The Roman take on gnocchi is a far cry from the pillowy potato dumplings usually associated with the name.
Golden medallions made of semolina flour, milk, butter and parmesan are layered, covered with more butter and cheese, and baked in the oven until crisp to create a soul-nourishing bowl of comfort.
Interestingly, the use of ingredients such as butter and parmesan rather than the local Lazio olive oil and pecorino cheese, suggests that there was a northern influence on the recipe’s origins, perhaps from Piemonte, but nowadays, as the name confirms, the dish has earned its deserved place in the catalogue of cucina romana.
The dough is simple and, as it needs time to cool in the fridge, can be made in advance. The basic recipe calls for the gnocchi to be covered with butter and parmesan before baking but the version below takes it a step further by also using fresh sage and garlic (if desired) to add extra flavour and aroma.
Gnocchi alla romana recipe
250g semolina flour
1 litre milk
2 egg yolks
140g parmesan, grated
1 bunch fresh sage
1 clove garlic (optional)
Heat the milk in a saucepan along with 25g of the butter, a pinch of salt and a generous grating of nutmeg. Once the milk begins to boil, gradually add the semolina flour, whisking continuously to avoid any lumps forming.
Keep stirring the mixture over a low heat for a few minutes until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks with a spoon. Add 100g of the parmesan and mix well until everything is combined.
Pour the mixture onto a sheet of baking paper, divide into two and roll each piece with your fingers to form two long cylinders about 5cm wide. Roll each piece separately in baking paper and place in the fridge for at least half an hour to cool completely. When you are ready to bake the gnocchi, heat the oven to 200°C and grease a baking dish.
Take the cylinders out of the fridge, remove the baking paper and use a sharp, wet knife to cut them into circular medallions about 1cm thick. Meanwhile heat the remaining butter in a small saucepan with a few fresh sage leaves and a whole clove of garlic (if desired). Once the butter has melted and infused, discard the garlic leaving the sage leaves.
Layer the gnocchi all over the base of the baking dish, overlapping them slightly. Pour the sage butter all over the surface of the gnocchi, sprinkle over the remaining parmesan and top with a few more fresh sage leaves.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the top is golden and crispy. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Kate Zagorski
Kate Zagorski has lived in Italy since 2000. Married to a food-obsessed Roman chef, she leads food tours and also worksa freelance food and travel writer. For more of her recipes see Wanted in Rome recipe page.