Gnocchi alla romana

Gnocchi but not gnocchi. This is a traditional Italian dish made with durum wheat semolina my mum used to prepare a lot when I was a kid. Actually, it became a weekly theme, together with carbonara on Saturday and lasagna on Sundays.

Usually, semolina is not the most appealing thing per se. You give it to kids and ill people cooked in vegetable or meat stock because it’s light and provides energy. But, semolina is also used to prepare pasta, pizza dough and – here we are – gnocchi alla romana.

It’s been ages since I had them last time, and the other day in work there was a discussion about what they actually are, and the desire woke up again in me. Mum’s recipe is lost unfortunately, so a little research on the internet helped finding what to do. The original recipe is for 5 people, but the version here works perfectly as a main for 2.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • 500ml milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g butter
  • pinch of ground nutmeg (or a bit more, according to taste)
  • 125g durum wheat semolina
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 50g grated Parmesan cheese

Before you start cooking, cut a fairly big sheet of greaseproof paper, you’ll need it to chill the dough once it’s made.

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Pour the milk in a saucepan, add salt, nutmeg and a knob of butter. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat then sprinkle over the semolina, vigorously whisking to prevent lumps.

Now. There’s a lesson learned here. Traditional Italian recipes SHOULD NOT be done in a rush. Take your time to measure, chop, slice, grind, blend the ingredients, as well as for the cooking step. Don’t do like me, ending up with a big lump of semolina in the pan since there were just 250ml of milk instead of 500…

Once all the semolina is stirred in, cook it for a few minutes until it thickens up. Remove from the hob, pop in the yolk and half of the grated Parmesan and stir well. Spoon the dough onto the greaseproof paper straight away, and roll it with your hands to form a cylinder with a diameter of approximately 4-5cm. Be careful, the dough is really hot. It might help if you rinse your hands with cold water. Fold it tightly in the paper and let it cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to leti it firm up.

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This is how the roll should look like

Heat the oven to 180°C fan (200°C static). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Take the roll out of the fridge and cut it in 1cm thick slices. Place them on a greased baking tray (or lined with baking paper), and sprinkle over the remaining half of Parmesan cheese. Pour over the melted butter and bake for 15 minutes. Turn on the grill for additional 5 minutes to make a crispy crust.

Let cool down for a few minutes, and serve the gnocchi with some veggies or salad of your choice.

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