EITHER BECAUSE AGE brings with it increased tolerance, or more likely because cuisine in general really has improved in recent years, gnocchi don't seem to be as problematic as they used to be. There was a time when you could count on restaurant gnocchi being rubbery at best, hard and gritty at worst. Now we order them fairly often, in "Italian" restaurants from here to Los Angeles, and are rarely reminded of the bad old days.
But those are almost invariably potato gnocchi, and sometimes probably from a commercial kitchen, ordered in quantity, frozen. What about the genuine Roman article, semolina gnocchi?
We'd invited a couple of friends to dinner who do not eat meat, and Cook decided this was the perfect time to try her hand at gnocchi alla romana. She found a recipe in Carla Bardi's Flavvours of Italy: Rome and the Provinces of Lazio (Florence: McRae Books, 2000)— an interesting recipe, I think, and disarmingly simple: you scald milk, slowly dissolve semolina into it, add butter, egg yolks, grated parmesan and gruyère; then spread the mixture out on a board, cut discs from it using a water glass, layer these into a baking dish, sprinkle with grated parmesan, pour melted butter over, and bake.
Let's look at the etymology of gnocchi:
derivato dal veneto gnòco , "protuberanza", "gnocco" di possibile derivazione dal longobardo knohhil , "nodo nel legno"—it.wiktionary.org Clearly this semolina dish has an affinity with the potato version, and perhaps derives from it: soft, dumpling-like paste, manipulated, then cooked. Butter and cheese (and don't forget the pepper: Bardi stipulates white pepper, fresh-ground).
In any case, absolutely delicious, light as a feather, yet filling. With the gnocchi, slow-cooked (oven-roasted) broccoli and cippollini; afterward, green salad. And dessert! Vanilla ice cream with sweet and sour cherries and black currants!Timorasso: Derthona, Vigneti Massa, Monleale (Piemonte), 2012: complex, forthcoming, fragrant, floral, rather weighty, marvelous