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!