This is an absolutely beautiful dish that holds its own as a main course, although it is often suggested it should be served with meat. I think putting it alongside meat somehow unfairly demotes it. Approach this dish with patience – it took me a few goes to get the dough right and the first attempt ended in the bin. But know that once mastered, you will have a very special main course in your repertoire.
You will need a round cookie cutter for cutting out the dough
- 1 litre of milk
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of semolina
- 1 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 55 grams unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the top:
- 1/2 grated fresh parmesan
- 40 g unsalted butter
- pinch of grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Before you start, prepare a surface to roll out the dough. Clean a large surface or table top and oil it with the olive oil. Get all your ingredients ready in bowls and jugs.
Bring the milk and water to the boil in a large saucepan and add a pinch of salt. Drop the heat down to low, you don’t want the liquid furiously bubbling. Slowly whisk in the semolina – you want to avoid lumps so make it a very slow, fine shower and keep whisking the whole time. Remove from the heat and quickly mix in the parmesan cheese, butter and eggs.
Pour the mixture onto the oiled surface and spread it out with a spatula until it is about 1 cm thick. Cover completely with clingwrap and leave to cool.
Grease a baking dish with a little butter. Cut the dough into round with the cookie cutter and arrange in overlapping rows in the baking dish. You will need to take up the leftover dough, respread and cut. This is tricky, and you will find that it will not be as perfect as the first layer, but it doesn’t have to be. Just do your best. Using a spatula to carefully lift the rounds will help, as will cutting the first batch as close as possible.
Sprinkle the top with the extra cheese, and dot the butter over the top. Sprinkle the nutmeg over the top and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, increase the heat to 200 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes.
Serve this with a rocket and radicchio salad, or a medley of beautiful steamed green vegetables – eg asparagus, fresh peas and beans.