Saturday, March 3, 2007

Semolina Gnocchi Roman Style

Gnocchi alla Romana (Makes 8 servings)

This is a traditional Roman dish. In Rome it is dressed with Pecorino Romano and butter or salsa bescemella (bechamel sauce). I love Gorgonzola cheese, eaten as is or in a sauce for pasta or gnocchi, so I decided to use it here. Gorgonzola comes in three types which are determined by how long the cheese is aged. Dolce or dolce latte (sweet or sweet milk) is the youngest, with a mild bite and creamy texture. Medio Dolce (medium) is lightly aged, slightly tangy and firmer in texture. Piccante (piquant) is aged the longest and is quite tangy with a crumbly texture. Depending on your preference on intensity, any one of the three can be used for the sauce. Gorgonzola continues to age as it is stored in the refrigerator, intensifying the piquancy. This sauce is a good way to use left over pieces of Gorgonzola cheese.

For the gnocchi:
5 cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coarse semolina flour
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

For the Gorgonzola sauce:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup [Vegetable] Stock...
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese (about 1 cup)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Combine the milk, 4 tablespoons butter and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Place over medium heat and gradually add the semolina, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps. When the mixture comes to a boil, adjust the heat to simmering. As the mixture cooks, it will begin to thicken rapidly. If you prefer, you may switch to a sturdy wooden spoon for stirring once the mixture starts to thicken. Continue cooking, stirring vigorously until the mixture is very thick and begins to pull away from the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and marjoram (or sage).

Divide the gnocchi mix between two ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pans and, working quickly, spread the mixture with a rubber spatula into an even 1/2-inch layer right up to the edges in each pan. Dip the spatula in water frequently to make spreading easier. Cover the gnocchi mixture with plastic wrap pressed directly to the surface and chill until firm, about 1 1/2 hours. The gnocchi mixture can be kept refrigerated up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Grease a very large – about 14-inch oval – baking dish with one tablespoon of butter and set aside. (Alternately, you may bake the gnocchi in two smaller – about 8- to 9-inch oval – dishes.) Combine the cream, stock, Gorgonzola and remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Stir until the Gorgonzola and butter are melted and the sauce appears smooth.

Season to taste with pepper and, if necessary, salt.

With a 2-inch round cookie cutter or glass, cut out as many circles as possible from the two trays of gnocchi mixture. You should have around 48 circles. (Save the scraps; you may either cut them into small pieces and add them to soups, or use them in the next step.)

If you are using the gnocchi scraps in this dish, cut them into rough pieces and spread them over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the gnocchi rounds evenly in the dish, overlapping them as necessary and using all the rounds. Spoon the gorgonzola sauce over the gnocchi and sprinkle them evenly with the grated cheese. Bake until the tops of the gnocchi and the cheese are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Semolina Gnocchi Roman Style

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