Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Gnocchi alla Romana on Argentinean Gnocchi Day

Gnocchi alla romana - a bit different from the classic gnocchi, even in looks!
 The end of another month is approaching fast... but before we get all philoshophical here and start pondering over  how time flies and where all those nice March days have gone to, take a good look at your calendar. It's almost the 29th of the month and this means... it's Gnocchi Day! Or at least, it's Gnocchi Day in Argentina. 

These small doughy balls known as gnocchi in Italian and as ñoquis in Argentina, are generally made from potato but there are many other varieties that are just as delicious as the traditional potato ones.
To celebrate this special day in our culinary calendar, I invited bloggers Katie, Ana, Rebecca, Meag and Paula  to come up with their special version of the ñoquis for this 29th March. The idea is to share our recipes and have new options for the 29th of the months still to come. We will find out what delicious recipes these ladies have prepared for this special holiday in a moment....

But first, why is the 29th Gnocchi Day in Argentina?

The truth is no one knows for certain and there are a number of theories to explain this tradition, like that it was brought over to the New World by our Italian ancestors who celebrated St. Pantaleon every 29th in Italy by serving gnocchi on this day.

The most likely explanation, though, is that the 29th is the day right before payday and what better food is there to feed your family, that is cheap yet delicious and filling and is easy to make at the same time? The answer is ñoquis, of course!!
Serve them with a simple red or white sauce or just drizzle some olive oil and and put a sprinkle of parmesan on top and it becomes a dish that is rich and will leave you and your loved ones with full bellies and happy hearts. In fact, that is what you say, before eating the ñoquis - but wait! let's explain how it should be done:

First, make your ñoquis and serve them with your favourite sauce. Then place a folded bank note under each plate to attract prosperity to your house and your dear ones. Take your napkin and tie it around your neck (ok, you can skip this one if you promise to mind your manners) and make a toast to a "full belly, happy heart" (in Spanish, "panza llena, corazón contento") and.... dig in!
A friend of mine who is originally from Uruguay (our neighbours from just across the Río de la Plata) told me that in her family, they normally count how many ñoquis each member has been served and later place bets on that number in the lottery! The idea is, do anything and everything you can to bring good luck and prosperity to yourself and your family!

Now, here is my idea for Gnocchi Day tomorrow:

Ñoquis a la Romana: 
Gnocchi alla romana don't have the traditional gnocchi shape.

 This recipe is pretty simple and it can be served as a first course or with some sauté  mushrooms and veggies (leeks or chard stalks and leaves, are my favourite to serve this way) or even some tuna or beef meatballs in a red sauce.
Tomorrow I am going to be serving mine with sauté mushrooms, leek and paksoi. The idea for this combination came from an Argentinean food blogger, Cristina. You can see her recipe here.

They are a bit different from the gnocchi we are used to, they look more like disks than like little dough balls and the texture is different as well. My grandma used to make them when I was a little girl and I remember I used to love cutting the gnocchi in different shapes so that the dish ended up looking a bit strange in the end! Another thing I liked was that if there was any dough left, my grandma used to sprinkle a bit of parmesan and rosemary over the dough, cut it in little sticks and fry them to eat as snacks until the ñoquis (as we called them) were done. 

Ingredients: (serves 4)

45g. unsalted butter, melted
30g Parmesan cheese, grated
3 egg yolks
1l. milk
pinch of nutmeg
200g semolina flour
salt, pepper to taste

For the topping:
40g butter, melted
90ml cream
30g Parmesan cheese, grated


- Have all the ingredients ready beforehand, because the dough needs to be hot when you pace it on the baking sheet to set and cool. 
- Seasoning is important, make sure you taste the dough is not too bland before you put it in the fridge to cool.

Line a shallow bread tin or dish with some greaseproof paper to have it ready when you are done with the mix.
Whisk the butter, Parmesan cheese and the egg yolks and season to taste. Set the mixture aside.

Heat the milk in a big pan. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. When the milk is just beginning to boil, add the semolina flour in a thin stream, little by little, whisking constantly - and I mean, constantly - you don't want lumps in the dough. Reduce the heat and let the mixture cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring continually, until all the milk has been absorbed and the mixture comes loose from the sides of the pan. The texture has to be thick, but still creamy and moist.

Take the pan from the gas and whisk in the egg mixture you had previously set aside. Taste to correct seasoning if necessary.  Spread the dough while still hot (very important, since this will make it easier to spread the dough) on the sheet to a thickness of about 2cm. Spread it as smoothly as you can, using the flat side of a knife or a metal spatula, dipping it first in cold water before touching the dough.
Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours. If you are not going to make the ñoquis right away, you can at this stage the dough overnight or freeze until needed.

To cut the gnocchi I used a cutter with a funny shape. They're ready to go into the oven now!
 Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a shallow ovenproof dish with some butter. Take the flat dough from the fridge and cut disks of about 4 cm in diameter with a round cookie cutter or a glass previously dipped in cold water. Keep dipping the cutter in cold water to prevent sticking. Arrange the disks or ñoquis slightly overlapping in the greased oven dish.
Grate some Parmesan on top of the gnocchi and take it to the oven...

For the topping, mix the butter and the cream. Pour this mixture onto the ñoquis and sprinkle generously some Parmesan cheese. Put the dish in the oven and bake the ñoquis for about 25-30 minutes until the top layer is golden brown. Once they are ready they should be served right away.

Out of the oven, bubbling away...

* * * * *

Let's now take a look at the other ladies' ñoquis recipes!
(you can go to their recipes by clicking on the link under the photo)

Spinach Gnocchi by Paula de Caro

Arugula Gnocchi by Ana O'Reilly

Butternut Squash Gnocchi - Two Ways by Katie
Roasted Beet Gnocchi by Meag

This should definitely see us through the next six months of full bellies and happy hearts, don't you think? (wink!)


BeeMyChef said...

Your gnocchi alla romana look absolutelly AMAZING! I'll try the recipe as soon as I get the chance!
Thanks for inviting me to join the Gnocchi Cruzade!

tita buds said...

So this is what you've been whisking and stirring away at. :)
I thought they were similar to fried potato balls which are already good. Now these baked ones (with parmesan topping!) must be sooo good they deserve a day in their honor. Oh, wait...
Gnocchi Day. That's such a lovely, "full filling" tradition. I'm envious you have it (and the beef pizza!). :(
Btw, on leap years, it's on the 28th?

Unknown said...

Your gnocchi had me salivating this morning :) Try these, they're different and delicious!!
Until the next cooking joint venture!!!

Unknown said...

Yes, I made the dough yesterday and cut it. I actually made two batches, one's gone in the freezer for some other time :)
On leap years I guess we just don't eat gnocchi in February..and to compensate for the frustration we make a huuuuge matambre a la pizza!!! :)

Alison said...

Yum! These all look so delicious! And I had to smile when I saw the colourful dish the arugula gnocchi was served on, since I used to have a couple of those plates!

Katie said...

Your gnocchi look so yummy, especially with that lightly browned, melted cheese sprinkled all over the top! These gnocchi seem like a great option for when you don't feel like rolling out all the tiny individual ones (that takes a long time, especially when you have to feed a lot of people!). I'm definitely going to try these.

Question about the semolina flour: do you use the really finely ground stuff (like I buy for making pizza dough) or the coarser ground flour?

Thanks for organizing the gnocchi challenge! :)

Unknown said...

Thanks! Funny about the plates!! Maybe Ana bought them at the same place you did; she lives in the States :)

Unknown said...

Yes, they don't take rolling but let me tell you that cutting them and getting them to look nice (have you ever seen the series Monk?) took me some time.
About your question:I made two batches; one with semolina, which is very fine flour and another with polenta. The polenta is actually an Italian one I bought here (not instant) and it looks a coarser than the one we normally find in Argentina. In both cases I had no problem with the texture and they taste good!

Ana O said...

Are you saying your OCD kicked in? haha!
Those noquis look sooooo good! Do we also call them noquis de semola? I didn't know what "all romana" meant.
They seem perfect for those long Dutch winters, don't they?

Travel France Online said...

Gnocchis are one of my favourite Italian dishes! I used to buy them already made at a bakery in France (unusual but triue!) and there were divine, i never had such good ones since so i will most likely try your recipe when i am in the mood to be a Kitchen Diva!:)) (I am quite hopeless at cooking so i have to motivate myself!).
I am very intrigued also by the Gnocchi's Day! It seems like a great tradition and it is good that you keep it going.
You made me feel hungry now Aledys!

Unknown said...

Is that Oxford Cambridge Dictionary? haha Yes, my OCD kicks in quite often, actually! I can go nuts! :) (you should've seen me trying to smooth the shape of those gnocchi).
Yes, they're the ñoquis de sémola - the ones in the pictures are made from polenta...
They're not heavy at all, actually. Sure it's great for a winter day but it's also nice eating when it's a nice spring day like today.

Unknown said...

Well, I recently saw a post on another Argie girl's blog with a gnocchi a la Parisienne and I was surprised! It was actually the recipe that got me thinking about the gnocchi alla romana, which are very similar.
These are not very difficult to make, actually, you just need a little practice.
Gnocchi Day is a fun tradition, isn't it?
THanks for stopping by!

Katie said...

You don't have OCD, you're just a perfectionist (like me)! Your attention to detail paid off because your recipe looks great. I really like the presentation.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Katie!! Pheeeewwww....!! :)
Now, the chaos in my kitchen while I'm cooking - that's something that would drive anyone with OCD really nuts! :)

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

Sabés lo que estoy cocinando mañana, para un cliente?
Gnocchis de ricotta con hierbas! (van de acompañamiento a un cordero al Malbec)
No conocia la receta de los gnocchi a la romana, y la forma que les diste esta re-original, y muy visual! Ahora solo me falta probarlos!

Rebecca said...

These look delicious, Aledys! I can't wait to make them myself. We need to make our next post en vivo!

Unknown said...

Qué bueno suena ese menú! Vas a poner las recetas? Me voy ya a comer a París! (no suena "re" chic eso?}
jaja la forma de los ñoquis! No tengo un corta-pasta redondo y con un vasito de esos de gin me salían más finos por ser el vaso más angosto que el borde, así que usé la forma para masitas!
Probalos y me contás!

Unknown said...

EN vivo would be a great experience! Location? :)

BLOGitse said...

Oh no, I'm not allowed to read food posts - trying to keep away those couple of kilos I've lost...still trying to eat away a couple of more kilos, not dieting.
Have a relaxing weekend!

Anonymous said...

Dear Madam,
Some weeks ago - on 02.5.2012 – I posted a comment and I would very much appreciate a quick status update.
I’m looking forward to your response.
Kind Regards,
Malte Zeeck

Unknown said...

@Malte Zeeck,
I don't understand the content of your message; I am clearly missing a message that you previously sent or a comment you left here in the blog?