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Roasted Red Pepper Semolina Gnocchi


Here in the states, when we think of gnocchi we generally think of those cute little football shaped potato gnocchi, that sit like lumps of glue in your stomach if not properly made*. During my trip to Rome at the end of 2007 I was introduced  to a different kind of gnocchi at the Home Food dinner I took part in. This one was made with semolina instead of potato and is the epitome of comfort food in Roman home cooking. I was excited to give this gnocchi a try, despite the fact that I tend to avoid it’s potato-y cousin due to having been served too many plates of glue doused with overly rich sauces. Semolina gnocchi is actually a baked dish, consisting creamy semolina discs, baked until brown and crisp, and is served without sauce.

The recipe I was given in Rome is a combination of semolina, milk, butter, eggs and cheese that is whisked, spread, cut and baked to a crispy, crusty brown. I completely adore it. I have however been wanting to develop my own version of this dish for The Endive Chronicles, but how could I possibly improve upon so much delicious perfection. For a year now I have vacillated on this matter and it was only recently that I came to my conclusion. Why do I have to improve it? Why don’t I just make it mine. As it is this dish is the essence of comfort and warmth, but I decided to take it in another direction. By that, I don’t mean I will make it the essence of discomfort and chill, but I will replace the milk and butter with stock and olive oil and add to it a ray of light in the form of roasted red peppers.

For months I had been staring at a jar of peppers in my cupboard, out of ideas and waiting for something fresh to come to mind. So, when I began to get serious about the semolina gnocchi recipe my thoughts turned to the little jar of preserved summer waiting patiently in my cupboard.

I actually paced the apartment waiting for the gnocchi to bake. It was a torturous time as the scent was as amazing as my oven is unreliable (in case you are in any doubt, my oven is extremely unreliable). And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Phil had to take photos before we could dig in. Why, oh, why didn’t I put both pans in at once? Thankfully,  there was a reward for my suffering. The peppers and cheese worked beautifully and the bit of cayenne pepper was not enough to make it fiery, but really intensified the flavor of the roasted peppers.

For this recipe I decided to keep the presentation traditional, but I can’t help thinking about all of the other possibilities this dish presents. Maybe next time I will top the gnocchi with chopped walnuts or switch out the cheese and a bit of stock for chevre. In the summer I know I will be adding in garden fresh basil. I may even replace the peppers with chard or caramelized onions. It would also be great to saute them individually  and use them as a base for a canape or even dredge them in a bit of dry semolina and toss them into the fryer. Oh, the possibilities. Isn’t food fun?

Roasted Red Pepper Semolina Gnocchi

4 Roasted Red Peppers, drained with any seeds removed

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1 garlic clove, miced

2 Egg Yolks, (save the whites and have some meringue for dessert!)

1 1/2 cups Semolina

4 cups Rich Chicken Stock

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Pepper

1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 cup either Pecorino, Parmesan or even a Dry Jack + more for to top, at room temperature, grated

Place your peppers, olive oil, garlic and egg yolks in a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.

In a large pot bring your stock to a rolling boil and very slowly pour in the semolina whisking until smooth. Remove from the heat and pour in the red pepper mixture, incorporating well before adding the sea salt, pepper, cayenne and grated cheese. Spread the mixture out on a large baking sheet (or two) about a 1/2 an inch thick and allow to set in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 375F and grease your baking pan (or pans) with olive oil.

Using a biscuit cutter cut out your gnocchi and lay them in your pan overlapping them a bit (the Roman recipe describes this as a terraced hillock). Top your gnocchi with a good dusting of cheese and place it in the oven until nice and brown about 45 minutes to an hour.

Serves 6-8 as a first course.

Note: If you are like us and this is just for two, make two pans, one to bake and one to freeze. You’ll thank yourself later.

*For what is in my opinion, the best potato gnocchi in Seattle head to Crow on 5th in Lower Queen Anne. The gnocchi have a sleek look, reminiscent of small scallops with a light texture and are dressed in a glorious brown butter sauce instead of the dreaded cream that all too often accompanies gnocchi.

19 comments to Roasted Red Pepper Semolina Gnocchi

  • I am envious of the knowledge you have of semolina gnocchi.

    After my first try yesterday, I am SO NEVER EVER going to make potato gnocchi again.

  • Jen, were they adorable lumps of glue?

  • Adorable was not a word I’d use to describe them. I’d rather not sully up your blog with the term I actually used for it.

    On a positive note, the texture was fine once they were cooked and sauteed in butter and lemon zest. Butter is your friend!

  • Jen, oops, 1 clove. Thanks I’ll have to change that.

  • For a guy who considers anything not meat as “filler”, my feller sure liked your gnocchi. Asked for it to be made often.

    Way to knock it outta the park!

  • Jen, Thanks! I am glad you guys enjoyed it.

  • mindy mindy

    YUM! I will definitely try this! Thanks.

  • Mindy, I hope you like it!

  • I’ve made both types of gnocchi and prefer the potato version. I bake my potatoes rather than boil or steam, which I think is the secret. I find the semolina style a bit too rich for me. I like the idea of adding the red peppers to the mix.

  • Barbara, This version is not nearly as rich as the traditional one with milk and butter and the red pepper gives it a really fresh flavor. I completely agree with you about baking the potatoes, I think it is better than boiling for what ever you are making.

  • how random! I made semolina gnocchi for dinner tonight (though the traditional style with lots of butter, milk, and cheese…), then decided to cruise over to your blog, and found this post!
    I had never even heard of these before a few days ago, then came across a recipe in one of my cookbooks and so decided to try it — perhaps I’ll give you version a try next time!

  • Jen, isn’t it absolutely wonderful! I flipped the first time I had it. So glad to see you back.

  • wow–that looks so good. i’m just returning home from a trip and am too pooped to make roman gnocchi tonight, but oh how i wish someone was placing that beautiful pan of goodness in front of me right now.

    i see you’ve recently moved to petaluma. i lived in point reyes station for a while and visited petaluma a few times. i recall visiting a darling knitting shop. it’s worth a peek, even if you aren’t a knitter. you’ve probably already found della fattoria–yum! welcome to california.

  • Denise, I haven’t been in to Della Fattoria yet, but I’ve already scoped it out. I am in awe of knitters as it is one of those things my mind just can’t process. I have the needles and endless amounts of yarn, but have never been able figure it out. . . even with diagrams. Thank you for your warm welcome!

  • a simple “knit” stitch with large needles (19s) and a beautiful yarn is a lovely way to knit. i’ve experimented with more complex projects, but thoroughly enjoy returning to the simple knit knit knit… my mother taught me to knit last year and i find it quite soothing. enjoy della fattoria and your new home!

  • My wife and I have been reading your post salivating. We are going to have so much fun preparing this meal.
    Should we get regular bell peppers?

    Thanks for the gift of a great meal.

  • Jose, If you want. You will just need to roast them before adding to the recipe. Enjoy!

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