Gnocchi alla Romana is a dish from Lazio, the Italian region where Rome is located. It is a typical first course dish that is prepared on Thursdays as a filling dish served alongside meatballs to help Romans through the next day, Friday, that historically had lighter meals and no meat for religious reasons.
The name gnocchi alla Romana can be quite misleading, as we usually think of gnocchi as a pillowy potato pasta dish, however these gnocchi are made from a semolina mixture with milk, butter, eggs and cheese and then baked in the oven. The favorite part of the recipe has to be the au gratin-like topping that makes a crispy golden crust when baked, making it the perfect comfort food. Delicious!
What equipment is needed to make gnocchi alla Romana?
Making gnocchi is super simple and requires just a few pieces of kitchen equipment. Here’s what you’ll need for making semolina gnocchi alla Romana:
wooden spoon or rubber spatula
large and sturdy whisk
round or oval baking dish
flat cutting board
From start to finish, this recipe will take you just over one hour. Half the time is actually just needed for the semolina dough to chill, so you can use it to prep other parts of your meal, like a nice side dish of spinach or perhaps a caprese salad and of course some delicious Roman-style meatballs.
Ingredients for gnocchi alla Romana
After making this delicious recipe we are sure you will start buying semolina flour to have on hand. That way when your family asks for this comfort food dish of baked gnocchi with melted butter and grated cheese you can make it without even going to the store, as the other ingredients are ones you likely have in your pantry.
Whole milk (1 liter | 4.23 cups) – while we have found that whole milk works the best, you can substitute with 1% or low fat milk if you prefer it or are trying to watch your fat intake.
Semolina flour (250 grams | 0.55 lb ) – semolina is a coarsely milled durum wheat, although sometimes the word can be used to refer to other coarsely ground grains. Be sure you buy the durum wheat semolina flour for this making gnocchi alla Romana.
Butter (100 grams | 7.14 tbsp) – you can use unsalted butter for this recipe, as that is what Italians usually cook with.
Egg yolks (2) – some farm fresh eggs are always nice to have in the kitchen.
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (3 tablespoons) – if you can’t find it, you can substitute with Grana Padano or even Parmesan.
Pecorino (2 tablespoons) – this sheep’s cheese is so delicious, but if you can’t find it you can substitute with another strong, aged one that grates well or just add more Parmigiano.
Nutmeg (as desired) – this is one of our favorite additions, as it adds a depth to this recipe that you will love. If you are not a fan, you can skip it or add a dash of pepper.
Salt (as needed) – whatever type you have in your pantry will work.
Fresh sage leaves (optional) – a few fresh sage leaves baking and the whole house will smell like an Italian country kitchen.
How to make this recipe step by step
There are a few ways to make the round gnocchi disks, but this is the method we like the most and it eliminates waste.
Begin by heating the milk in a saucepan over medium high heat with 50 g butter, a pinch of salt and nutmeg (if you like the flavor) photo 1.
When the milk is lightly boiling, turn down the heat and slowly add the semolina in a stream while stirring constantly with a large, sturdy whisk until it has reached the consistency of polenta photo 2.
Now stir in the lightly beaten egg yolks photo 3 and 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese photo 4. Continue whisking until it is well incorporated and turn off the heat.
Pour the gnocchi dough in a line onto parchment paper placed on a flat surface like a cutting board photo 5. You can use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to get out any remaining dough.
Roll the semolina dough into a long sausage shape with a diameter of 5 cm, the dough should be malleable and easy to shape photo 6. Wrap the long sausage form in the parchment paper to maintain the shape and let it cool for 30 minutes at room temperature or 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 180° C.
Once the semolina dough has chilled, carefully slice it with a damp knife into 1-cm thick disks photo 7 and 8.
Now butter your round or oval shaped oven-safe baking dish and lay out your gnocchi in an even layer overlapping slightly so that all the rounds have most of their surface showing.
Melt the remaining butter in the microwave and drizzle the melted butter over the gnocchi or you can cut up the remaining butter and place it over the rounds in dabs. Then sprinkle with the grated Pecorino cheese. You can add a few sage leaves if you like at this time.
Put in a static oven for approximately 20 minutes at 180° C, the last 5 minutes you can turn on the top grill function on your oven so you get a nice, crispy brown crust.
Try other traditional recipes:
Expert tips for the best gnocchi alla Romana
You won’t need many tips for making these gnocchi because they are so easy, but here are a few to make sure they come out perfectly.
Don’t overlap too much. Be sure not to stack the gnocchi disks too closely or you won’t get enough of the crust on each individual gnocchi. If your dish isn’t big enough, consider using two dishes so that you can space them with almost all of the surface of each disk showing.
Pour the semolina in slowly. Once your milk is lightly boiling, you want to pour the semolina flour in very slowly and stir constantly so that you don’t get any lumps.
Variations to try for this recipe
Once you get the hang of making these gnocchi alla Romana with just the simple butter sauce, you can experiment with adding a tomato sauce.
Add a tomato sauce. If you prefer tomato sauce to butter sauce, you can leave out the melted butter drizzled on top and substitute with a lightly cooked red sauce.
In a sauce pan, put a small can of diced tomatoes, a dash of salt and pepper and a little oregano and let cook for 20 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
Pour the tomato sauce over the gnocchi and then top with cheese before baking as directed.
How can I store and reheat gnocchi alla Romana?
You can store your gnocchi in the dish they were baked in. Once the dish is cool, cover it with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 2 or 3 days. To reheat, simply let them come up to room temperature and then add a few bits of butter and a fresh grating of cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until warm all the way through, and serve immediately.
What does “Alla Romana” mean and where did they originate?
“Alla Romana” means “Roman style” in English and although these gnocchi have butter and Parmigiano cheese, both ingredients from Northern Italy, they are a confirmed ancient recipe from the Lazio areas.
The origins of gnocchi alla Romana are unknown, but they are said to be similar to the gnocchi served in ancient Rome made from semolina wheat flour. We know the original gnocchi the Romans made did not have potatoes because they didn’t arrive until hundreds of years later from the New World.
What are the 3 types of gnocchi?
The three main types of gnocchi are: gnocchi di patate, gnocchi alla Romana and gnocchi alla Parisienne (or Parisian gnocchi). The first, gnocchi di patate, are a Northern Italian potato gnocchi dumpling. The second is gnocchi alla Romana which is this recipe for semolina rounds baked in the oven from the area near Rome. And the last is Parisian Gnocchi which is not Italian at all but from Paris, France and is a combination of flour, hot water, butter, and eggs.
What is gnocchi alla Romana made of?
Unlike other gnocchi, these gnocchi are made from semolina wheat flour, milk, egg yolks, butter, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino. They are then baked in the oven to perfection.