Friday, March 13, 2009

Baked Semolina Gnocchi

This weekend, we're heading to our hometown to attend an annual seafood dinner at a local Italian club. It's a tradition his family has followed for over five years, and something that I've been able to enjoy for what will now be three years in a row.

If you're a fan of seafood, this dinner is like heaven. Seafood soup, which is always a highlight, fritto misto (deep fried assorted seafood like shrimp and calamari), a fish and chicken course, and a pasta course, followed by dessert and coffee or tea. We're always completely stuffed by the end, although not quite so uncomfortable that we can't dance.

In preparation for going home for the weekend, I forgot to upload photos and recipes for some of the tasty meals that I've been cooking up lately. So I'm digging deep in my draft archives to bring you this recipe, homemade Baked Semolina Gnocchi. Since I made and photographed this dish quite awhile ago, I do have to apologize for the picture. Don't let its poor quality distract you from how wonderful this recipe really is.

The gnocchi (pronounced en-yawk-ee, not no-kee) you'll typically find in the fresh pasta section of the supermarket is made with potatoes, while these gnocchi are made with the semolina flour that's typically used to make other pastas. These gnocchi also aren't made into little dumplings; instead, they're cut into small discs with a cookie cutter.

Because semolina gnocchi, unlike potato gnocchi, doesn't require baking potatoes first, the dough comes together relatively quickly. After the dough has been cut into discs and chilled for almost half an hour -- which, incidentally, gives you plenty of time to make a salad and alleviate some of your guilt about the rich ingredients in the dish -- the gnocchi are arranged side by side, splashed with a bit of heavy cream, sprinkled with parmesan, and dotted with butter before being baked in the oven until cooked through and nicely browned.

Baked Semolina Gnocchi
Slightly adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 quart whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black better pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2 to 2 cups (00-grade) semolina flour
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Heavy cream (about 1/3 of a cup)

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Grease a small baking sheet with 1 teaspoon of the butter and set aside. Butter a piece of parchment paper the same size as the baking sheet with 1/2 teaspoon of the butter and set aside, buttered side-up. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan with 1 teaspoon of butter and set aside.

Combine the milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a medium, heavy pot. Bring to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of the semolina, and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Lower the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a heavy, wooden spoon, adding the remaining semolina flour 1/4 cup at a time, about 12 minutes. The mixture should be very stiff and thick. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the semolina mixture to the eggs and whisk well to incorporate. Add the eggs to the remaining semolina mixture and stir as hard as possible to blend. Add 1/4 cup of the cheese and stir well to blend. Turn out the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and using an off-set cake spreader or rubber spatula, spread across the bottom. Place the buttered parchment paper directly on the batter. Spread the batter evenly across the pan and smooth the top. Refrigerate until cooled, 20 to 25 minutes.

Using a 1" round cookie cutter or, in a pinch, the mouth of a small glass, cut the dough into circles. Dip the cookie cutter or glass in hot water as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Lay the pieces in rows in the prepared 9-inch pan, shingling them to fit. Pour a bit of heavy (whipping) cream over the gnocchi. You can eyeball this part, adding cream to your own tastes, although 1/3 of a cup is a good guideline. Dot the top with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake until the top begins to brown and the gnocchi are puffed, about 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.


MaryBeth March 14, 2009 at 8:39:00 PM EDT  

I love gnocchi...having it made out of semolina is very interesting. Great job Kait!!!

matty March 15, 2009 at 11:32:00 PM EDT  

mmmm that looks good hunny!

Teanna March 17, 2009 at 5:24:00 PM EDT  

I have a bunch of semolina flour that i don't know what to do with! This looks like I found my answer! Looks great!

Kaitlin March 17, 2009 at 10:40:00 PM EDT  

Thanks MaryBeth!

Teanna, it's definitely a great choice. You can always make traditional homemade pasta with semolina but it's way more labour-intensive. Semolina gnocchi gives you the satisfaction of homemade pasta with a lot less effort.

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