Gnocchi alla Romana

Ilse van der Merwe's brand new cookbook “Cape Mediterranean: The Way We Love to Eat” is a visual feast as you page through recipes; South African cuisine deeply influenced by the Mediterranean. Easy to make and comfort food at its best.




45 g of melted butter
35 g (1/2 cup) of grated Pecorino, Grana Padano, Gruyère or Parmesan cheese
3 egg yolks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 litre (4 cups) of milk
1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) of ground nutmeg
200 g (1 2/3 cup) of semolina flour


60 g of melted butter
125 ml (1/2 cup) of fresh cream
35 g (1/2 cup) of grated Pecorino, Grana Padano, Gruyère or Parmesan cheese
80 g of pancetta sliced into small pieces
300 g mushrooms, broken into smaller pieces if very large
olive oil for frying
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few sprigs of thyme


Start with the gnocchi. Line a 30 x 25 x 2 cm baking tray with non-stick baking paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the butter, cheese and yolks, season generously and set aside.

Heat the milk in a large saucepan, add the nutmeg and season. When the milk starts to boil, add the semolina while stirring.

Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook while stirring, until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides. Remove from the heat, add the yolks and cheese mixture and mix until well combined.

Transfer the mixture to the baking tray, edging it into the corners and smoothing the surface to an even thickness, using a spatula dipped in cold water. Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 25 x 18 x 5 cm baking dish.

Fry the pancetta in a pan until it gets crispy and the fat has been released. Remove with a slotted spoon, add the mushrooms and fry them, adding more oil if needed, until just cooked.

Spoon the pancetta and mushrooms in the bottom of the baking dish (reserving a few for garnish).

Turn the semolina slab out of the tray onto a clean working surface and peel off the baking paper. Cut the slab into whichever shapes you like (squares, triangles...). Arrange the cut shapes, slightly overlapping on top of the mushrooms.

Drizzle the butter and cream over the gnocchi and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes until they are golden and bubbly. Reheat the reserved mushrooms and serve them as a garnish.

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Photographer, Stylist
Baking, Cooking
Photographer, Videographer and Food Stylist, Hein van Tonder is a native South African with a combination of local, continental and global creative experiences.
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