Semolina Gnocchi (Gnocchi alla Romana)
Why This Recipe Works
Most recipes for these Roman-style dumplings call for stirring semolina flour into a hot liquid and cooking it much like polenta to make a batter, or dough. This mixture is then spread out into a thin layer and allowed to cool before being cut into rounds, which are shingled in a baking dish, topped with cheese, and baked. We found that the key was getting the ratio of liquid to semolina right. Too loose and the mixture took a long time to set up, and even then cleanly cutting out the dumplings was difficult. Plus, the gnocchi fused together in the heat of the oven. A mixture made with 2½ cups of milk and 1 cup of semolina was stiff enough that we could shape the dumplings immediately—no need to cool. And instead of stamping out rounds, which wasted much of the semolina mixture, we simply portioned dumplings straight from the pot using a measuring cup. Refrigerating them before baking allowed a skin to form on the outside of each dumpling, ensuring that they held their shape and could be lifted out of the dish cleanly to be served individually. An egg provided binding power and, along with a little baking powder, lift.
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InstructionsServes 4 to 6
These gnocchi can be served as a side dish or as a light entrée topped with Quick Tomato Sauce or another of our suggested toppings.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat milk, salt, and nutmeg in medium saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbles form around edges of saucepan. Whisking constantly, slowly add semolina to milk mixture. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often with rubber spatula, until mixture forms stiff mass that pulls away from sides when stirring, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
2. Stir 3 tablespoons butter and egg into semolina mixture until incorporated. (Mixture will appear separated at first but will become smooth and bit shiny.) Stir in Gruyère, rosemary, and baking powder until incorporated.
3. Fill small bowl with water. Moisten 1/4-cup dry measuring cup with water and scoop even portion of semolina mixture. Invert gnocchi onto tray or large plate. Repeat, moistening measuring cup between scoops to prevent sticking. Place tray of gnocchi, uncovered, in refrigerator for 30 minutes. (Gnocchi can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 24 hours.)
4. Rub interior of 8-inch square baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Shingle gnocchi in pan, creating 3 rows of 4 gnocchi each. Sprinkle gnocchi with Parmesan. Bake until tops of gnocchi are golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Making Semolina Gnocchi
By making a very stiff dough and then refrigerating the shaped dumplings before shingling them in the pan, we ensure that they don’t fuse together in the oven.
START DOUGH: Slowly whisk semolina into warm milk mixture.
FINISH DOUGH: Cook over low heat until stiff dough forms. Add butter, egg, cheese, rosemary, and baking powder.
SHAPE GNOCCHI: Use moistened 1/4 cup measure to portion gnocchi, inverting onto tray.
CHILL: Refrigerate gnocchi, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
ARRANGE IN PAN: Shingle gnocchi in greased 8-inch square dish, then sprinkle with Parmesan and bake.