Gnocchi alla Romana is a traditional type of semolina gnocchi from Rome. They are absolutely divine and a must-try if you have never had them! Make them in one big dish for all the family to tuck into or serve them in individual portions for an elegant starter.
The first time I made these gnocchi alla Romana, was actually the first time I had eaten them. However, it wasn’t the last! They have become a firm family favourite! I love potato gnocchi, but they aren’t always very light. In fact, many gnocchi dishes are better eaten in the winter when we need and crave more substantial meals! These, on the other hand, can even be served as a starter. They are rich but light and a real melt in your mouth treat!
A little gnocchi alla Romana history!
These semolina gnocchi are one of the most famous examples of pre-or non-potato gnocchi. They are very similar to the type of dumplings enjoyed in Ancient Rome, hence the name ‘alla Romana’ (Roman gnocchi). Despite the fact that some people attribute the origin of these gnocchi to Piedmont because of the high butter content (which is not typical in Lazio cusine), they are a traditional dish in Rome and Lazio.
So easy to make!
Apart from being to-die-for delicious, gnocchi alla Romana really are easy to make. And, unlike their cousin, potato gnocchi, there’s no risk that they may become gluey or heavy. Once you have made the dough, you need to let it cool. But apart from that, it doesn’t take long to make and bake these divine gnocchi.
Gnocchi alla Romana can be served in different ways!
The classic Roman recipe uses a simple butter and cheese dressing. However, these gnocchi alla Romana can be served in other ways; such as with a bechamel sauce, a mornay sauce, a four cheese sauce or a sauce mixed with ham, bacon, pancetta or vegetables.
They can also be served ‘alla Sorrentina’ which means baked with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. You can also put some chopped greens or herbs, such as spinach, nettle, chicory, basil etc. into the dough.
Traditionally, gnocchi alla Romana are shaped in circles. But, the dough can also be cut into squares or other shapes! So, if you’re making these with the kids, you can have some fun and cut them in different shapes! Actually, even without kids, you can get creative with the shape!
What is semolina?
As you can see from the recipe card below, few ingredients go into making these semolina gnocchi. Obviously the main ingredient is semolina. Italians say ‘semolino’. Semolina is actually a type of flour made with durum wheat, the wheat we use to make many types of pasta in Italy and couscous. The main difference between semolina and pasta flour is that semolina is coarser than other flours. It’s also often darker and more golden in colour.
Making these gnocchi alla Romana.
Apart from semolina all you need is eggs, milk, butter and grated Parmigiano and Pecorino. However, you can just use Parmigiano. Vegetarians will need to use a cheese that’s not made with animal rennet as Parmigiano and Pecorino are.
Once you have cooked the semolina in milk and butter, then you just add in egg yolks and cheese and form the gnocchi dough while the mixture is still warm. After allowing the dough to cool, the final step is cutting out your gnocchi and cooking them! Easy right?
If you haven’t made these semolina gnocchi before, I would recommend going with this classic ‘alla Romana’ recipe. Then perhaps later try them with another kind of sauce. I have also made them ‘alla Sorrentino’, which is delicious too. Whichever way you serve them, I’m sure it will be love at first bite!
If you do try this gnocchi alla Romana recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
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Gnocchi alla Romana
- 1 Lt milk (2 pints)
- 250 g semolina (9 oz)
- 100 g butter (3.5 oz)
- 2 egg yolks
- 75 g Parmigiano Reggiano ( 2.5oz) grated
- 50 g Pecorino Romano (2oz) grated
- salt a pinch
- nutmeg grated, a pinch
- Begin by pouring the milk into a saucepan and adding half the butter cut into pieces and a pinch of grated nutmeg and salt.
- Bring the milk to a simmer and when the butter has melted, shower the semolina into the milk (in Italian they say a poggia or ‘like rain’), whisking as you go to avoid lumps.
- The mixture will quickly thicken and become increasingly difficult to whisk. At this point, lower the heat and swap the whisk for a wooden spoon. Continue to stir vigorously to prevent lumps forming.
- Keep cooking the semolina until the mixture becomes quite stiff and elastic and begins to pull cleanly away from the sides of the pan (stirring all the time, of course)
- Remove the mixture from the heat. Add in the parmigiano and mix well. Add the egg yolks and mix them in well too.
- Turn the hot dough out onto a buttered or oiled baking sheet or into a large rectangular pyrex dish and spread it out in an even 1cm thick layer. Wetting whatever tool you are using, will make this easier (clean hands, a spatula, the flat side of a large spoon)
- Cover and allow the dough to cool at room temperature or in the fridge, which takes about 30 to 40 minutes. You can also do this a day ahead and keep the baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.
- Use a round 5-6cm cutter to cut out circles of the semolina dough (a glass or even a cookie cutter with another shape will work). I used a wine glass!! Once again, it helps to wet the tool you use to prevent the dough sticking to it.
- Place the dough circles in slightly overlapping lines in a buttered or oiled baking or gratin dish. (see the photos on the post)
- Melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan. Allow it to cool slightly and then pour it over the dough circles.
- Sprinkle generously with grated pecorino (or more parmigiano) and bake in a preheated oven 200° or under the grill until the gnocchi are nicely browned.
- Let the gnocchi rest for a few minutes and then serve in the baking dish.
- These gnocchi are delicious as a starter or eaten as a main course along with a green salad!Buon appetito!
This recipe was first published in 2018 but has been updated.
If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of my autumn/winter pasta recipes cookbook!?