Recipe: Semolina Gnocchi with Wild Winelands Mushrooms

Ilse van der Merwe, author of the new cookbook Cape Mediterranean, substitutes potato with wheat in her semolina gnocchi dish.

Tasha Seccombe

semolina gnocchi Cape Mediterranean | House and Leisure

'In Italy, they call these delicious semolina shapes Roman gnocchi, or gnocchi alla Romana – circles or squares cut from a cooked slab of semolina, baked in cream and mature cheese to a fabulous custardy consistency,' writes Ilse van der Merwe in her new cookbook Cape Mediterranean: The Way We Love To Eat. 'If you’re scared to roll out potato gnocchi dough, but love the idea of eating gnocchi, this will become your party trick.

'It’s almost like a creamy ‘potato gratin’ or a ‘paptert’, but made with soft-set wheaty porridge. During autumn, you can forage wild mushrooms with an expert at Delheim and a few other establishments. Don’t try to do this without the assistance of a professional, for obvious reasons. The semolina can be prepared a day or two in advance, wrapped and stored in the fridge in the slab form or in circles. Assembling and baking should be done just before serving.' 

ALSO READ: Recipe: Decadent Mushroom Pasta

Semolina Gnocchi With Wild Winelands Mushrooms, Thyme, Mature Cheese and Cream

For the Semolina Slab


  • 45g butter, melted
  • 35g grated pecorino, grana padano, Gruyère or Parmesan cheese
  • 3 extra-large egg yolks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 litre milk
  • 1ml ground nutmeg
  • 200g semolina flour

For the Sauce


  • 60g butter, melted, plus more for frying
  • 125ml fresh cream
  • 80ml grated cheese (same as above)
  • About 250g wild mushrooms, broken into smaller pieces if very large
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2–3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • Fresh micro herbs, to serve

For the semolina slab, line a 2x25x30cm baking tray with non-stick baking paper. In a mixing bowl, whisk the butter, cheese and egg yolks and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the milk in a medium-large saucepan. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. When the milk starts to boil, add the semolina while stirring. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides (it takes 5-8 minutes). Watch carefully and don’t let it burn.

Remove from the heat. Add the egg yolk and cheese mixture and mix until smooth, working quickly. 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. Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 5x18x25cm baking dish. Turn the semolina slab out of the tray onto a clean working surface and peel off the baking paper. Cut the slab into circles, using a 4cm cookie cutter or small cup dipped in cold water – or cut it into whichever shapes you like. Arrange the cut shapes, slightly overlapping, in the greased casserole. Now make the sauce.  

For the sauce, drizzle the butter and cream over the semolina gnocchi. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbly. While the semolina gnocchi is baking, pan-fry the mushrooms until golden. When the gnocchi comes out of the oven, top with the seasoned mushrooms and herbs and serve at once.

Serves 6
Buy your copy of Cape Mediterranean: The Way We Love To Eat by Ilse van Der Merwe here.
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