Unlike the gnocchi which you are most familiar with and which is commonly made with potatoes Gnocchi Alla Romana is made with semolina flour. In Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cookbook,” she mentions that this dish can be traced back directly to Imperial Rome. Apicius, the Roman gourmet who lived during the 1st century, had a recipe for gnocchi made of semolina exactly like these, then fried and served with honey. These are made the same way, but baked in the oven with freshly grated parmesan cheese and butter and are as light as can be.
It makes for a great first course or primi after which you can serve any meat or fowl. I actually like it the way it was suggested in Williams Sonoma's site, accompanied by Roman Style meatballs.
The entire dish can be made ahead up to 2 days, before baking, if it is refrigerated and covered with plastic wrap.
Serves 4 to 6
•1 cup semolina
•1 quart (1 liter) milk
•1 brimming cup grated Parmigiano plus more for sprinkling over
•7 TBs unsalted butter
•2-3 egg yolks
Bring the milk to a boil, and gradually stir in the semolina, stirring constantly to prevent lumps and keep the mixture from sticking to the pot. The mixture will become quite thick; continue cooking and stirring for about 20 minutes, and remove the pot from the fire. Beat the yolks with a little more milk, and add them to the semolina, together with 2/3 cup of the cheese, 2 TB butter, and a pinch of salt. Mix well and spread the mixture a little less than a half an inch thick on your work surface.
Let the semolina cool for 2 hours, and with a biscuit cutter cut it into rounds.
Butter a square pan and layer the disks in it, overlapping like roof tiles. spread a little more grated cheese between the layers (there should be 3-4). When all the rounds have been used up, dot the gnocchi with the remaining butter and add the rest of the grated cheese. Use more cheese if you need to.
Bake the gnocchi 15 minutes in a hot (400 F or 200 C) oven, until golden, and serve at once. If a crust hasnt formed, raise the temperature to 500 and bake another 5 minutes.
Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Marcella Hazan