Artusi’s April: Gnocchi alla Romana
As Easter normally falls in April, Artusi‘s reliable suggestions for this month’s Italian menu consist of plenty of dishes that you could traditionally find on an Easter table, including the ones that Italians call “magro” or lean, in other words, fish or vegetables (but no meat), the diet to be followed on Good Friday.
Among a list of some of my favourite Spring dishes such as artichoke tart, fava beans served raw, Easter lamb, chocolate gelato and the Stiacciata, a traditional Easter cake from Livorno, is the irresistible recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana.
Quite different from the traditional potato gnocchi that many are used to, these are made from semolina flour and are considerably easier to make if one is not as skilled as a northern Italian nonna at rolling gnocchi off the tines of a fork.
For a recent dinner party, I couldn’t go past the idea of preparing these Gnocchi alla Romana, or Roman style gnocchi. This is the perfect item on a dinner party menu as you can prepare them well in advance and just pop them in the oven when guests arrive – and they are always a hit. Serve a small portion of these gnocchi as an entree, or make them into a beautiful light lunch, perhaps with a nice green salad. If you want to make this more substantial, you can add a bechamel sauce over the top of these before they go in the oven.
Here is Artusi’s recipe, which he begins with a note requesting that if you like his recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana, make a toast to him if he is still around or a requiescat if he’s pushing up the daisies (in Italian, the literal translation is “tucking in the cabbages,” which I think is more appropriate for Artusi).
Gnocchi alla Romana
Artusi notes in this recipe that at the table there should never be less than the number of Graces or more than the number of Muses. If you’re dinner party is around the number of Muses – 9 – then you should double the recipe. When making this recipe, I’ve found his recipe the right proportions for four people as an entree.
- 2 eggs
- 150 grams semolina flour
- 500 ml milk
- 40 grams of a good melting cheese grated or diced, such as asiago
- 50 grams butter, diced
- 40 grams (about a handful) of grated Parmesan cheese
In a bowl, beat the eggs with the flour until well combined. Slowly add the milk until you have a smooth mixture and then add the melting cheese. Place the mixture in a medium saucepan (1 litre capacity) and, over medium heat, stir constantly until you obtain a very thick mixture, like thick porridge or oatmeal, about 5 minutes. Turn this out onto a damp cookie tray (sprayed or sprinkled with some water) and, with wet hands (or a wet spatula), pat the mixture down to a thickness of about 1cm using the palm of your hand. Allow to cool completely.
Grease an oven proof casserole pan with a third of the butter. With a round cookie cutter (or even a glass) cut out the gnocchi into rounds and place them in rows, slightly overlapping, in the oven proof pan. Tuck a few cubes of butter between gnocchi and top with the rest of the butter and the Parmesan cheese. Bake at 200C (390F) for about 20 minutes until golden. Serve hot.