Gnocchi with Gorgonzola, Walnuts, and Rosemary

Years ago when my husband and I were newly married, we were invited to dinner one night by another young couple, both of whom were Italian. Although the entire meal was delicious, the dish I remember best was their gnocchi made with farina. Gnocchi (Italian for dumplings) can be prepared with potatoes, flour, or farina, and are usually enriched with eggs and cheese. Today, flour-based gnocchi are fashionably popular, but farina ones have long been my favorite. These gnocchi, garnished with crumbled gorgonzola, chopped walnuts, and minced fresh rosemary can be assembled ahead and served as a first course or a side dish.

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola, Walnuts, and Rosemary

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup regular or quick-cooking (not instant) farina (See note.)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus extra for the baking sheet, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup (about 1 ounce) creamy gorgonzola, coarsely crumbled or diced
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (See note.)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary plus rosemary sprigs for garnish

Heat the milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Lower the heat and add the farina, pouring it in a thin, slow stream and whisking it steadily. Continue whisking until it forms a thick mass on the whisk; this will take 3 to 5 minutes with regular farina and about 2 minutes with quick-cooking farina.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon of the butter, salt, and egg yolk. Whisk rapidly to avoid coagulating the egg, until all the ingredients are well blended.

Lightly moisten the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with water and spread the farina mixture in it, using a spatula or broad-bladed knife to smooth it to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch. Refrigerate the mixture until completely cooled, about 30 minutes.

Generously butter a rimmed baking sheet. With a 2-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut rounds out of the farina and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Gather up the scraps, press them together and continue to cut out additional rounds until all the mixture is used. Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and dot each gnocchi with butter You should get about 20 gnocchi. (Gnocchi can be assembled 4 to 5 hours ahead; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

When ready to bake gnocchi, arrange a rack at center position, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the gnocchi until they are light golden on the top and lightly browned on the bottom, 25 to 30 minutes. Watch carefully so the bottoms don’t burn. To serve, garnish warm gnocchi with gorgonzola, toasted nuts, a sprinkle of chopped rosemary, and rosemary sprigs. Serves 4 as a first course or side dish and 6 as an appetizer. (Makes about 20 gnocchi)

Note: You’ll find farina, which is also called cream of wheat in the warm cereals section of the supermarket. Cream of wheat comes in instant, quick cooking, and regular varieties. Use the quick cooking or regular, not the instant for this recipe.

Note: To toast walnuts, spread on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast on center shelf of a preheated 350 degree oven until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove and cool.

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2011

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