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Gnocci alla Romana

March 17, 2010

This is like the ultimate comfort food and so incredibly filling.  I had wanted to make semolina gnocchi for a while,

gnocchi alla romana

which are very different than potato gnocchi- more like a polenta square- easier to make, and much more predictable.  You simply cook semolina (which is a kind of wheat flour) with milk, then whisk in some eggs and Parmesan, and let it set.  Stamp out pretty circles, layer in a pan and bake with butter and Parmesan.  The gnocchi rounds get crispy at the edges, and are delicious smothered with a fresh marinara sauce.  I also cooked some spicy Italian turkey sausage to make it even more filling.  The result is a really hearty meal that’s pretty enough to serve to company, and is great if you prepare it ahead of time and bake it the day of.  The semolina rounds make it really impressive looking.  This recipe is adapted from the Wednesday Chef and serves 6.


1 quart plus 2 T whole milk

1/2 t grated nutmeg

2 t salt, or more to taste

4 T unsalted butter

1 1/2 c semolina flour

1 1/2 c shaved Parmesan

1 large egg plus 1 yolk, lightly beaten

2 T extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced

28 oz can whole Italian plum tomatoes

10 large basil leaves, thinly sliced

Cooked sausage, optional


In a large soup pot, bring milk, nutmeg, salt and 3 T butter to a boil.  Lower heat to medium and immediately start adding the semolina in a thin stream (through a clenched fist) whisking constantly.  Keep whisking to make a smooth mixture (about 5 minutes of adding the semolina and whisking).  Reduce heat to very low and cook, stirring, about 15 minutes (the semolina won’t look like it’s doing much, but keep the heat very low and stir it occasionally to prevent burning.  It will have the consistency of very thick grits).  If the semolina gets too thick, add water in 1/4 c increments to keep it from being a solid block.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 c Parmesan and the eggs.  You can add even more Parmesan if you have it- it’ll only taste better.

Spray a half sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread the semolina on the baking sheet to a thickness of 1/3- 1/2 inch.  (I had to push it around with my hands a lot, put it worked).  Don’t worry if your top isn’t completely smooth, because the bottom side will be pretty.  Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, about 4 hours or overnight.

Heat 2 T olive oil in a saucepan or skillet and add the garlic.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden and add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon.  Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and not watery.  Remove from heat, stir in basil and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Grease a shallow baking dish about 9 by 13 inches. Use a 2- to 3-inch round cookie cutter or a glass to cut disks of chilled dough.  Dip the cutter into cold water to prevent sticking. Lift disks off baking sheet and arrange, slightly overlapping, in baking dish. Scraps can be kneaded briefly and smoothed out to allow for a few additional disks (you may need another smaller baking dish if you run out of space).  Sprinkle disks in dish with remaining Parmesan and dot with remaining butter. Bake about 15 minutes, until lightly browned (mine took more like 30 minutes, but it may have been because my pan was cold.  When it’s browned, it’s done.  If the tops aren’t browning, you can crank up the heat to 500 degrees to crisp up the edges.  Cut into pieces and serve topped with tomato sauce and more cheese, if desired.

just baked!

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