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Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low and add the semolina flour, pouring it in a steady stream and whisking constantly. Once the semolina has been whisked in and there are no lumps, switch to a wooden spoon and continue to stir for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then add half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and nutmeg.

Butter a baking sheet. Pour the semolina mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and smear to a thickness of about 1 inch. Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold and firm, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use 2 tablespoons of the butter to grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or 6 individual gratin dishes.

Using a 2-inch round pastry cutter, cut out circles of dough. Arrange the circles in the buttered baking dish or gratin dishes, overlapping them slightly, and sprin­kle with the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano, evenly dividing the butter and cheese if using individual dishes. (Gnocchi alla romana can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, covered with plastic wrap, before topping with butter and cheese and baking.) Bake until the butter and cheese are melted and the tops of the gnocchi are a rich golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve right away.

Recipe Summary

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 ¼ cups semolina flour
  • 1 ¾ ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or more to cover

Line a rimmed sheet pan with plastic wrap.

Place milk and salt in a saucepan. Bring almost to a simmer over medium-high heat. As soon as bubbles start to break the surface of the milk, gradually whisk in the semolina. Whisk until semolina becomes thick, about 20 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-low continue stirring with a wooden spoon until very thick, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter, grated cheese, and egg yolks. Stir quickly to prevent the yolks from cooking.

Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread out evenly. Cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm enough to cut, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Brush a round, shallow baking dish with butter.

Using a round 2 3/4-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles of the semolina dough. Arrange in a circular overlapping pattern in the prepared baking dish.

With your damp hands, form the scraps of dough into a small ball. Flatten and place between 2 pieces of plastic wrap to flatten to the same thickness of the other dough. Cut out a few more rounds and arrange in center of circle.

Drizzle melted butter over gnocchi and brush it over them evenly. Sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne pepper and a generous dusting of grated cheese.

Recipe: Gnocchi Alla Romana

When paired with the first fresh vegetables of the season, semolina-flour gnocchi become the ideal prelude to spring.

Gnocchi is one of the staple dishes of Italian cuisine, but the version most of us are familiar with is not the original preparation. Today these small dumplings are often made of potato, a vegetable that is not even native to Italy. In fact, quite a few mainstays of that country's famous repertoire were imported from the New World in the late 15th century. These ingredients include the corn that is ground for polenta and the tomatoes that are simmered for marinara and Bolognese sauce, as well as potatoes.

Originally, gnocchi was made from semolina, a soft yellow flour of durum wheat. This dish, which is known as Gnocchi alla Romana, is quite delicious. I learned to make it as a young chef in France, and in truth, it is far easier and less error-prone than its potato-based variation. You begin by creating a custardy dough of semolina flour, milk, egg, Parmesan, and butter, among other ingredients. The mixture is spread on a cookie sheet and chilled, and then the dumplings are cut using a round cookie cutter. The gnocchi are sprinkled with cheese and set under a broiler. Parmesan works well, but I also like the addition of taleggio, a semisoft Italian cheese with a mild flavor and a fruity tang.

To celebrate the transition of the seasons, I've paired the dish with a satisfying sauce of cream, leek, fresh herbs, asparagus, and shelled English peas. It is comfort food hearty enough for late winter, but with a definite nod to spring.


1 cup semolina flour, plus ¼ cup for dusting

1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced

1 bunch green asparagus, ends trimmed and discarded, stalks cut into 1-inch pieces

⅓ cup fresh shelled English peas

4 oz. taleggio cheese (optional)

Freshly ground white pepper

1 T each of fresh parsley, tarragon, and chervil, chopped

2 chive stems, cut into ½-inch pieces

In a medium nonstick sauce pot, combine the milk, water, and 1½ teaspoons salt and bring to a simmer. Whisking, stream in the 1 cup semolina flour slowly, so that it doesn't clump. Whisk vigorously for about 20 seconds to incorporate the semolina, then switch to a rubber spatula. The mixture will quickly start to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently with the spatula. When the mixture is very thick and barely sticks to the spatula, remove the pot from the heat and add 4 tablespoons of the butter, the egg, and ½ cup Parmesan cheese, stirring until combined. Transfer the dough to a nonstick cookie sheet and spread to form a rectangle approximately ½ to 1 inch thick. Cool in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot set over medium heat, melt the remaining butter and add the leek. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add a splash of water to keep the leek from caramelizing, if necessary. Add the asparagus and peas and continue cooking for another 4 minutes, covered, seasoning with salt to taste. Add the cream, 3 tablespoons of water, ¼ cup Parmesan, and lemon zest. Stir and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Keep warm.

Transfer the cooled dough to a clean work surface dusted with the ¼ cup semolina. Using a round cookie cutter about 2 inches in diameter, cut the gnocchi into disks. Arrange them back on the cookie sheet, layering slightly to form 4 rosettes. Sprinkle the rosettes generously with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan and the taleggio, if desired. Set the tray on the bottom rack of the oven and broil until the tops are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Keep warm.

To serve, spread the vegetable cream sauce among four plates. Transfer a gnocchi rosette to each plate and garnish with white pepper and herbs.


"The asparagus in this dish calls for an earthy wine with a touch of green," says Raj Vaidya, sommelier at Daniel restaurant. Vaidya recommends Bailly-Reverdy's Chavignol Sancerre 2014 ($18) from France's Loire Valley. "It is a lovely, minerally wine with great acidity and balance, and just the right herbaceous notes." For an American alternative, Vaidya suggests Lieu Dit's 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Ynez Valley, California ($22), left. "This is a richer and more fleshy choice that complements the spring-like flavors of the peas, tarragon, and parsley."

List of Ingredients

  • 1 QUART of milk
  • 9 OZ. of semolina
  • 4 1/2 OZ. of butter
  • 3 OZ. of Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt


Bring the milk to a boil with 2 cups water, 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, and a pinch of salt. When it boils, slowly pour in the semolina, stirring it with a whisk, then once it begins to thicken, stir with a spoon. Cook the semolina mixture for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Add a little grated nutmeg, 1 Tbsp. Grana Padano, and the egg yolks.

Dampen a 13"x9"x2" baking tray and transfer the semolina to it spread evenly with a spatula to a thickness of around 1". Leave to cool completely: this will be faster if the tray is left on a marble or steel surface.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the semolina into 2" diameter gnocchi using a pastry wheel or a small glass.

Melt 2/3 cup butter in a small saucepan. Grease a baking dish (or individual dishes) with another small knob of butter, then arrange the gnocchi in layers. Sprinkle with a generous amount of Grana Padano and drizzle with the melted butter. Bake until the surface forms a crust (around 15 minutes).

Chef's tip: The semolina left over from cutting out the gnocchi can then be shredded and arranged in an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish. The gnocchi can then be placed on top of this.

Gnocchi alla Romana Recipe

Roman-style gnocchi are not made from potato, ricotta, or squash but from semolina flour, which is manipulated into a thick dough, cut into disks, and baked. In this recipe, we've paired the satisfying semolina gnocchi with a creamy besciamella sauce.

Rich and satisfying, this first course gets any meal off to a festive start. Even better: it can be prepared in advance and then popped in the oven at the last minute, perfect for your holiday dinner party.

Gnocchi alla Romana con Besciamella (Roman-Style Gnocchi with Besciamella)
Recipe courtesy of Eataly

For the Gnocchi:
½ gallon of whole milk
1 tablespoon salt
½ pound butter, plus 2 tablespoons for cookie sheet and baking dish
2 ounces of freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 ounces of freshly-grated Pecorino romano
1 pound finely-ground semolina flour

For the Besciamella:
¼ pound of butter
½ pound of all-purpose flour
½ gallon of whole milk
½ teaspoon of freshly-grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon of freshly-ground black pepper

To prepare the gnocchi:

In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, heat the milk, salt, and butter slowly to avoid over boiling the milk or burning the liquid on the bottom of the saucepan. Using a whisk, add in the Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses. Once the cheeses have melted, slowly add in the semolina flour while vigorously whisking to avoid clumping. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture is very thick and difficult to stir.

Line a 10-by-5-inch baking sheet with parchment paper, and pour the semolina mixture onto the pan evenly, using a spatula to evenly cover the surface area. Allow to cool for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Once cooked, use a knife or cookie cutter to cut 3-inch pieces out of the semolina mixture.

To prepare the besciamella:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once the butter has melted, add in the flour, and whisk vigorously to avoid clumping for about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk while continuing to whisk vigorously to avoid the roux to over-thicken. Gently simmer for 5 minutes and add in the pepper and nutmeg to finish.

Spoon the besciamella over the gnocchi, and bake in a pre-heated oven set to 425°F until the top has browned, 10-12 minutes. Serve immediately.

What Is Gnocchi Alla Romana?

To give you a little background on the dish, gnocchi alla romana (sometimes referred to as semolina gnocchi) is made with semolina flour. Semolina flour can be found in most grocery stores and can also be purchased online (affiliate link).

Semolina is the coarse grind of durum wheat (#1), a high-protein wheat variety that is used in traditional pasta making and other preparations.

Any leftover semolina flour from this recipe can be used to make homemade pasta dough. Semolina’s high-protein properties provide pasta dough with strength, structure, and that signature al dente chewiness. It produces a heartier texture than can be achieved through all-purpose flour. Read more about the properties of wheat flour varieties and how to use them here.

Gnocchi alla romana has a slightly crispy outside and soft, buttery, cheesy texture in the inside. The semolina rounds hold their shape, but almost melt into each other. It is classic and elegant stick-to-your-ribs Italian comfort food.

How to Make Gnocchi Alla Romana:

If you’ve ever prepared traditional soft polenta, the cooking method for gnocchi alla romana is very similar to that process. We’ll be heating milk (I use 2%, but whole milk also works!) just short of a boil in a large saucepan and then slowly pouring in the semolina flour.

This mixture cooks over low heat for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

The active cooking on the stovetop requires an arm workout – you’ll be stirring vigorously the entire time – but it is absolutely worth the effort. About halfway through the process, you might start cursing me a bit.

If you have a family member around, this is a great time to enlist stirring help or work in shifts. I like to think of it as an excuse to eat another serving!

Once the semolina cooks and forms a thick, dough-like mass, we’ll be stirring in butter, salt, lots of grated parmigiano cheese (please use the good stuff for this recipe!), and lastly two large egg yolks.

The protein and fat in the egg yolks provides the semolina gnocchi with additional structure and lends the final baked dish a rich, custard-like flavor.

The semolina mixture is spread into a thin layer on a half sheet pan, allowed to cool, and is cut into rounds using biscuit cutters. These semolina rounds are overlapped, layered, and placed in a greased baking dish, topped with more cheese and butter (yes, please), and popped into the oven until golden brown and bubbling. It’s the stuff of dreams.

While you could certainly serve the gnocchi alla romana on it’s own, I like to serve it with warm tomato sauce, vegetables or salad (tossed with a simple lemon vinaigrette to help cut the richness). It can also be a side dish to traditional proteins. Italians wouldn’t approve of any seafood pairing, but you do you.

Tools and Ingredients Used In This Recipe:

This list includes affiliate links.

Please refer to the ‘tips for success’ notes in the recipe box below on ways to prep and make this ahead. Enjoy!

Cooking Remarks

Among the myriad recipes for gnocchi alla romana, you will find some that nap the gnocchi with a light tomato sauce. Definitely tasty, but tomato sauce does not appear to lie deep in the history of this dish—nor does the sublimely delicious accompaniment of a lamb ragout. We recommend serving the gnocchi unadorned and screaming hot as a first course or unadorned and screaming hot as a main with a side salad.

Grown naturally rather than with irrigation and fertilizer to drive up protein like modern durum, our semolina makes a softer gnocchi—don’t expect bulwark rounds. These gnocchi are fine and delicate. We recommend using a pizza stone on which to bake the dish unless you happen to be using a glass baking dish. The stone will allow the bottom of the rounds to brown.

In a large saucepan, heat milk over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to prevent scorching, until steaming. Season well with salt. While whisking constantly, sprinkle in semolina in a fine shower to prevent lumps the mixture will thicken and become difficult to whisk. Once all semolina is added, lower heat to medium-low, switch to a stiff rubber spatula or wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until a sticky, dough-like mass forms and begins to pull away from sides of saucepan, 10 to 15 minutes make sure to stir deep into corners and all over bottom of saucepan to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

Stir in 4 tablespoons of butter until melted and thoroughly incorporated. Stir in cheese until melted and thoroughly incorporated. Scrape in egg yolks and stir until thoroughly incorporated.

Scrape semolina dough into a buttered rimmed baking sheet. Using a wet rubber spatula or wet clean hands, and re-wetting frequently to prevent sticking, press and smooth semolina dough into an even layer about 1/2 inch thick. It's okay if the dough does not fully reach all edges of the baking sheet, as long as it's even throughout. Press plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until set, at least 40 minutes and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or similarly sized glass, cut semolina into rounds (scraps can be saved and refrigerated for up to 4 days: deep fry in oil for a snack, or assemble in a smaller baking dish to make a mini version of this dish). Grease a large baking dish or ovenproof skillet with butter. Using a thin metal spatula, scrape each semolina round from the baking sheet and arrange in an overlapping pattern in the prepared dish or skillet.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and drizzle all over semolina gnocchi. Grate Parmigiano-Reggiano generously all over. Bake until gnocchi are sizzling hot and browned on top, about 15 minutes. Serve, passing more grated cheese at the table.

Gnocchi alla Romana recipe

For 4 people you will need:

1 qt. milk
1 cup semolina
1 stick butter
3 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
2 large egg yolks

We recommend that you keep the semolina scraps from cutting the gnocchi discs. Spread them uniformly across the bottom of the pan and place the gnocchi on top in orderly rows.

Bring the milk and 2 cups water to boil with 1 Tbsp. butter and a pinch of salt. Once the liquid is boiling, sprinkle the semolina, mixing with a whisk at first and then, as it becomes thicker, a spoon. Cook the mixture for approximately 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and season with a little grated nutmeg, a spoonful of Parmigiano, and the yolks.

Pour the mixture on a tray that is wet with water, and level it flat.

Smooth it with a spatula to a thickness of about 3/4″ and let it cool completely. It will cool more quickly if it’s resting on a marble or steel counter.

Cut out the gnocchi with a round cookie cutter or a small glass about 2″ in diameter.

In a saucepan, melt ¾ stick butter and grease the baking pan (or individual baking pans) with the remaining butter. Line the bottom of the pan with the semolina scraps, then start layering the gnocchi on top. Sprinkle with plenty of Parmigiano and cover with the melted butter. Place in the oven and bake until the surface is golden brown, remove from the oven and serve piping hot.

Watch the video: RICETTA GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA senza uova con semolino facilissimi! RICETTE DI (January 2022).