Anna Rita Flati is the Administrative Director of Cornell in Rome. Responsible for keeping the program running smoothly and fielding issues ranging from apartment mishaps to the finer details of complex fieldtrip itineraries and special events, Anna Rita is known for maintaining her warm and welcoming outlook through the most arduous of dilemmas. Rumors have circulated since the beginning of the semester that in addition to her organizational skills, she is also an incredible cook of Italian foods. Last week, the Cornell in Rome students were able to see (and taste!) for themselves, as Anna Rita hosted a gnocchi-cooking lesson in the palazzo lecture hall.
Gnocchi is a kind of pasta made with only a few simple ingredients: flour, eggs, potatoes, and water. Combined in the correct proportions, they are then kneaded into soft, white dough. These piles are subsequently divided and rolled into long rope-like pieces. Next, the ropes are sliced into small two-centimeter sections to form the gnocchi pieces. Under Anna Rita’s watchful gaze, Art, Architecture and Planning students slowly began the process of transforming raw ingredients into piles of puffy dough and neat trays of freshly sliced gnocchi, ready for the pot. “Do this so the gnoccho will hold more sauce!” Anna Rita advised, as she demonstrated the last essential step: a quick press and flick of the finger that transforms the tiny blob of dough into an appealingly pasta-shaped curl.
After about an hour, the commotion had died down, the last trays of finished gnocchi were carried off to the kitchen, and the long lecture tables were swept of flour and arranged in the center of the room. It was time to eat! To our surprise, Anna Rita had spent the entire day preparing a selection of frittata appetizers, a cauldron of vegetable soup, and six sauces with which to eat the gnocchi. Far from a mere cooking lesson, this was a feast! Soon, steaming pots of gnocchi and sauces emerged from the kitchen. The next hour and a half was filled with the clattering of cutlery and the buzz of enjoyment as sauces were compared and one pot of gnocchi after another emerged from the kitchen. Just when the meal was drawing to a close and a few diners began to push their chairs back in satisfaction, a final surprise was in store. Anna Rita and Daniela, the housekeeper of the Cornell in Rome apartment complex, had baked a delicious spread of traditional Italian cakes. Served with sparkling wine, the delicious dessert was the perfect ending to an evening filled with the energy of celebration.