Gnocchi alla Romana

Roman Semolina Gnocchi

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This is a really soothing example of ultimate Roman comfort food. Circles of cooked semolina are luxuriously coated with butter and Parmesan cheese, then baked until golden. It makes a perfect supper dish for children, as it is delicate in flavour and sustaining. Alternatively, it can be served as a simple primo when preceding a very spicy or full-flavoured main course. Semolina gnocchi is also tasty served with a punchy green salad as a lunch dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre/ pints/4 cups milk
  • 250 g/9 oz/1⅓ cups semolina
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100 g/3 ¾ oz/scant 1 ¼ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 100 g/3 ¾ oz/scant ½ cup unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • sea salt and ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 and grease a shallow, ovenproof dish.

  2. Put the milk in a large pan and bring to the boil. Sprinkle in the semolina with one hand while whisking constantly with the other to prevent lumps forming.
  3. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken, then use a strong wooden spoon to stir constantly for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture begins to come away from the sides and the base of the pan, and forms a soft, rounded ball.

  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the egg yolks, half the Parmesan cheese and half the butter. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and black pepper.
  5. Dampen a work surface lightly with cold water and pour out the semolina. Spread it out flat to a thickness of about 1cm/½in using a palette knife or metal spatula dipped in cold water.

  6. Cut all the semolina into even circles using a 5cm/2in pastry or cookie cutter or inverted tumbler.

  7. Break up the scraps of left-over semolina and arrange them in a layer over the base of the dish - this means that none will be wasted.
  8. Set aside about 25 g/1 oz/2 tbsp of the butter for melting at the end, then cover the semolina scraps with a few dots of butter and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.
  9. Arrange a layer of slightly overlapping semolina circles on top of the semolina scraps, and cover these with a sprinkling of cheese and a few dots of butter as before. Continue in this way until all of the ingredients have been used up, except for the reserved butter.
  10. Melt the reserved butter and trickle it over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately.

Variation

You can ring the changes and spice up this basic dish with the addition of extra ingredients. Try adding saffron, flaked cooked fish, chopped prosciutto, salami or Gorgonzola.

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