Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana

A forgotten classic?

Gnocchi alla Romana (Gnocchi Roman Style) is a dish of la Cucina Povera that originated in Rome. Although these gnocchi are not the typical gnocchi with potato we are familiar with, they are still considered gnocchi.  Gnocchi alla Romana is a rich dish made with semolina flour, butter, and milk, then baked “Au gratin” style. It is a very modest dish made with simple ingredients that are easy to find and very filling.  For my gnocchi recipe, I substitute butter with olive oil. The milk can also be substituted with broth. To serve 4 to 6, you will need:

3 cups whole milk (or low sodium broth)
3/4 cup semolina flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg
1 ½ cups finely grated Pecorino cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. 

Whisk together the cold milk, semolina, salt and pepper in heavy saucepan. Bring everything to a boil over moderate heat. Simmer and stir constantly for 5 to 8 minutes with a wooden spoon, until very thick.  It should be the consistency of very thick mashed potatoes. Remove from heat; stir in 1 tablespoon of oil and 3/4 cup cheese.  Cool for a few minutes. Add a beaten egg and mix well.  

In a small well oiled baking sheet, spread gnocchi mixture evenly to about 1/2 inch in thickness. Cool and room temperature first, then refrigerate uncovered for an hour until very firm.Cut out either 1 inch or 2 inch rounds with the bottom of a glass, a jar, or round cookie cutter. Arrange each round in a buttered baking pan slightly overlapping. Brush gnocchi with remaining oil, sprinkle with pepper, and the remaining cheese. 

Bake until the gnocchi are golden brown on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Or place under broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melts and becomes golden. Allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.

King Arthur Semolina Flour
If you like you can also serve these gnocchi with sautéed cremini mushrooms, baby zucchini, caramelized onions, and even with a little tomato sauce drizzled on top.

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Meatballs and Sausage Ragu Napolitan Style

Browning Italian Sausage

Serves 4 to 6 persons

Meatballs and sausage
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound (85-15) ground beef
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 eggs, beaten
5 Italian sausages cut in half
Meatballs and Sausage Ragu

The sauce:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ red onion, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 slices minced prosciutto
2 (28 ounce each) cans San Marzano crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large thick bottom pan, add the oil and onion on medium-low heat. Cook until the onion is barely golden.  Add the garlic and prosciutto and cook 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Allow to cook until some of the water from crushed tomatoes has reduced, about 5-8 minutes. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.  At this point the meats can be added.

Making the meatballs:
In the food processor add the garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, and parsley; pulse a few times until fine.

Place the ground beef in a large bowl.  Add the breadcrumb mixture and beaten eggs. Mix gently  until the ingredients are well blended. Squeezing the meat mixture too much can result in tough meatballs, so be gentle.

Make a small meatball and test the seasoning and texture by adding a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and cooking it until browned.

Once the test is done, make seasoning adjustments if needed. Use a scooper or tablespoon to create meatballs either 2 inches in diameter or smaller. Whatever the size you choose, be sure to make them all the same size. When all of the meatballs are made, place them in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in preheated 400F oven until browned. Be sure to turn them once or twice. Or, you can fry them in a large skillet with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. I prefer the skillet. Once all of the meatballs are browned, transfer them to the cooking sauce with the oil. If you prefer a leaner sauce, do not add the oil. The difference by leaving the oil from meatballs is not only that it's traditional, but tastier. 

In a large skillet, cook the sausage on medium heat; add a tablespoon or two of olive oil in skillet if the pan is too dry. Cook until the sausages are browned evenly. When the sausages are browned, transfer then to the sauce with the oil. Stir gently, cover and cook another 25-30 minutes covered.  Wait until the oil rises to the top of the pan. This is an indication that the sauce is ready. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. you can skim the oil from the sauce, or not based on how lean you prefer the sauce.

Cook 1 pound of pasta according to package direction.  Drain well, add a little sauce to the drained pasta; mix well so that the pasta will not stick.  Add some pasta to each serving bowl, top with more sauce, 2 meatballs, a sausage, additional grated cheese and freshly chopped basil.  
San Marzano Tomatoes

This recipe can be served as one course or two. Serve the pasta topped with sauce, meats, cheese and basil as one course. Or as two split courses by serving the pasta with sauce, cheese and basil as one course, and serving the meats in a warmed bowl as the second course. Whatever way you choose to serve it, it will be eagerly eaten and enjoyed.   Growing up, we served it as two courses so we could stretch out the pleasure of eating it, and also we didn’t have to create  another course.  Served this with a salad or cooked vegetables and you have a delicious three course meal. If you have any leftovers, you can make meatball and sausage sandwiches the next day. Top it with shredded mozzarella and bake it in the oven until the cheese melts. My mouth is watering.. got to go make it again!

Arancini Alla Leftover Risotto


When I make risotto, I always make extra so that I can refrigerate it and use it to make Arancini the next day. I save some time on making the Arancini (Small oranges) because the rice is ready to go.

Arancini aren't difficult to make if you have all your ingredients ready to go. You basically need to have two bowls ready to go. The first bowl with beaten eggs, salt and pepper, and second bowl with 2 parts Italian breadcrumbs and 1 part grated Parmesan cheese. Next, have a large skillet ready with a light hot oil. 

Scoop a couple of tablespoons of risotto in the palm of your hand, while your hand is cupped.
Add some filling of choice such as tomato sauce and chunks of cheese, of tomato sauce with meat and peas, cooked ground sausage and sauce, etc. Add a little more risotto on top and form a ball. Make sure that the filling is completely covered.
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Roll each ball into the beaten egg, and next into breadcrumb mixture. Be sure to shake off any excess breadcrumbs before placing int the hot oil. Cook on medium heat until the entire ball is golden. Remove from skillet and place on paper towel. Continue cooking all of the Arancini. Cool slightly before eating.

My family enjoys the risotto and the Arancini. It is so much easier to make it with leftover risotto. The rest is just a process. I find that making the Arancini with the risotto is much more flavorful than plain rice.  It adds a whole new dimension to the recipe. This could be viewed as gourmet Arancini, however, growing up, we made lots of things with leftovers, because we didn't have the funds to do otherwise.  We had to be creative with our leftover ingredients.  I have the funds today to do otherwise, but it is something inside of me that continues to cherish the old fashion way of cooking.  It allows me to be creative, so I continue to do it, and I love it!

Liguria and Tuscany Culinary Expedition May 2015


If  you sign up in the next 48 hours, by January 25, 2015, you will receive a $200 discount. Deposit is also required by January 25, 2015. :!tuscany-2015/c215e

Dear Friends,

Travel changes us. It's a journey that enriches us and enables us to better understand people in the way they live, the way they think, and the way they eat. If the travel is meaningful, we're never the same again, and the place we've traveled to will have something of us left behind. The bonds and the good will are there forever.
We strive to provide our expeditioners the understanding of the 'back-story' of the place they visit. We travel in small groups and stay out of the tourist mainstream, learning the history, art, and gastronomy of the places. We support the idea of the basic, true, and traditional cuisine of a place, and believe that cooking should be a simple affair with the best ingredients grown locally. And food, after all, is the common language we all speak, with a good glass of wine to enhance communication.
So, get your comfortable walking shoes, 'set sail from the safe harbor', and join us in 2015 for a dazzling expedition to Tuscany and Liguria, Italy. Those of you who have mentioned you would like to join us, please don't delay in booking, the groups are small. Here are just a few of the highlights with links:
 Tuscany and Liguria, 7 nights, May 2 - 9, 2015
Includes a cooking class with a chef, and a walk through the seaside mountain paths that connect the ancient seaside towns of Cinque Terre.
·        A visit to the walled cities of San Gimignano and Siena
·        A walk through historic Lucca
·        A drive through the Chianti countryside
·        A visit to Florence
·        A tour of a famous local Renaissance Villa Torrigiani and the Villa Gardoni gardens
Date: May 2 – 9
Price: $3,500 plus $300 single supplement
Lodging: Casale de Pasquinelli:


La Befana, a Traditional Italian Holiday on January 6

La Befena

Different than many other countries around the world, Christmas time in Italy is celebrated until January 6th, Epiphany day. Epiphany honors the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. It’s the last celebration that brings the Christmas period to an end. 

In Italy, the legend of La Befana (The witch) is one that is traditionally told during the time of Epiphany. According to legend, on the night before the feast of the Epiphany, Befana flies around on her broom, delivering gifts. She leaves candy, fruit, and small gifts in the stockings of children who are well-behaved throughout the year. If a child is naughty, he or she believes to find a lump of coal left behind by La Befana. The children look forward to Epiphany with a sense of anxiety and enthusiastic anticipation. According to legend, on the night between the 5th and the 6th of January, while the children are asleep, an old good woman, called “Befana” flies in the sky on her broom with a special bag full of packages. She comes into their home and brings them special gifts, so when they wake up in the morning they find a surprise.
Fig cake
On this day, the children wake up very early in the morning excited to find their gifts. The Italian custom also says that the Befana leaves her gifts not just at one house, but she also visits relatives such as grandparents’, aunts, uncles and other relatives’ homes.  Epiphany day in Italian homes are always full of people visiting and of children unwrapping gifts. Tables are filled with cakes, candy, Italian liqueurs, and everything is encompassed by a happy atmosphere or peace and harmony.

By the way growing up, in the many years we celebrated La Befana, I never received coal by la Befana. I miss this holiday because it was about the children.  The adults brought it together and we celebrated together at the table to finalize the last day of the Christmas holiday.  I love tradition!