This recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana comes from Ilse van der Merwe’s brand new cookbook, titled, Cape Mediterranean – the way we love to eat.

Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana

Cape Mediterranean is Ilse’s first cookbook and focusses on a South African style of cooking and entertaining deeply influenced by the Mediterranean. A way of cooking that has developed naturally within the Western Cape due to the similar climate we experience and the abundance of fresh Mediterranean-style local produce. Ilse is known for her award-winning blog, The Food Fox as well as the premium food and music lifestyle show, Klankbord which she produces and presents.

Gnocchi alla Romana

With photographs by Tasha Seccombe, the book is a visual feast as you page through recipes like Winelands Grape Pizza Bianca, Loaded Hummus, Steamed Saldanha Bay Mussels in Sauvignon Blanc and a White Tiramisu with Cape Brandy (love this recipe!). The recipes are deliciously interesting with lovely flavour combinations ranging from fresh and healthy to rich and indulgent. It was the Semolina Gnocchi with Wild Winelands Mushrooms, Thyme, Mature Cheese and Cream (also known as Gnocchi alla Romana) that caught my eye and I immediately wanted to make. It sounded so good and with another Cape winter storm heading our way it was perfect timing too.
Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana

The gnocchi is super easy to make and is comfort food at its best. More baked semolina and than true gnocchi (made with potato), it is believed to have its origins in the Middle East and is a well-known dish today in Rome. I tweaked the recipe slightly and added some chopped pancetta to the mushrooms and instead of adding the mushrooms as a topping, I placed them at the bottom of the dishes (I made individual bowls) before arranging and baking the semolina slices on top. I think most important not to skimp on the quality of the cheese, get the best quality and a proper mature hard cheese that will add loads of flavour to the dish. Omit the pancetta and serve the gnocchi as a side dish to a garlicky roast chicken. How delicious!

Gnocchi alla Romana

Cape Mediterranean – the way we love to eat is available right now (online and in stores) and is a worthy addition to any cook’s collection.

Gnocchi alla Romana


  • Gnocchi
  • 45g butter, melted
  • 35g (1/2 cup) grated Pecorino, Grana Padano, Gruyère or Parmesan cheese
  • 3 egg yolks
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 litre (4 cups) milk
  • 1ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground nutmeg
  • 200g (1 2/3 cup) semolina flour
  • Sauce
  • 60g butter melted
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) fresh cream
  • 35g (1/2 cup) grated Pecorino, Grana Padano, Gruyère or Parmesan cheese
  • 80g pancetta, sliced into small pieces
  • 300g mushrooms, broken into smaller pieces if very large olive oil for frying
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Few sprigs of thyme


  1. For the gnocchi line a 30 x 25 x 2 cm baking tray with non-stick baking paper
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the butter, cheese and yolks, season generously and set aside
  3. Heat the milk in a large saucepan, add the nutmeg and season
  4. When the milk starts to boil, add the semolina while stirring
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook while stirring, until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides
  6. Remove from the heat, add the yolks and cheese mixture and mix until well combined
  7. 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.
  8. Set aside to cool completely
  9. Preheat the oven to 180 °C and grease a 25 x 18x5 cm baking dish
  10. Fry the pancetta in a pan until crispy and the fat has been released
  11. Remove with a slotted spoon and add the mushrooms
  12. Fry the mushrooms, adding more oil if needed, until just cooked
  13. Spoon the pancetta and mushrooms in the bottom of the baking dish (reserving a few for garnish)
  14. 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 etc.)
  15. Arrange the cut shapes, slightly overlapping on top of the mushrooms.
  16. Drizzle the butter and cream over the gnocchi and sprinkle with cheese
  17. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbly.
  18. Serve with reserved mushrooms (reheated) as garnish
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I hope you enjoy this recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana. If you’ve made the recipe share it with me by tagging @heinstirred on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #heinstirred.

In the mood for more gnocchi? Check out this fab Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms recipe

Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms

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My Vegetarian Braai

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