Gnocchi alla Romana

Hey there–I’ve missed you all!  Sorry for the long hiatus, and many thanks to Miss Eva for holding down the fort. Where have I been? Criss-crossing the country on a job hunt, and finishing my dissertation. I’m starting to get my feet back on the ground after all of that though, and I have something I’d like to share.

Up today is a semolina dumpling called gnocchi alla romana. I made it for my husband this week, in celebration of our anniversary. It tastes absolutely sinful, and if I hadn’t made it myself, I would never have believed it was vegan. The dish gets its twinkle from the contrast of textures: crisp edges, chewy crust, and ultra-creamy interior. This is the best comfort food you’ve never tasted.

Gnocchi alla romana is the kind of regional Italian cooking that is difficult to find in restaurants around here. I’ve seen the distant cousin, potato gnocchi (gnocchi alla sorrentina), on many menus, but never this semolina variety. It’s a shame, but hopefully it will motivate you to try this dish in your own kitchen! It’s irresistible.

I smothered these bad boys in a doctored up tomato sauce with tender chunks of eggplant, and served with a simple green salad and a side of vegan Italian-style sausage links. In keeping with our anniversary tradition, we finished the meal with generous helpings of vegan chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache frosting–the perfect send-up to a fabulous meal.

So try it and let yourself be transported most beautiful Rome, where they have evidently been perfecting the art of eating well for millennia.

Gnocchi alla Romana
Serves 4 as a main course

2 cups plain or unsweetened soy milk
2 cups water
1 vegetable bullion cube
1 cup semolina (also called “semolina flour”)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp chickpea flour (or 1 egg replacer egg)
1 tbsp melted nondairy margarine
1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese

1. In a medium sized pot, whisk together milk, water, bullion, semolina, salt and chickpea flour.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring almost constantly. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and stir it with a wooden spoon for 8-10 minutes while it steams and simmers. Once it is very thick, remove from heat, and stir in 1/3 cup of the cheese. (Reserve the remaining cheese for later.)
3. Spread the mixture, about 1/2 inch thick, onto a greased baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for at least one hour, until fully set and very firm.
4. While it chills, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
5. Remove mixture from the refrigerator. Slice into 2″ squares, or use a cookie cutter to make circular shapes. Arrange the gnocchi in the greased baking dish so that they overlap a bit. Arrange extra gnocchi in a second layer, as needed.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and gnocchi are golden on top. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Top with eggplant tomato sauce.

NOTE: You can substitute water + bullion with 2 cups of vegetable broth; adjust salt to taste depending on your broth.

Eggplant Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Serious Eats

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut in 1″ cubes
kosher salt
4 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 onion, diced
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
1 small handful of basil, chopped (optional)

1. Salt the eggplant and set in a large bowl lined with paper towels to drain for 10-20 minutes. Remove the paper towels from the bowl, and toss with the flour.
2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add one of the smashed garlic cloves. Then add half of the eggplant. Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden on the outside and tender on the inside, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from stove and discard the garlic clove. Heat remaining oil, and repeat with the other garlic clove and remaining eggplant.
2. In a medium pot, add the jarred tomato sauce, and bring to a simmer on medium-low. Meanwhile, fry the onion in the skillet for 5 minutes until softened and slightly gold. Add onion and eggplant to pot with the tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Serve hot.

And there’s your favorite sister food blogging team, at the wedding.


4 thoughts on “Gnocchi alla Romana

  1. We’re glad to have you back, Leila! I haven’t felt very adventurous in the kitchen of late, but this recipe may nudge me out of this culinary funk. In the top photo, have you sliced open the gnocchi before topping with the sauce?

    • The individual gnocchi slices gel together as it bakes, and I just cut it into squares to serve it. In the photo are two squares that I overlapped in the photo.

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