Warming, nourishing and hearty, this is the kind of meal that makes winter worthwhile – and you can do all the hard work the day before.
Recipe: Beef cheek casserole with gnocchi alla Romana
Beef cheek casserole with gnocchi alla Romana
serves 6 to 8
4 300g beef cheeks, trimmed
1 cup plain flour
2 brown onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
12 sage leaves
250ml red wine
95g tomato paste
400ml beef stock
Preheat the oven to 160C. Season the cheeks generously and dredge in flour. Heat 30ml oil in a large casserole that you are happy to bring to the table. Brown the beef well on each side. Remove from casserole and keep warm. In the same pan, heat another 30ml oil and add onion, garlic, sage and a splash of wine. Cook very gently until onion is soft but not coloured. Add tomato paste and cook thoroughly. Return cheeks to casserole, add stock and remaining red wine.
Allow to come to the boil. Cover and put into the oven for 3 hours. By this time the beef should be very tender. If the meat is not fork-tender, replace the lid and cook for another 30-60 minutes. The meat is ready when it is easy to pull apart with a fork. At this point, break up the meat into roughly bite-sized pieces using two forks. Taste for seasoning.
Top with discs of gnocchi alla Romana and bake until golden.
Gnocchi alla Romana
1L whole milk
175g fine semolina
1 tsp salt, plus more as desired
4 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided into two lots, plus more for greasing
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 large egg yolk
Heat the milk in a large saucepan over medium-high until nearly boiling. Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the semolina flour stirring the mixture constantly. Cook until the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
Stir in ⅔ of the parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow to cool a little.
Add the egg yolks and continue stirring, scraping the sides of the pan as well, until the mixture is very thick, about 10 minutes or so. Remove from the heat.
Moisten a baking tray with cold water. Spoon the hot semolina mixture onto the tray, spreading it into an even layer that is about 2-3cm thick. Let cool for 20-30 minutes in the fridge. Using a 5-6cm biscuit cutter, cut the semolina into disks, dipping the biscuit cutter in water between cuts to prevent it sticking. Transfer the semolina rounds onto another baking tray, making sure the discs are not touching. Allow to sit in the fridge while you are waiting for the beef cheeks to cook.
When the beef is cooked, arrange discs of gnocchi overlapping in concentric circles.
Distribute the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, divided into small pieces, over the top of the semolina discs. Sprinkle the top with the remaining grated cheese. Bake uncovered at 200C for 15 to 20 minutes or until a light golden crust is formed.
Get ahead: The casserole can be made several days in advance, as can the discs of gnocchi alla Romana. Then all that remains is to top the beef cheeks with the gnocchi and bake in the oven until golden.
This recipe first appeared in the June 2022 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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