I was excited to try this dish because I love gnocchi. I’m not sure why. There isn’t much to them but they make me very happy. This recipe is for gnocchi in a very different way than I am a custom to seeing. First off the dish is baked. I have only had gnocchi boiled. Second, the gnocchi is made with semolina. I have only enjoyed them made with potatoes.
After reviewing the recipe, I felt a certain satisfaction when I realized I already had all the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator. A couple of weeks ago I purchased semolina flour for a bread recipe I wanted to try. Finally, a recipe I can complete without making a special trip to the market. My excitement was short lived because the semolina I have is very fine powdery flour. Dang it! So off I go on yet another ingredient hunting expedition. A few stores later I found the required coarsely ground semolina.
My excitement quickly returned as I examined the semolina closely. It looked very similar to farina. I love farina. As a young girl I loved to eat farina for breakfast or after an early evening of playing in the snow. Even now on a day when the world seems crueler than usual I soothe myself with a big bowl topped with a little sugar, milk and a pat of butter. If semolina gnocchi is half as good I will be happy.
The preparation calls for cooking the semolina over low heat in milk until a thick mass emerges. Then egg yolks, butter, parmesan cheese are mixed in. The mixture is then spread out on a counter to cool completely before being cut into discs. The discs are arranged shingle style in a buttered dish and topped with bacon or boiled ham and more parmesan. I used ham. Bake, cool slightly and serve.
While the gnocchi was baking I decided to look up the difference between farina and semolina. As defined by The New Food Lover’s Companion:
Semolina – Durum wheat that is more coarsely ground than normal wheat flours, a result that is often obtained by sifting out the finer flour.
Farina – 1) Made from cereal grains, farina is a bland tasting flour or meal that, when cooked in boiling water, makes a hot breakfast cereal. 2) Italian for “flour”
Obviously, this writer does not enjoy farina. That’s okay I learned something new today.
There is a fine line with foods as far as my palate is concerned. For example, tuna salad is good. Tuna casserole is not. Meringue is edible. Egg as egg in any other form is not. Farina is good. Semolina as pasta is good. Grits are not good. I do not like grits. And will only eat them if literally there is nothing else available and the hope of accessing appealing food may take days. Basically I will only eat them in an emergency. Or, if prepared and offered to me by a gentle, kind senior citizen. For them I will force down a no thank you helping. I do have some manners. Anyone younger than seventy will get a resounding, “NO THANK YOU!”
Why I am I blabbing on and on about this? This dish’s flavor straddles or should I say crosses the line. Semolina gnocchi tastes like grits. Cheese grits with ham to be exact. Perhaps this is appealing to others out there. It is not appealing to me. I was disappointed. Oh, well. The texture of the gnocchi is firm but still soft at the same time. The taste is slight creaminess followed by a salty bite from the ham and cheese. I opted out of trying the suggested fritters made from the semolina trimmings.
Herbst, Sharon Tyler. The New Food Lover’s Companion. New York: Barron’s, 2001.
© 2010 Irene D. Ericson