
A variation you will fall in love with!
You may season gnocchi alla romana with a few delicious sauces, like that:
- Finely dice: a small carrot, a small fresh zucchino, and half a stalk of celery;
- Finely dice also a medium onion;
- In a nonstick pan, heat three tbsp of olive and sweat the onion;
- Add the diced vegetables;
- Carefully rinse the leaves of a twig of thyme or fresh marjoram and add to the vegetables;
- Cook over high medium heat for 5-6 minuti; season with salt and pepper to taste and add little water if the sauce tents to dry;
- Pour the sauce onto the gnocchi, top with the butter in small pieces and sprinkle with the grated cheese;
- Bake according to the method of the traditional recipe;
- Serve very hot!
How can you keep gnocchi?
They don’t have to be fresh: you may prepare gnocchi and place them onto a baking tray 1 or 2 days before baking and eating them: cover the tray with cling film, and refrigerate up to 2 days. Then take them out of the fridge, top with butter and bake.
You may also freeze gnocchi: season with grated cheese and butter in small pieces. Bake them without defrosting.