For our first evening in Florence we had the honour of participating in a private cooking course at the Giglio Cooking School, located a few minutes walk from the city centre. This wonderful experience was a gift from our friends Christine and Mike, whose wedding we are attending later this month on July 25 in northern Italy. Thanks so much you two! We had a wonderful time and will draw upon our lesson for years to come. I can’t believe how easy it is to make gnocchi and how labour intensive it was to make a dish our teacher referred to as “the green children”, which was a zucchini baked puree pastry.
The class started at 6:00 pm and we sauntered our stuffed bellies out of Marcella’s around 9:45 pm.
The menu consisted of: gnocchi with pesto sauce, veal chops stuffed with cheese, zucchini souffle and tiramisu for desert. Of course everything was made from scratch, from mashing up the basil leaves, slicing the veal chops in half and stuffing them with Fontina cheese, to dipping the lady fingers in espresso.
One of my goals during this trip was for it to be gastronomic tourism. I LOVE food. Sadly though, over the last few months, perhaps due to being self-employed, I have been grabbed by the clutches of our preservative-laced processed foods in Canada and have made far too much Kraft dinner of late. I was hoping Italy would revitalize my spirit and passion for cooking great meals once again. Without a doubt, it is doing just that.
Marcella, the Chef and owner of Giglio Cooking School, said to us, “Start with desert, then set your table, then start cooking.” While she had already set the table, we followed her first piece of wisdom and started with desert: tiramisu.
Taking the “worm-like” 500 gram potato pile, we mixed it with 1-egg, 150 grams of flour and a pinch of salt (my pinch was minuscule compared to what Marcella considered a pinch – ha,ha) and then using what Marcella called “Zombie fingers”, we squished the ingredients together, but only until they first mixed. If you do it too much, your gnocchi will be chewy.
We put some flour on the table and rolled our dough into multiple 1-centimetre diameter worms before cutting them into “gnocchi-size” pieces. IMPORTANT note: Don’t pile your gnocchi pieces on top of each other. You don’t want them to stick. Give those little dudes some personal space and a splash of flour. The final touch was using a wooden paddle with groves to create the gnocchi design.
Marcella was an absolute delight to learn from, unsurprising given her 30+ years as a chef, instructor, lecturer, restaurant manager, etc., etc. She was also warm and friendly. She knows her stuff, and adapts her teaching style to all levels, from tourists like us to professional students and visiting chefs. If you are looking for a culinary experience here in Firenze, don’t hesitate to contact her.