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Gnocchi alla Romana Con Porri e Speck, With Leeks and Speck

Gnocchi alla Romana made following the basic recipe are quite simple, simple enough to invite variations. Here we have gnocchi alla romana with leeks and speck, the glorious smoked ham of the Südtyrol. If you cannot find speck, use Prosciutto.

To serve 4:

  • 1 1/2 cups (250 g) semolina
  • 2 leeks
  • 3 ounces (75 g) speck, in a single thick slice
  • 1 quart (1 liter) milk
  • 2/3 cup (120 g) unsalted butter
  • 3 yolks
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the leeks, cut them into rounds, and sauté them until they wilt in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add a ladle of hot water, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Finely dice the speck and sauté it briefly in a non-stick pan. When the leeks and speck have cooled, combine them with the yolks and 1 1/2 cups cheese.

Bring the milk to a boil with a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup butter; add the semolina in a steady stream, stirring constantly, and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, stirring all the while. Work the leek mixture into the semolina, and spread the semolina out into a half-inch (1 cm) layer on your work surface; let it cool for a half hour. Using a moistened glass, cut the semolina into disks and arrange them, partially overlapping, in a buttered pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the gnocchi, melt the remaining butter and drizzle it over them too, and bake the gnocchi for 15 minutes in a preheated 360 F (180 C) oven. Serve at once. A wine, if you’re serving them alone? I might go with a Sauvignon Blanc here, if possible unoaked.

Yield: 4 servings gnocchi alla romana with leeks and speck.

Artusi’s Gnocchi alla Romana Recipe
Livio Jannattoni’s Gnocchi alla Romana
A Gnocchi alla Romana variation with leeks and speck

Livio Jannattoni’s Roman Semolina Gnocchi, Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana: Enjoy!

Gnocchi alla Romana: Enjoy!

Livio Jannattoni, one of the great Roman gastronomes, says he grew up eating potato gnocchi, and first encountered Gnocchi alla Romana made with semolina in a dining car on a train far from the city.

“Where were the potatoes I knew so well? Horrors! These gnocchi were made just with semolina…”

He does give a recipe for them, however, because some (not all) other Roman authors do.

  • 1 1/2 cups (250 g) semolina
  • 1 quart (1 liter) milk
  • 2 brimming cups (100 g) grated Parmigiano
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2-3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • Salt

Bring the milk to a boil, and gradually stir in the semolina, stirring constantly to prevent lumps and keep the mixture from sticking to the pot. The mixture will become quite thick; continue cooking and stirring for about 20 minutes, and remove the pot from the fire. Beat the yolks with a little more milk, and add them to the semolina, together with the cheese, solid butter, and a pinch of salt. Mix well and spread the mixture a little less than a half an inch thick (1 cm) on your work surface.

Let the semolina cool for 2 hours, and cut it into squares or diamonds. Butter a pan and layer the squares in it, spreading a little more grated cheese between the layers (there should be 3-4). When all is used up, sprinkle the melted butter over the gnocchi, slowly, to allow it to penetrate.

Bake the gnocchi 15 minutes in a hot (400 F or 200 C) oven, until golden, and serve at once. A wine? White, for example Orvieto Bianco, or Est! Est! Est!

An Illustrated version of Gnocchi alla Romana
Artusi’s recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana
A Gnocchi alla Romana variation with leeks and speck

Artusi’s Recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana: Enjoy!

Gnocchi alla Romana: Enjoy!

Pellegrino Artusi only included a few Roman dishes in his classic, La Scienza in Cucina; modern Romans say he doctored what he did include, and some go as far as to imply that he developed this recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana. While it is possible, they are picking a bone with a dish that is good, so good Artusi begins 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 continues with, “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.”

Sound advice.

  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup grated Groviera or Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
  • 2 brimming cups (1/2 liter) whole milk
  • 2 eggs

Mix the flour with the eggs in a pot and slowly add the milk. Add the Swiss cheese and heat, stirring constantly, until the flour cooks and the mixture becomes firm. Salt it and add half the butter. Let it cool, cut it into thin slices as you would polenta, and layer them in an ovenproof dish. Put bits of butter and grated Parmesan cheese between the layers, but only butter the top, because heat makes cheese bitter. Brown the gnocchi in the oven and serve them hot. A wine? White, for example Orvieto Bianco, or Est! Est! Est!

You’ll note that Artusi doesn’t call for semolina. You can use his recipe as is, or substitute semolina for flour — many people do.

An Illustrated Gnocchi Alla Romana Recipe
Livio Jannattoni’s Gnocchi alla Romana
A Gnocchi alla Romana variation with leeks and speck

Aunt Emma’s Gnocchi alla Romana Lite

Gnocchi alla Romana: Enjoy!

Gnocchi alla Romana: Enjoy!

Gnocchi alla Romana are tremendously satisfying, but they are also rich enough that dietitians 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

Combine the water, milk, and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the semolina in a steady stream, whisking all the while, and then half the butter. Continue stirring; the mixture will thicken quickly, to the point that you will want to switch to a wooden spoon.

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.

Spread the mixture out on your work surface in a 3/4 inch (1.cm) layer and let it cool. 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.

Sprinkle the cheese over the gnocchi and dot them with butter. Bake them in a preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for about 15 minutes or until heated through and browned, and serve, 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, illustrated.

Artusi’s Gnocchi alla Romana Recipe
Livio Jannattoni’s Gnocchi alla Romana
A Gnocchi alla Romana variation with leeks and speck

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.

Note:
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 (1.cm) 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