A great alternative to mashed potatoes! Gnocchi alla Romana (or Semolina Gnocchi) is an ideal side dish for roasted or grilled meat – creamy, cheesy, and with bits of crunch on the sides! Simply heavenly!
What are gnocchi alla Romana?
It’s a traditional dish from Rome that’s also called semolina gnocchi because Italian semolina flour is its main ingredient.
Milk, cheese, butter, and eggs are added to it, resulting in a Roman dish that feels like a hug from your favorite nonna — pure comfort, warmth, and deliciousness in every bite.
Velvety baked semolina flour, with the lusciousness of the butter and crunchy bits of cheese — gnocchi alla Romana melts in your mouth.
And don’t think it’s too much work.
Trust me; if you are new to making gnocchi (of any kind), semolina gnocchi is the most forgiving type you could start with.
Just give it a try – and then you can also try semolina bread. 🙂
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- Milk – I strongly suggest using full cream milk for this traditional gnocchi alla Romana.
- Parmigiano Reggiano – freshly grated would be excellent for this recipe.
- Egg – you only need to use the yolk for making semolina gnocchi.
- Butter – note that I used unsalted butter in this recipe; hence I added half a teaspoon of salt.
- Seasoning – salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Semolina – ‘semola rimacinata‘ in Italian.
Please ensure you are using the correct flour — you cannot use cornmeal, and while regular semolina is also from durum wheat, its texture is closer to cornmeal.
Semola rimacinata is significantly finer in texture because it’s twice milled and is the correct type of flour for making Roman gnocchi.
Start preparing your semolina gnocchi by combining milk, salt, and nutmeg in a medium-sized saucepan.
Place the saucepan on medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
When the milk is almost boiling (you will see bubbles forming on the sides), slowly add the semolina — while whisking continuously.
Lower the heat to medium-low and continue whisking until the semolina starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. It usually takes about ten minutes.
Take the saucepan off the heat.
Mix the yolk, half of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and half of the melted butter using a small bowl.
Combine the yolk mixture with the semolina.
Mix evenly with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon.
Transfer the mixture to a small tray (25 x 17 cm).
Use an angled spatula to help in spreading it evenly.
Place the tray in the refrigerator for at least an hour for the semolina gnocchi dough to solidify.
Preheat the oven to 225°C (425°F) and lightly grease the skillet with butter.
Use a 6-cm cookie cutter to cut round portions (gnocchi) of the hardened mixture.
Place each portion into a buttered skillet.
Form a circle as you arrange all the semolina gnocchi in the pan.
Drizzle your gnocchi alla Romana with the remaining melted butter — try to do this evenly.
Top with the remaining grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Oh! And if you want more crunchy bits on top, you have to put TONS of cheese before placing it in the oven.
Place the skillet in the middle of the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes or until the top turns golden.
Serve your gnocchi alla Romana with more freshly grated cheese, if desired.
- You must keep whisking while adding the semolina to eliminate lumps in the mixture.
- Start using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon as soon as you feel that the whisk is no longer enough — and it’s ok to put down your arms for a few seconds to rest. 🙂
- Make sure that the melted butter you are mixing with the yolk is not hot, or you might end up cooking the yolk.
- The plastic you used to line your tray should make it easier to lift the hardened mixture out of the tray for cutting.
- If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you can certainly use a small baking dish for baking your semolina gnocchi.
- Other Cheese. You can use Grana Padano instead of Parmigiano Reggiano if that’s what you have.
But remember that Grana Padano is slightly milder and more delicate, which will indeed reflect on the flavor of your Roman gnocchi.
Can you make this ahead of time?
You can certainly prepare the baked semolina gnocchi dough in advance and keep it in the refrigerator until it’s time for you to bake it.
However, keeping it uncovered when you place it in the refrigerator would be best.
Moisture will always form on top of the cover, making the top of the mixture moist — you will never get it ready for cutting into portions.
What can I serve with gnocchi alla Romana?
I usually serve it as a side dish with grilled or roasted meats. Sometimes though, I do it as a main as well, with some fresh salad.
I know some people serve it with marinara sauce.
Not me. Creamy, cheesy, and with crunchy edges –– another winner ‘comfort food’ on my list.
So, give semolina gnocchi a try this weekend, and let me know what you think! 🙂
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Gnocchi Alla Romana Recipe (Semolina Gnocchi)
- Cast Iron Skillet (8-inch)
- Small Oven/Baking Tray (25 cm x 17 cm)
- 1 & 1/3 cup milk
- 7 tbsp semolina flour
- 3 tbsp butter, unsalted & melted (divided into two 1.5 tbsps)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pinch nutmeg
- butter, for greasing
Preparing the semolina mixture:
- Using a medium-sized saucepan, combine milk, salt, and nutmeg.
- Place saucepan in medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
- When you see that the milk is close to boiling (bubbles are forming on the side of the pan), slowly add the semolina flour while whisking.
- Adjust heat to medium-low and continue whisking until the semolina starts pulling from the sides. It's easier to use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon instead of a whisk at this stage. This should take you about 10 minutes.
- Take the saucepan out of the heat.
- Using a small bowl, combine and mix the yolk, half of the melted butter, and half of the grated Parmigiano.
- Add this yolk mixture into the semolina and mix thoroughly.
- Line your small oven tray with plastic and spread the mixture evenly on it. Use an angled spatula to even out the top. It should be about 1 to 1.5 cm thick.
- Place the tray in the refrigerator for about 60 to 90 minutes. Depending on how cold your refrigerator is, the mixture should already be quite solid by this time.
Baking your semolina gnocchi:
- Preheat your oven to 225°C (425°F) and lightly grease the skillet with butter.
- Take the tray out of the refrigerator and lift the mixture out, using the plastic under.
- Place on an even surface and start cutting portions (gnocchi) by using a cookie cutter.
- Arrange the gnocchi on the skillet, slightly overlapping and forming a circle.
- Drizzle the arranged semolina gnocchi with the remaining melted butter, and top with the remaining grated Parmigiano.
- Place the skillet in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or when the top has turned golden.
- Serve your freshly baked gnocchi alla Romana — sprinkle more grated cheese, if desired.
- Cook’s Tip #1: You must continue whisking while adding the semolina to eliminate lumps in the mixture.
- Cook’s Tip #2: Start using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon as soon as you feel that the whisk is no longer enough for stirring.
- Cook’s Tip #3: If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you can certainly use a small baking dish for baking your gnocchi alla Romana.