Not All Gnocchi are Created Equal

Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana

Good thing for that! What would we do without a variety of gnocchi? There are a lot out there. In my kitchen alone — with the wonderful cooks that come to cook with me — we’ve made ricotta gnocchi (several varieties: spinach, tomato, herb-infused), potato gnocchi (also in many renditions: rosemary-infused, chive-infused), butternut squash gnocchi, sweet potato gnocchi, purple sweet potato gnocchi, and gnocchi alla Romana.

That last one is the wild sibling who doesn’t like to conform. It’s nothing like its brothers and sisters. It’s out there on a limb, enjoying its solitary freedom. And we get to enjoy it, too.

Gnocchi alla Romana is closer to polenta than those other little pillow gnocchi. It’s made from semolina flour. Stir it into simmering milk, with salt, pepper, grated cheese, butter, nutmeg, egg yolks…keep stirring until thickened. Then spread it out on a buttered sheet pan.

smooth the batter

smooth the batter

Chill it or let it set at room temperature until firm. Cut out circles…

cut out circles

cut out circles

Layer them in a buttered casserole dish…

layered in casserole dish

layered in casserole dish

Sprinkle with grated parmigiano and diced fontina cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden…

baked gnocchi alla romana

baked gnocchi alla romana

You can eat it just like that. And swoon. But sometimes I up the ante by topping it with a tomato-sausage-mushroom ragu.

Ante upped.

gnocchi alla romana w mushroom ragu

gnocchi alla romana w mushroom ragu

Gnocchi alla Romana – Semolina Gnocchi

3 cups milk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, and extra for the pan

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup semolina flour

½ cup grated Parmigino  plus extra for sprinkling

3 egg yolks

¼ lb. fontina cheese, cubed or sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to just before simmering. Pour in the semolina in a thin stream whisking as you go. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir constantly, cooking for about a 5-8 minutes until it thickens. Stir in the grated cheese and the egg yolks and combine well.

Pour mixture into a buttered shallow pan. Smooth mixture evenly to about ½-inch thickness. Allow to cool until it becomes firm.

Butter a medium baking dish. With a biscuit cutter or glass, cut the semolina into circles. Layer the circles in the baking dish with each circle overlapping a bit with the next. Sprinkle the fontina. Sprinkle with some grated cheese. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown.

Crumbled Sausage & Mushroom Ragu

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms

3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 Italian sausages, out of their casings

2 pints white or cremini mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Lift out mushrooms and chop finely. Reserve mushroom water.

In a large saucepan. Heat the olive oil. Add the sausage meat and cook until browned, breaking up chunks into smaller pieces. Add the sliced mushrooms and the chopped porcini mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are cooked through. Add the garlic and onion. Cook until onion softens a bit. Add the crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer slightly covered for about 45 minutes.







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