This is my mother’s version of Gnocchi alla Romana, which she served as a side dish. There’s something festive about its scalloped golden and bubbling crust. I love that her original handwritten recipe calls for “farina." Most supermarkets carry semolina these days, but back then, farina (or Cream of Wheat) was what was commonly available. That's actually still what I use here, even when there's a bag of semolina in my pantry. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I think it tastes best that way. —amysarah
Test Kitchen Notes
There was no way that this dish wasn't going to be good. The texture was nicely toothsome, and it was easy to cut out circles of the farina "polenta" and tile them in a baking dish. I would recommend covering the top with cheese and dotting with butter. I know this dish isn't meant to be light or lean, but, as a cheesy, indulgent side dish, it was really good. —Catherine Lamb
Combine 2 cups of milk, 2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, salt, and a tiny pinch nutmeg in a medium-large saucepan. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, mix the farina with 1 cup cold milk in a bowl, until well blended. Add this cold mixture into the simmering milk, whisking continually to avoid lumps. Cook over medium-low flame, stirring often, until it is very thick (if too loose, the cut out shapes will "melt" when baked.) Remove from heat and let cool 5 to 10 minutes.
Stir 3/4 cup of the grated Parmesan and the egg into the farina mixture until well combined.
Pour mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet or shallow pan, so it's about 1/2-inch deep. Smooth top to make an even thickness and cool briefly. Cover and chill in fridge for at least 4 hours or, better, overnight, until very firm.
Preheat oven to 425° F and butter a shallow baking dish.
Using a round cookie cutter or juice glass, cut the chilled batter into rounds. Arrange them in the baking dish, overlapping slightly so they form a scalloped pattern. (I use the leftover scraps to fill in any gaps at the sides of the pan or bake them in a small separate dish—chef's reward.) At this point, you can cover the pan and hold it several hours in the fridge before baking.
Melt the remaining butter and drizzle it evenly over the gnocchi rounds. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of Parmesan evenly over the top.
Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the edges bubble. Serve directly from the baking dish.