Semolina Gnocchi ~ Gnocchi alla Romana

A white casserole dish filled with slices of semolina gnocchi or gnocchi alla Romana on a stack of linen napkins with a serving utensil beside it.

In keeping with the dish’s Roman roots, this semolina gnocchi is made from coarsely ground semolina flour, hot milk, and eggs. To form the gnocchi, a rich polenta-like paste is prepared, cooled, and then cut into disks using the wet rim of a small glass. The disks are then sprinkled with Parmesan and bread crumbs, and baked in a hot oven to puff them up.–Jessica Theroux

LC Gnot Your Gnormal Gnocchi Note

Nope. No potatoes or fork tines or tiny little pillows in sight. And that’s not a terrible thing, not when you consider how light and airy this intriguing approach to gnocchi can be. Still, they’re quite indulgent, much more a starter or a side than a centerpiece to a meal. So indulgent that we think you, like us, won’t want to waste a single scrap of dough. Which calls to mind Marcella Hazan‘s tactic for dealing with gnocchi trimmings in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Just knead the trimmings together into a ball (you can wrap and refrigerate the trimmings for up to a day or two). Then pinch off croquette-size pieces and shape them into short, plump forms that are tapered at both ends, about 2 1/2 inches in length. Roll the forms in dry, unflavored bread crumbs and fry them in hot vegetable oil until they take on a light, golden crust. Sounds lovely, yes? And that’s just the trimmings. Wait until you try the actual gnocchi…

Semolina Gnocchi | Gnocchi alla Romana

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes 4 entrees, 8 starters
5/5 - 1 reviews
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To make the semolina gnocchi, heat the milk and salt in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. When the milk starts to simmer, slowly sprinkle the semolina flour over the surface, whisking constantly to make sure that lumps do not form. Once all the semolina has been added, reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to whisk for 7 to 10 more minutes, until the gnocchi-to-be mixture becomes thick and velvety. The mixture may thicken considerably after just a few minutes, but try to continue to cook it for the full 7 to 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, the eggs, and the butter. Turn the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet, spreading it evenly into a 1/2 inch thickness. Set aside in the fridge, if there’s room, or set aside at room temperature until cool and firm, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400° F (200°C). Using a cookie cutter or the mouth of a glass that’s about 2 inches wide, cut the cooled semolina into gnocchi. Dip the cutter or glass into water between each press to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the cut gnocchi on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, making sure to leave at least 1/2 inch between them so that their edges can caramelize.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and the bread crumbs on top of the semolina gnocchi. If you don’t want them thickly coated, don’t use all of the cheese and crumbs. Bake until the semolina gnocchi are golden brown, slightly puffed, and crisp around the edges, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

I always thought gnocchi was nit-picky and time consuming, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The semolina paste is a cinch to make. I used a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, but next time, I’ll spread the mixture onto a baking sheet, just so it’s easier to get an even thickness and easier to remove (I’m terribly klutzy in the kitchen, and the sides of the baking dish got in the way). When the gnocchi finished baking, they were puffed, golden, and delicious. I didn’t want to throw the scraps away because I wanted to make more.

This is gnot your gnormal gnocchi—these are light and airy, with crispy edges, and are oh-so simple to make. The first time, I made them as directed and served them with pork medallions and a simple tomato sauce. The second time I made these, I decided to have some fun. I plopped in some finely chopped prosciutto, and a dash of fresh herbs, and smoothed the mixture out in a 12-by-17-inch sheet pan. I ended up with thin little rounds that were perfect to hold a dollop of red pepper tapenade. It was perfect fare for a last minute cocktail party—just cut them out, and leave them to rest on the sheet pan, ready to go. TIP: If you want a smidge more crispiness, mix the topping ingredients with a bit of melted butter.

This recipe was not only tasty, but also very easy—and I love a recipe that can be made ahead of time and baked when ready. I used a 9-by-13-inch dish and measured the thickness (which was just over a half-inch), and a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut the circles. I was concerned the gnocchi would stick to the pan, but they came out easily with a spatula. And, with a full cup of parmesan and bread crumb mixture for the topping, I did more than “sprinkle”—I lightly pressed a thick layer on the tops of each. To get a nice brown color on the gnocchi, it took about 40 minutes. Everyone loved them, with their slightly crunchy exteriors and creamy centers, but we agreed they were much better with the tomato sauce I’d made. I’ll definitely make these again, as they make a great appetizer served with sauce for dipping.

If a gougère and a cheese cracker had a baby, it would be these deliciously cheesy, soft patties. These are nothing like any gnocchi I’ve had before, but I loved them. They’d be great as a starter, but I do have a hard time seeing them as a main course, unless it was a for a ladies’ luncheon.

I did have a few technical problems with the recipe, however. The semolina thickened almost immediately, and the milk was barely simmering when I added the semolina. The mixture quickly became too thick to whisk, so I took it off the heat at 3 minutes because I was afraid to let it continue cooking. It was so thick that I had a hard time mixing in the eggs, butter, and cheese. Also, the suggested 9-by-13-inch pan was a little too small for the batter. It was also hard to cut the gnocchi, as my pan has slightly sloped edges. Next time, I’ll use a jelly roll pan. I also had about four times the amount of bread crumb and cheese mixture I needed to sprinkle on top of the gnocchi. That’s not much of a problem, though, as I fully intend to use up my package of semolina with more of these tasty bites.


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  1. I was really looking forward to making these lovely looking pillows of semolina and did so as a side to veal saltimbocca – my husband’s favorite dish. Well, it would have helped if I had read the recipe correctly as I added the entire cup of Parmesan with the eggs to the semolina/milk mixture and then wondered why it was so difficult to whisk for 7 minutes. I only was able to whisk for about 3-4 minutes, spread it out on a sheet pan (it looked okay!!), let it cool and cut out lovely little rounds, sprinkled with yet more Parmesan and bread crumbs. Alas, they did not puff up at all and were quite dense and really not tasty in the least. Tried to dip them in the veal sauce, but even that didn’t help. I have more semolina so perhaps I will try again – you do think the over-abundance of Parmesan caused my recipe flop, don’t you?

  2. This is one of my all-time favorite recipes and the mixture is always too much when I’m cooking for one (what a shame…). I freeze leftover mixture in small batches and take them out to make the croquettes, rolling them in bread crumbs and Reggiano. The mixture can get a bit wet–easily overcome by mixing in some more semolina.

  3. These looked great, lovely texture and delicious smell… They should have tasted fabulous, but were rather spoiled by the fact that this recipe calls for far too much salt. 2-3 tsps is really too much, I wouldn’t use that amount even in a big pot of stew or soup, nevermind for a modest amount of gnocci with 1/2 cup salty parmesan cheese still to go in it. Sadly it was my partner cooking at that point and he’d already put it in before I could stop him :( So sadly the flavour was pretty horrible, in the future I think I will be using about 1/2 tsp salt, if any. With that adjustment I’m sure the next batch will taste fantastic.

    1. Hi Emma, I’m so sorry that you felt these were too salty. This is one of my favorite recipes though I do have to admit, I’m a salt lover. Perhaps by decreasing the salt next time, they will be more to your liking. Hope so!

      1. I used 2 tsp fine salt and they were just right for me :-)

        I cut them in squares to avoid scraps. From a 9×13 pan, I made 12 squares, and we were full on 2, served with meat sauce and salad.

  4. Hi! I’ve been making these tasty morsels for years now and had nothing but praise for all that have tasted. I coat my semolina gnocchi in the Japanese style bread crumbs called panko! Then shallow fry in good olive oil. I also try to whip air into the mixture for a lighter gnocchi. I also cut them into squares resulting in zero wastage.

  5. Hi there made these yesterday —yummy, but wondered wwhether they can be frozen before cooking and after cooking.

    1. Hi Ann, you found one of my favorite recipes! I haven’t tried freezing them, but I’d be inclined to freeze them before baking. Please let me know if you do- this would be a wonderful little bite to whip out of your freezer on short notice.

  6. Sensational!! I have made these several times now, and they never fail to please and impress. The last time I served them was with a chicken piccata, and our guests not only eagerly sopped up the meat sauce with them but continued to nibble on them after they finished the meat. I have made them using a finely grated manchego cheese but think the Parmesan really works best.

  7. WOW! Finally got around to making these, and they are outstanding! SO GOOD! If you haven’t made these yet, do it now!

    1. Hi Emily,

      So glad that you discovered these little gems. They are one of my favorites!


  8. Just a thought on having scraps left over. If you cut this “Gnocchi” into squares and then diagonally into triangles, you have a different shape, but no scraps. I think the triangles would look pretty overlapped (like the photo that Marcella posted).
    I’m definitely going to try this with the fine cornmeal (GF). Looks yummy.

  9. These look awesome. I think I need some education on gnocchi though. The gnocchi I’m used to seeing are small round bits and these are clearly larger. I went looking through some of your other gnocchi recipes and they are also the smaller version. So, is gnocchi a dish or is it a method of preparing something? I have been interested in gnocchi for some time, but have not seeked out a recipe yet, despite hearing how easy they are to make. This recipe does indeed sound easy as does the potato gnocchi. I’d also like to see the method of gnocchi as ‘nakedbeet’ describes where the patties are standing with the trimmings behind. Being something new I want to try, I need something visually appealing for my family to be inspired to try it. (I know, fussy eaters don’t deserve pampering, however.. lol) Anyway. Thanks so much for this recipe and for your other gnocchi recipes. I will be trying them soon!

    1. it is confusing, kathy. gnocchi is a noun and typically refers to those little potato-y, pillowy puffs you mention. as we allude to in the “gnot your gnormal gnocchi” note that precedes the above recipe, this semolina approach seems atypical but is quite traditional in a particular region in italy. i guess it’s sort of how throughout most of the u.s., the term barbecue sauce refers to a rather thickish sauce but in some few parts it means a thin, vinegary brew. there are no signs as you enter the state to warn you, it just sort of happens that way. and so while quite different, each approach to gnocchi has its charms. as you’ll find. let us know as you go…

      1. Renee, you couldn’t have been clearer. I have come to the conclusion that “gnocchi” in Italian refers to anything that starts life as a paste and gets its final shape by cooking–in boiling water, but also in the oven. There is also another kind of gnocchi that we inherited straight from our Tyrolean neighbours (they call them Spätzle, we call them Gnocchetti (=small gnocchi) Tirolesi (=Tyrolean); they begin as a soft paste of eggs and flour which shapes up by boiling a few minutes in salted water.

        But, as every rule has its exception, there is a pasta shape from Sardinia called “Gnocchetti Sardi”, which is just a special kind of durum weath pasta, not dumpling-y at all.

  10. I’m one of those rare birds that doesn’t like potato gnochhi because I found them too heavy and starchy, even well prepared by homemade Italian restaraunts. I’d welcome anyone to convert me-don’t throw the frying pan at me! So, when I saw this recipe through my FB feed, I got pretty excited. I’m looking forward to making them soon!

  11. @Beth, they are actually a wonderful canvas for many variations, I love the one you suggested and I myself often add some herbs or cooked vegs (a simple mix of onion, celery and carrots, all diced and nicely sauteed, can do wonders!), not to mention bacon or pancetta.

    1. Marcella, those sound great! I am hooked on these gnocchi- they are so versatile and best of all, easy.

  12. wow, gnocchi alla romana! this is the Italian name for this recipe, although I must say I hadn’t recognized them by looking at the picture. In Italy we serve them in a lasagna pan, in slightly overlapping rows, and the trimmings usually go behind the last row to lift it up so that all the rows stay upright.

    Here’s a picture of them

    two more things from a real Italian kitchen :)

    1. we simply pour and spread the hot semolina on the kitchen table, which is very often made of marble (a cold surface that speeds up the cooling process), but any work surface will do. You just spread it to the desired thickness and leave it there to cool.

    2. you might find difficult to knead the trimmings back together, as the semolina mixture is very similar to polenta, and once it’s cold it’s nearly impossible to turn back into a smooth dough (at least you can’t with the semolina sold here… I’d be curious to know if you manage to do this with the semolina availabe in the USA!)

  13. No one has mentioned yet the best part in my opinion. These are gluten-free, aside from the breadcrumbs – I substitute ground almonds. I served them with homemade pesto and grilled portobellini mushrooms. With of course a bottle of Chianti. (Insert Hannibal Lecter impersonation here.)

    1. [Is there ever a time when a Hannibal Lecter mention isn’t appreciated?]

      Love the swap of almonds for breadcrumbs. I know so many of our testers devoured these.

      1. You got me! Translation error, in my favour. I actually made mine with Sémoule de maïs – fine corn meal and not semolina. So mine are gluten-free, even though the recipe isn’t. My brain was on autopilot.

        1. now that’s interesting, Sacha. What does your “sémoule” look like? Is it grainy, such as polenta? And, is it yellow or white? You could have hit upon quite an original variation, which we could call Polenta Gnocchi and which, as I said, sounds interesting, because polenta flour has a very distinctive taste.

          (I often think that limitations, such as having to avoid some particular food, manage to fuel imagination and ingenuity and creativity like no other thing. What does everybody think?)

          1. Polenta is it. Yellow and white both. Speckled. Being GF and vegetarian hasn’t stopped me after the initial learning curve(s).

          1. I can’t really say about the baking time. I did mine on a baking sheet as in the top photo. I really didn’t time them. I often do this with new recipes/inventions, as I have a very fast oven which overcooks anything I am not careful with. The temp was less than 400°F and I was going by smell and look for doneness. Every now and then I would taste a piece to see. The ideal is not mushy/sticky yet not overcooked and dry.

            1. I forgot to mention that my cookie cutter was a shot glass, and it is super important with the cornmeal version to cool completely before attempting to cut. By the way, seeing as I am not the only GF person here, my ground almonds on top were mixed with grated parmesan and seasoned with fine herbs and a dash of freshly grated pepper.

    1. Have you tried your local large grocery chain? I can usually find it there- it is just in a smaller package than other flours and usually set aside with the specialty flours.

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