Gniochhi a la Romana

We’re quite arrogant when we look back at people in the past, even people in the fairly recent past. Somehow it seems that we imagine they were poor, unimaginative, boring cooks, but the more I look at old cookery books the more I come across ingredients we take for granted today and even think are modern and fashionable. I’m not saying that gnocchi is fashionable, but I bet most people think it was something only available recently and on more modern menus. But no… ok, the spelling is not quite right, but ninety years ago people were making gnocchi at home… and here is a recipe (even if it isn’t one we would use today!)

Gniochhi a la Romana – (I’m sure this is a spelling mistake!)

  • 2 oz semolina (or sago if preferred)
  • ½ pint milk
  • 1 oz butter
  • 2 oz grated cheese
  • 1 tsp anchovy essence
  • pepper
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • croutons of bread
  1. boil the milk with the anchovy essence
  2. sprinkle on semolina and breadcrumbs stirring well all the time
  3. simmer for 15 mins until thick, stirring occasionally
  4. stir in half the butter and half the cheese and add pepper to taste
  5. spread thickly on a plate and when cold cut into round cakes with a pastry cutter
  6. melt the rest of the butter n  a frying pan, dip each semolina round and then into the rest of the cheese
  7. place on a baking tray and brown in a very hot oven
  8. cut the croutons slightly larger than the semolina cakes and fry them for one minute in smoking hot fat
  9. serve each cake on a crouton, sprinkled with cheese

This is different from what we know, but the idea and thought was similar… maybe the housewife then would decide to serve them with tomato sauce, if so, here’s a spicy recipe from the same book:

Tomato sauce

  • 1½ lbs tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, sliced
  • ½ pint vinegar
  • 4 oz sugar
  • a few cloves, 1 oz allspice, 2 tsp peppercorns tied in a muslin
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • cornflour
  1. add tomatoes, onions and vinegar to a pan with sugar and salt and the spices
  2. bring to the boil and cook gently for 1½ – 2 hours
  3. remove spices and rub through a sieve (or blitz or blend)
  4. return to the pan and thicken with cornflour (I think we would have a naturally thickened sauce for our modern tastes)
  5. bottle when cold

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