Semolina and herb gnocchi – an exciting vegetarian treat

semolina gnocchi

Who knew that gnocchi didn’t just refer to those small oval-shaped Italian potato dumplings, but also to this version from Rome?!  It uses semolina, frying the mixture in wedges until deliciously golden and crunchy on the outside and soft and springy in the middle, and is an unusual and exciting recipe (a rare thing in the meat-free world sometimes!). It’s also pretty straightforward to make and you can prepare the mixture in advance. At around £3.50 in total (serving 4-6 people) it’s a great value dish.

The recipe is based on one from the brilliant ‘Veggie Feast’ course at Cordon Verve cookery school in Walthamstow, London. The school has a range of one-off courses in a lovely friendly setting overlooking the vegetable garden:

For the gnocchi, you start by heating butter, milk, herbs and ground nutmeg in a saucepan, then add the semolina, egg yolks and parmesan and mix.

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Pour the mixture in to a baking tray, spread out and chill in the fridge before cutting in to wedges and frying in batches.  It takes about 15 mins to prepare the mixture, at least an hour to chill (or overnight if you wish) then around 35 mins to fry.

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The gnocchi are naughty, creamy and very comforting, so you need to offset that with some vegetables!  We had them with salad and roast potatoes the first day.  And the following day topped with with tinned chopped tomatoes heated with garlic and dried herbs.  This worked brilliantly.  My boyfriend reckons the gnocchi would be good with chopped chorizo added to the mixture before frying, but then again he thinks everything is better with chorizo.  Everything. 

semolina gnocchi

I have also found recipes for the gnocchi mixture being cut in to discs (before frying) and overlapped in an ovenproof dish, sprinkled with cheese and baked in the oven.  That sounds easier but probably not as golden and crunchy as being fried all over!  Anyway, I am rattling on a bit now, so here is the recipe:

Semolina and herb gnocchi (serves 4-6)

200g semolina (course ground – available in supermarkets)

750ml whole milk

80g butter

Small handful of fresh or dried herbs, chopped or pulled off their stalk e.g. rosemary/thyme/dried mixed herbs

Salt and pepper

1/3 tsp ground nutmeg (available from supermarkets)

2 egg yolks

50g grated parmesan cheese


Heat the butter, milk, herbs, nutmeg and salt and pepper in a saucepan until boiling quickly.  Take off the heat and quickly whisk or stir in the semolina and egg yolks, until rubbery.  Stir in the parmesan.  Add a little milk if it is too thick to stir.  Taste, and season more if necessary.

Pour in to a smallish rectangle/square baking tray lined with clingfilm.  Cool, then chill in the fridge for atleast one hour (or overnight if you wish).   Slice in to wedges.

When ready to fry, heat a large frying pan until moderately hot and add a little butter (you only want a small knob as otherwise the gnocchi won’t brown easily).  Fry in batches, turning the slices over when they are a deep golden brown (not dark brown or black!)  Cook until both sides are this colour, remove carefully from the pan and eat!  Nice with salad.