Semolina Dumplings with Butter and Cheese Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This is possibly the best technique in the world for making instant dumplings, and it is a liberating experience for both novices and experienced cooks. By raining droplets of water onto a mound of semolina, doughy morsels are formed of various sizes. These bits of dough are then dropped into simmering water, producing a fresh batch of dumplings in a matter of minutes. Like gnocchi or spatzle, these dumplings are full-bodied and stand up equally well in an impromptu butter and cheese sauce (as they are prepared here) as they do with a good broth to make a quick and satisfying soup. Semolina, made from durum wheat, is granular in nature, not powdery like all-purpose flour, and is available in both coarse and fine varieties. A fine semolina will give you softer, more tender dumplings as compared to the coarsely ground kind. You can experiment to see which type suits you best. If you can’t find fine semolina, you can also pulse the coarser type in a clean spice grinder for a lighter consistency. Frascatelli can also be served with Oxtail Sauce or Walnut Sauce from Gnocchi di Castagne.



Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseMain Course, Side Dish

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Halal, Kosher, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegetarian

Five Ingredients or LessYes


MoodBlue, Stressed

Taste and TextureButtery, Cheesy, Savory, Umami

Type of DishFresh Pasta, Pasta


  • 3½ cups semolina, plus some extra for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Colander with large (¼ inch) holes
  • Large, wide bowl to hold the dumplings cooked in batches


  1. Make the dumplings: Fill a large pot halfway with salted water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low for a gentle simmer.

  2. Meanwhile, spread the semolina out evenly on a work surface until about 1 inch deep. (You can also place it in a large, wide bowl. Using a bowl will reduce the surface area of the semolina, causing you to repeat the sprinkling and sifting steps a few more times.) Have ready two large plates.

  3. Fill a medium bowl at least halfway with water and place it next to the semolina. Sink your fingers into the water, then flick them a few inches over the semolina, causing the water to splotch across its surface. Continue dipping and flicking until the saturated spots are visible and numerous. The goal is to create a generous amount of spots, not a surface that is soaked through. Dry your hands and gently swirl your fingers through the semolina until evenly coated clumps of dough form. Break apart any exceptionally large pieces into a more uniform size.

  4. Gently scoop the dough pieces into the colander and sift over the semolina that remains on the work surface. Once the excess semolina and smaller bits have been sifted out, turn the dough pieces in the colander onto one of the plates. Gather up and spread the semolina out again. Repeat the sprinkling, swirling, and sifting steps until you have created as many dough pieces as you can, distributing them evenly between the two plates.

  5. Cook the dumplings: Bring the water back up to a strong boil over high heat. Carefully slide one plate of the dough pieces into the water and gently stir to prevent sticking. Cook until the dumplings become more buoyant and tumble around easily in the simmering water, about 1 minute, then cook for 1 minute longer.

  6. Remove the frascatelli with a slotted spoon, place them in the large bowl, and drizzle with a ladle of the cooking liquid to prevent sticking. Cook the remaining dough pieces and put them in the bowl with another ladle of the cooking liquid. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid.

  7. Make the sauce and finish the dumplings: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain the frascatelli and turn them into the butter. Toss and stir gently to evenly coat the dumplings. Pour in the reserved cooking water and stir occasionally while the sauce comes to a simmer, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, mix in the Romano, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.

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