Making Aunt Emmas Gnocchi alla Romana Lite: An Illustrated Recipe

Gnocchi alla Romana: What You'll Need

Gnocchi alla Romana: What You’ll Need

Most gnocchi are tiny potato dumplings — Florentines call them topini, or field mice, which gives an idea of their size — that one briefly boils, and then seasons with a sauce, for example Sugo alla Bolognese in winter, Tomato sauce with a dollop of unsalted butter and some shredded basil, in summer, and Pesto sauce, when it’s really hot.

Gnocchi alla Romana are a completely different animal: They’re made with milk and semolina, and baked. They’re also extraordinarily tasty, to the point that Artusi, who knew a good thing when he saw one, introduces them with, “I hope you will like these as much as my guests have. If you do, toast me if I’m alive, or say a Rest in Peace if I’ve gone to push up cabbages,” and goes on to say, “They say the number of people at table should never be fewer than the Graces (3), nor more than the Muses (9). If your party’s nearer the number of the Muses, double the recipe.”

Excellent advice, though there is some controversy surrounding the dish: Livio Jannattoni, one of the great Roman gastronomes, says he grew up with potato gnocchi, and first encountered semolina-based Gnocchi alla Romana on a dining car far from Rome, where they took him completely by surprise.

Regardless of their origin, Gnocchi alla Romana are now firmly established. They are also easy to make, and one of those dishes that one can enlist the assistance of a small child in preparing. In short, a perfect introduction to cooking!

The one drawback to Gnocchi alla Romana is their richness, which is such that that dieticians would frown on one’s making them too often. This variation Elisabetta’s Aunt Emma learned while living in Rome many years ago is much lighter: It doesn’t have any eggs, and reduces the milk as well. You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups (250 g) semolina
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pint (500 ml) skim milk
  • 1 pint (500 ml) water
  • 3/4 cup (about 40 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Gnocchi alla Romana: Heat the Milk

Gnocchi alla Romana: Heat the Milk

Combine the water, milk, and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil.

From here on, all Gnocchi alla Romana recipes follow these steps.

Gnocchi alla Romana: Add the Semolina

Gnocchi alla Romana: Add the Semolina

Add the semolina in a steady stream, whisking all the while, and then half the butter.

Gnocchi alla Romana: Whisk the Mixture

Gnocchi alla Romana: Whisk the Mixture

Continue stirring; the mixture will thicken quickly, to the point that you will want to switch to a wooden spoon.

Gnocchi alla Romana: The Mixture Thickens

Gnocchi alla Romana: The Mixture Thickens

Continue cooking the semolina over a moderate flame, stirring constantly, until it peels easily away from the sides of the pot, about 20 minutes. By this time the semolina will be quite thick.

Gnocchi alla Romana: Spread the Mixture

Gnocchi alla Romana: Spread the Mixture

Spread the mixture out on your work surface in a 3/4 inch ( layer and let it cool for a couple of hours.

Gnocchi alla Romana: Cut Out Rounds

Gnocchi alla Romana: Cut Out Rounds

Use a moistened glass to cut out rounds, and arrange them in a baking dish, partially overlapping them. Either distribute the cuttings in the spaces between the rounds, or save them for a less elegant batch of gnocchi.

Gnocchi alla Romana: Dotted with Butter and Ready For the Oven

Gnocchi alla Romana: Dotted with Butter and Ready For the Oven

Sprinkle the cheese over the gnocchi and dot them with butter. Or, if you’d rather, pour melted butter over them, if you’re following a less light recipe.

Gnocchi alla Romana: Enjoy!

Gnocchi alla Romana: Enjoy!

Bake your Gnocchi alla Romana in a preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for about 15 minutes or until heated through and browned, and serve at once, either as a first course, or with a roast or stew. A wine, if you’re serving them alone? White, for example Orvieto Bianco, or Est! Est! Est!

This recipe in a shorter page.
Artusi’s Gnocchi alla Romana Recipe
Livio Jannattoni’s Gnocchi alla Romana
A Gnocchi alla Romana variation with leeks and speck


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Categories: Gnocchi, Potato and Otherwise, Illustrated Recipes And More, Kid Foods, Recipes from Rome & Lazio, Cucina Romana e Laziale

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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