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The Art of Gnocchi Making (And Recipe)

It’s practically a crime. I’ve lived in Italy for five years and had never taken an Italian pasta making class. The wonderful team at Castelfali, a Medieval Tuscan town that had fallen into neglect and was recently restored into a 2,700 acre resort, thought so too. They promptly invited me to attend their Castelfalfi Rosso Toscano Cooking School and experience all that the new Tuscan resort has to offer.

Castelfalfi Rosso Toscano Cooking School

Chef Michele Rinaldi mashes potatoes for gnocchi

At Castelfafli Rosso Toscano Cooking School, you won’t learn to cook with just any Italian. The cooking school and La Rocca castle restaurant are under the leadership of Michele Rinaldi, a young chef from Bergamo who earned his first Michelin star in 2011, at just 27 years old. Chef Rinaldi himself taught me how to make gnocchi, so theoretically I should now be able to whip up a home made gnocchi of Michelin-starred standards. I have yet to try to the recipe at home, but it was surprisingly easy and not too time consuming that I am going to give home made gnocchi a try.

The recipes at Castelfalfi Rosso Toscano Cooking School vary depending on what is in season and what you are most interested in making. Class offerings include everything from traditional Tuscan recipes to sweet Italian cakes and desserts. Gnocchi was a perfect choice because it is the most typical type of pasta served in the Friuli Venezia Giulia, the region where I live.

We started by peeling potatoes and getting them in to boiling water because they need to cook until soft. While the potatoes boiled, we made a beef and mushroom sauce for our gnocchi.

Beef and Mushroom Sauce
Straccetti is a typical northern Italian type of sauce with beef that goes over pasta. Use this sauce for potato gnocchi.
Servings Prep Time
8portions 15minutes
Cook Time
1hour
Servings Prep Time
8portions 15minutes
Cook Time
1hour
Beef and Mushroom Sauce
Straccetti is a typical northern Italian type of sauce with beef that goes over pasta. Use this sauce for potato gnocchi.
Servings Prep Time
8portions 15minutes
Cook Time
1hour
Servings Prep Time
8portions 15minutes
Cook Time
1hour
Ingredients
Servings: portions
Instructions
  1. Braise the onion in a little bit of olive oil.
  2. Saute the strips of flank steak and then add them to the onion.
  3. Add red wine and simmer until evaporated, then deglaze the pan with some veal broth.
  4. Saute the mushrooms and set aside.
  5. Simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes and then add the mushrooms. Simmer for 30 minutes more, for a total of 1 hour.

While the beef and mushroom sauce simmered, we made the gnocchi. It was quite easy to made and has just a few ingredients. Chef Rinaldi schooled us with his chopping up of the dough in to nearly uniform sized gnocchi.

Potato Gnocchi
Gnocchi are soft pasta made from potato, flour, egg, and cheese.
Servings Prep Time
8portions 1hour
Cook Time
2-3minutes
Servings Prep Time
8portions 1hour
Cook Time
2-3minutes
Potato Gnocchi
Gnocchi are soft pasta made from potato, flour, egg, and cheese.
Servings Prep Time
8portions 1hour
Cook Time
2-3minutes
Servings Prep Time
8portions 1hour
Cook Time
2-3minutes
Ingredients
Servings: portions
Instructions
  1. Boil the potatoes until soft. Drain.
  2. Mash potatoes with a potato masher.
  3. Make a well within the mashed potatoes and add the flour, ricotta, eggs, parmesan, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. Knead the dough and roll it out into long strips.
  5. Chop the dough into pieces for the gnocchi, generously dusting the pieces with flour.
  6. Drop the gnocchi into boiling water in small batches. When they float to the surface, remove them and add to the sauce to saute. (See beef and mushroom sauce recipe.)
  7. Grate some Pecorino cheese on the gnocchi and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Of course, after your cooking class you get to taste the fruits of your labor. You’ll enjoy the meal – with Castelfalfi’s own wine from their vineyards – on either the terrace overlooking the Tuscan hills or in the castle bistro. Our gnocchi, plus the gnudi and biscotti we made, were delicious. My Italian nonna would have been proud!

Know Before You Go

  • Cooking classes last 3 hours and are followed by lunch with wine.
  • Reservations are required and should be requested at least 4 days in advance. Reservations can be made by emailing info@castelfalfi.it or calling +39 0571 891000
  • Castelfalfi is easily reached from Pisa or Florence by car.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Castelfalfi in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely my own.

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter who is based in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and communications strategist and is an award-winning travel writer. She is also a travel correspondent on Traveling on the American Forces Radio Network. Jdomb's Travels was named one of the top travel blogs to watch by the Huffington Post and has been featured by top publications such as CNN, Buzzfeed , and The Telegraph. Her iPhoneograpy has also been featured on publications such as USA Today and Travel + Leisure. Google+

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6 comments

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  1. Katherine Belarmino

    I just had a brilliant idea! Add sour cream to that recipe for an Italian/Russian fusion dish! Your teacher would probably be horrified. I have never made gnocchi, but I really should try to. I even have a potato ricer at home. The recipe sounds delicious. We had such a great time in our cooking class in Thailand I’ve decided I would like to take more cooking classes while traveling.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    Oh, he would definitely be horrified Katherine! Actually, I’ve never seen sour cream in Italy at any market and I have asked and looked. Gnocchi have such a different taste from potato pirogi too that I’m not sure it would taste very good.

    [Reply]

  2. Stef

    So yummie! I think I have to try it myself. Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    I was surprised at how easy it was! The most time consuming part honestly is waiting for the potatoes to boil.

    [Reply]

  3. Laura

    I love gnocchi but have never tried to make it at home. That looks awesome…and now I’m hungry.

    [Reply]

  4. Jennifer

    I’m going to try this recipe at home because it was honestly so easy. Though my first time I think I’ll just try out the gnocchi and use a store bought sauce.

    [Reply]

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