Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gnocchi alla Romana

Most of us are familiar with potato gnocchi. They are made from a soft dough of potato, egg and flour. Making potato gnocchi is a hard-won skill that takes many of us years and years to master (I am far from mastery - I promise to hold forth on potato gnocchi soon). Gnocchi alla romana (or (Roman gnocchi), on the other hand, are yours to master, right out of the gate.

The basic recipe is this: semolina flour is cooked in simmering milk, then butter, cheese and egg yolks are added. After the batter cools off it's cut into shapes, sprinkled with cheese and baked/broiled until piping hot. Even better, you can do everything up to a few days ahead and heat it up right before dinner. The hardest thing about it is finding semolina flour. However, many supermarkets carry it now. The brand I see most frequently is Bob's Red Mill. Look for it in the baking supplies section.

Oh, and how do these gnocchi taste, you ask? Holy crap, these are good. I sprinkled ours with Maytag blue cheese and they made a fabulous pairing with the veal scallops I sauteed to go alongside. Do yourself a favor and work this dish into your routine soon. They are a perfect canvas for experimentation: I think my next batch will be laced with thyme, and then sprinkled with gruyere and caramelized onions (sort of a French onion soup vibe). Let me know what you do with yours.

Gnocchi alla Romana
Serves about 4 as a side dish (you don't need a lot for a serving: these are very rich)
adapted from Ratio by Michael Ruhlman and epicurious.
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 ounces semolina flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, romano or grana padano cheese
  • 2 egg yolks (omit the yolks for a lighter gnocchi)
  • Cheese of your choice for gratineeing
Bring the milk, butter and salt to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the semolina flour, ensuring there are no lumps (I didn't whisk, I stirred and I got lumpy semolina. Whisk, whisk, whisk.). With a spoon or rubber spatula, stir the paste, over medium-low heat until the mixture is thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese. Taste the mixture for salt, and season to taste with pepper, nutmeg, or any other herbs or spices you want to use. Whisk in the egg yolks. Spread the mixture in an even layer into a parchment-lined 9x9 pan. Let the mixture cool and then put it, covered, into the refrigerator.

When you are ready to bake the gnocchi, take the pan out and lift the cooled sheet of gnocchi paste out of the pan. Use a cookie cutter or knife to cut the paste into pieces. Layer them (I shingled them into a baking dish) or lay them in a baking dish and sprinkle them with cheese. Put the pan in a 375 oven until the gnocchi are warmed through. After the gnocchi are hot, run them under the broiler for about 5 minutes until browned and bubbling.

Enjoy them piping hot, although they were great at room temperature too.

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