Walking into the palazzo on Friday was perhaps the most exciting entry into school I’ve ever had. Like a puppy, suddenly all my senses were alert. I smelled garlic, formaggio, artichoke… and could that be salami? I followed the enthralling waft until I found myself before a long table, strewn with fresh ingredients. Vegetables, meats and cheeses of every color, waiting to be whirled and transformed into sauces galore.
Anna Rita, aka the Master of Gnocchi, had prepared work stations for us to form the gnocchi themselves. The smeared flour that was swept across wooden boards and dotted with piles of eggs and potato brought me back to cooking with my mother, and my hands itched to get started.
The main step was to work the eggs, flour, and mashed potatoes into one cohesive dough. This involved kneading and adding flour until its texture was smooth, puffy, and not sticky. The work table was a frenzy of flour and laughing students, wiggling our dough-caked hands in each other’s faces. Taking turns, we conquered the next step. This involved slicing the dough into smaller sections, rolling them into long, thin logs, and cutting them into one-inch-long gnocchi.
Once this was complete, it was cooking time! Anna Rita wisely left us out of this step. Exhausted from kneading dough (ha!), we munched on various frittata that she made for us beforehand. Before we knew it, the first bowl of gnocchi arrived. We were told that we’d be experiencing gnocchi with seven sauces, in addition to two soups. It was then decided: this was the best day at school I’d ever have. Control yourself and eat little amounts, I told my stomach, but it was very hard. Each sauce was so delicious. My favorites were the Salsa Burro e Salvia, and the Pesto di Peperoni.
A rumor began that I had a pine nut allergy, and I was touched by the amount of people that came running up to me, mouths open and fear in their eyes, to tell me to stop stuffing my face with Pesto di Peperoni or else I’d die. Luckily, the misunderstanding was cleared up and we all continued to eat happily!
A huge thanks to Anna Rita – I will cherish the recipe book she gave us, and I hope to make gnocchi many times in the future.