Semolina Gnocchi ~ Gnocchi alla Romana

Semolina gnocchi isn’t little pillows of fork-dented potatoes. Instead, this gnocchi comes from Rome and is made with cornmeal, parmesan, milk, and eggs. Disks of puffy, caramelized, semolina are dusted with lots of cheese and breadcrumbs, then baked. So good, you won’t even think twice about those potatoes.

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.

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.

This 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…–Renee Schettler

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEMOLINA AND POLENTA?

These little disks of goodness are made from semolina–which is wheat flour. Polenta is made from cornmeal. So, while they look similar to polenta, this gnocchi is all wheat. Semolina is used in lots of things but pasta and couscous are 2 of the biggest applications. Semolina comes in fine, medium, and coarse grind; this recipe uses coarse grind semolina to give it more body and sturdiness to the finished disks. Fine semolina is used in pasta.

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. A side of marinara sauce makes a perfect dip for these crisp, puffy, cheesy bites.
Jessica Theroux

Prep 30 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr 15 mins
Entrees
Italian
4 entrees, 8 starters
545 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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Ingredients 

  • 1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons salt
  • 7 ounces (just over 1 cup) semolina flour
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

Directions
 

  • 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.
Print RecipeBuy the Cooking with Italian Grandmothers cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1entrée servingCalories: 545kcal (27%)Carbohydrates: 58g (19%)Protein: 28g (56%)Fat: 21g (32%)Saturated Fat: 12g (75%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 146mg (49%)Sodium: 1782mg (77%)Potassium: 498mg (14%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 13g (14%)Vitamin A: 822IU (16%)Calcium: 593mg (59%)Iron: 4mg (22%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I always thought gnocchi was nit-picky and time-consuming, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The semolina pasta 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 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..

Originally published April 6, 2011

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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

    1. How clever, Zanne! Greatly appreciate you sharing this…perfect tip for entertaining or when in a hurry. Although we do encourage you at some point to try Hazan’s trick for the scraps…

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