Semolina is a staple in my house and is often transformed into kubbeh, homey Middle Eastern dumplings. Sometimes I even attempt hand raked couscous, rolling the tiny pellets between my palms in the ancient way. But I don’t always have the time or the patience to knead, sift, steam and roll the morning away. It might be nostalgic, grandmother’s heirloom, but when the anemones are blooming the kitchen is the last place I want to be. Instead, give me a small pot and a wooden spoon and I’ll make a batch of gnocchi, not the tiny Italian dumplings made with potatoes and flour but a much easier semolina version. With this recipe there is enough time for homemade cooking and the great outdoors.
Gnocchi alla Romana (semolina gnocchi)
This recipe was inspired by Orna and Ella’s Cookbook (by Orna Agmon, Ella Shine and Einav Berman). They have a lovely restaurant by the same name in Tel Aviv. I also looked through The Big Book of Pasta by Beth Alon (Hebrew), to give me ideas for this recipe.
750 milk (3 cups milk)
1 cup semolina
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg
4 egg yolks (two egg yolks are plenty for this recipe but my son made Pavlova the night before and it was a good way to use the extra yolks)
60 grams grated parmesan
50 grams butter
100 grams blue cheese
Bring the milk to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Mix the semolina, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl. Pour the semolina into the milk in a steady stream while mixing. Continue to mix until it begins to heave like a Yellowstone mudpot, with large, churning bubbles. Scrape the bottom to so it doesn’t burn. Lift a spoonful and flip upside down over the pot. It should cling to the spoon, plopping off only after a few seconds.
Remove from heat and add the butter, egg yolks and cheese and mix until incorporated. The batter should be thick, separating slightly from the sides of the pot, if not, heat gently for a minute or two to get the desired consistency.
Place parchment paper on a baking tray. Pour the semolina over the tray and with a spatula (a cake frosting spreader is good for this job) spread the batter onto a large rectangle about 2 cm thick. Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰F)
When the semolina batter has cooled it is possible to cut out shapes using a ravioli or cookie cutter. I used a heart shaped cookie cutter, my modest nod towards Valentine’s Day. Place the shapes on a shallow baking dish or tray in one layer so they look like a fallen row of dominoes. Sprinkle with the blue cheese and place in the oven until golden, about 10-15 minutes. I enjoy the gnocchi soft but bake for longer to create crust.