Introducing Kathryn Joel, our fourth guest blogger in our series. Kathryn is a local Edmonton chef with a passion for teaching others to cook through her in-home cooking classes.

When I was a kid, my mom made a family dinner every night of the week. So I was lucky to be able to sit down and share food and conversation with my family on a daily basis. And as an adult, with kids of my own, my mom’s achievement has become my benchmark. Our lives have become busier than ever as we juggle the demands of life in the digital age. And carving out that time can be a real challenge. So when I think about family meals I like to come up with dishes that are as simple as they are delicious. And, whenever possible, dishes that can be prepared ahead or that take limited time to prepare.

Gnocchi alla Romana is just such a dish. The gnocchi can be made hours in advance, or even the day before. And then after just 20 minutes in a hot oven they’re golden and delicious and ready to serve either alone, with a simple green salad, or with a tomato sauce on the side. Italian food is the ultimate comfort food, and of all Italian comfort foods, gnocchi are surely one of the best. Gnocchi alla Romana are one of three varieties of gnocchi, made with semolina flour, and they’re popular in both Italy and France. Cooking the semolina is just like cooking polenta. You simply whisk it into simmering milk then keep stirring over a low heat until it’s really thick. Then you beat in some butter, egg yolks and cheese and season it to your taste with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg. Finally you spread it out and allow it to cool before cutting your gnocchi out with a cookie cutter and baking them in a hot oven, drizzled with a little more butter and grated cheese.

We made these gnocchi in a vegetarian class this week and they were, without a doubt, the biggest hit of the night. We cooked the semolina at the start of our class then chilled it in the fridge until we were ready to make our gnocchi. Then everyone wanted to have a go at cutting them out! Once they’re baked they’re lightly crispy on the outside but they do need a good 5 minutes to rest, so that they hold their form when you serve them up.

So I’d recommend you make your gnocchi ahead. And why not get your family and friends involved in cutting them out? They’re so easy and quick to make you could even do a double batch, then you’ve got more for another shared meal the next day!

Gnocchi alla Romana
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Yields
4 servings

Ingredients

Gnocchi

4 cups (1 L) whole milk
1 cup (250 ml) semolina
3/4 cup (175 ml) freshly grated Parmesan
3 tbsp (45 ml) unsalted butter, diced
2 (large) egg yolks
2 tsp (10 ml) sea salt or to taste
Freshly ground white pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

Topping

3 tbsp (45 ml) unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup (175 ml) freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

  1. In a heavy pan, bring the milk up to a boil then whisk in the semolina in a slow, steady stream.
  2. Continue whisking until smooth, turning the heat down to its lowest setting, then continue to cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the semolina is very thick and pulling away from the sides and base of the pan, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and beat in the Parmesan, butter and egg yolks, then season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Moisten a baking tray with water, to prevent the semolina from sticking to it, then use a spatula dipped in water to spread the semolina out to a depth of ½ an inch.
  5. Allow the semolina to cool and firm up, uncovered, in your fridge.
  6. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 425°F.
  7. Butter an oval baking dish then use a 1½-2 inch cookie cutter to cut individual gnocchi out of the semolina, dipping the cutter in warm water as necessary to prevent sticking.
  8. Lay the gnocchi in the buttered baking dish in rows, overlapping them slightly, then dot with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  9. Bake in the top half of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden and sizzling, finishing under the broiler if necessary.
  10. Rest for 5-10 minutes before serving either plain, or with tomato sauce on the side.
  11. Serving Suggestion: I like to serve my gnocchi with a green salad and some warmed tomato sauce on the side. But they’re just as nice on their own.
  12. Variations: You could substitute cheddar cheese for the Parmesan. And for a lower fat version you could substitute low fat milk for the whole milk. If you like a little meat with your meal, you could add some chopped bacon or pancetta on top, and finish it quickly under the grill once the gnocchi are hot.