Gnocchi alla romana con salmone – semolina gnocchi with smoked salmon

Heart shaped gnocchi alla romana
A burst of romance…
Potato gnocchi may be the only type of gnocchi you have ever made or tasted, and that is totally understandable given their yumminess. In theory there would be no reason to try anything else. Yet I genuinely think you are missing out if you haven’t tried, at least once, gnocchi made of semolina, aka gnocchi alla romana.

I haven’t blogged for a while as so much has been happening since my last post, including George’s catching a number of infections, which forced us to live somewhat lonely days at home, sneezing and coughing pretty much constantly (morale was really low), as I was unwell too; then getting ready for a huge milestone (George turned 3 years old!); and finally starting to work on a potentially exciting project about which I cannot reveal anything yet! In short: difficult, busy and happy times… but mostly happy.

George and Mariacristina smiling in front of tiramisu
You don’t turn 3 every day when you are already 34, do you?!

George's and Mariacristina's friends
Blessed with some pretty cool and loving friends

Tiramisu and ciambellone al limone
TWO cakes is better than just one… right? Tiramisu and ciambellone al limone!
I decided to return to the blog with an intruder recipe: after tiramisu’ and suppli’ al telefono, I am again invading my blog with a recipe that is not quite from the south of Italy, but not from the north, either. I’m taking the liberty of sharing this wonderful recipe from the centre of Italy on my Southern Italian food blog. What the heck… life is too short to stick to rules and principles all the time, right? Right?:-P

I remember it was love at first bite with gnocchi alla romana. When my mum made them for the first time more than 15 years ago, she decided to use a special variation of the original recipe, which, I must say, turned a wonderful dish into something absolutely stellar.

For those of you who roll your eyes at the thought of semolina, please stop and reassess. Semolina is cooked in milk previously heated up with some butter, a little grated nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Then the mixture is enriched with plenty of grated Parmesan and an egg. And then there is mamma Mariolina’s personal touch: the addition of sliced smoked salmon to the dough. My stomach is rumbling just at the thought of it!

Aside from the rich taste, their lovely crispy top and soft heart, which are to die for, I should add that these gnocchi are easier and quicker to make than potato gnocchi – especially if you usually see your gnocchi literally melt in the hot water, or turn out as hard as rocks. If you are fed up with your gnocchi going wrong, then you should definitely give gnocchi alla romana a go (or try my foolproof recipe for gnocchi di patate).

I have made these gnocchi quite often recently, but this recipe definitely takes me back to George’s 30th birthday, when we celebrated at home with a “black tie with a touch of blue” dinner party with some of our closest friends.

George'd dinner party for his 30th birthday
Blue-themed dinner party for George’s 3+0 birthday!
It was the first time I had cooked for more than 15 people. I wanted to cook something different and special, but also that I could prepare in advance. Gnocchi alla romana ticked all the boxes! I don’t know what happened that night, but somehow plates came back to the kitchen as though they had already been washed up… Surely it isn’t possible that anyone might have licked their plates clean? Haha!

All in all this is a great dish that brings back memories of a very special evening spent being showered with love and affection by some very close friends.

Recipe please!

Ingredients for gnocchi alla romana con salmone

Serves 6

For the dough

  • 1l full fat milk
  • 25g butter, chopped
  • Half a teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of fine salt
  • 250g semolina
  • 2 medium-sized egg yolks
  • 100g grated Parmesan
  • 250g smoked salmon, chopped in small chunks

For the condiment

  • 120g salted butter, melted to liquid consistency
  • 40g grated pecorino


  • Basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to line the oven dishes


In a large saucepan add the milk, butter, nutmeg and salt. Give it a stir. On medium heat bring the milk to a simmer.

Add the semolina gradually. Stir well and incorporate into the mixture. Do not add more semolina until the previous addition has been properly incorporated. Stir constantly to avoid lumps.

Keep stirring until the mixture becomes compact and comes off the walls of the pan easily. A wooden spoon should stand upright by itself if stuck into the middle of the mixture.

Semolina mixture for migliaccio
The mixture is coming off the walls…
Remove the pan from the heat. Add the yolks, the grated Parmesan and incorporate them all evenly into the rest of the mixture.

mixing gnocchi alla romana
A touch of decadence with a shower of Parmesan and eggs…
Add the chopped salmon and incorporate well into the mixture. Line a large oven dish with the oil (one tablespoon). Spread the mixture evenly at a depth of 1cm. This can be slightly less or more, depending on your taste, but it should have decent depth.

gnocchi alla romana with salmon
Ready to be laid
Leave to cool for an hour. 15 minutes before the cooling time is over, preheat the oven to 220°C (200° fan).

To cut and shape the gnocchi

You can make your gnocchi any shape you want. Round – about 5cm diameter – is the traditional option. But hearts work well, too. You can use any pastry cutter that takes your fancy. Top tip: line the cutter with some oil as it will prevent the gnocchi from getting stuck inside.

Heart shaped gnocchi alla romana
“I love you.”
Line a 28cm oven dish (depending on the shape you chose, you may need a bigger one or simply use two) with the oil. Place one gnocco at a time, such that they all slightly overlap.

Heart shaped gnocchi alla romana
Half of my heart belongs to you
For the condiment

Melt the butter (gently in a saucepan or microwave) until it is liquid. Pour it evenly over the gnocchi. Sprinkle the pecorino.

Heart shaped gnocchi alla romana
I have it all: I am beautiful and tasty.
Place the dish in the oven for 20-30 minutes (until the cheese is melted and the surface is starting to bubble slightly). Then move it to the upper shelf of the oven and grill the gnocchi (with the oven door half open) for 5 minutes or until they get a nice golden crust on top.

Remove from the oven, add some basil leaves and serve immediately.

Yes: gnocchi alla romana are very decadent and definitely not suitable for people who are trying to lose weight. But what about getting a spoonful of happiness with this super tasty dish and then going for a run or a long walk? Life is too short to always worry about looking pretty and slim, anyway!

You could serve gnocchi as finger food, too, in individual portions. You could add a little slice of fresh smoked salmon and and a basil leaf. They will look so cute and they really don’t need to be eaten warm; room temperature is absolutely fine.

Remember: you can prepare the dough and cut out the shapes the day before and store them in the fridge overnight, well covered. The next day you just need to add the butter and pecorino and cook in the oven. Definitely a good way to save time:-D

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