I decided to test two of the recipes that I learned in my cooking class in Tuscany at Toscana Saporita with Aleta. Oh, did they turn out yummy! Vic says it was worth the trip to eat this at home! We really felt like we were back in Tuscany. Isn’t it amazing how food can transport you?
If you are in Tuscany … you must take a class with Sandra! She is awesome and you feel like you are on the set of Under The Tuscan Sun! In the picture, Aleta and I are in the red aprons and Sandra is leaning on the table. The rest of the guys are the chefs that help Sandra. Check out her chandeliers! It is all cooking utensils. Love it!
When I went to Tuscany, what I didn’t know was there are two kinds of Gnocchi. The one I was more familiar with was the little football shaped potato pasta. There is also another form of gnocchi that is made with Semolina Flour instead of potatoes and take a different shape. We made both in our class. Our instructor Sandra Lotti said that her favorite was the Gnocchi alla Romana hands down. I listened but wasn’t quite sure if I believed her until I tasted them both. The soft pillow center and the crunchy outside is amazing.
When you order Gnocchi in a restaurant you are really playing Russian … well Italian Roulette! Will it be good or not? Many times it is NOT! Gnocchi should feel like little pillows in your mouth. Light and fluffy. More often than not they will be tough and that is truly a disappointment.
Gnocchi alla Romana is made with milk and semolina flour. When ready you roll it about 1/2 inch thick and use a ravioli cutter to make discs. Then you overlap the disc’s on a baking sheet with oil, add whatever flavor you want like Gorgonzola, Parmesan, Procuitto, Truffles etc. Pop the tray in the oven and bake until golden.
I chose to make the ones we made in class since I brought back some Black Truffle Paste from Tuscany. It was funny when Vic who love love loves gnocchi came in the kitchen to check it out and he saw the discs and I said that was the Gnocchi. His face said … “that’s not gnocchi but who cares there are truffles on it!”
Then I started on the basic tomato sauce. The one thing about Tuscan cooking is that it is NOT fussy. Basic ingredients, picked fresh, cooked simply, letting the flavors sing! Ingredients are onions, celery, carrots, salt pepper, and either canned San Marzano tomatoes or made with fresh tomatoes. From there you can customize the sauce any way you want. Use your immersion blender then add your pasta.
You cook the pasta half way in the water and then add it to the sauce to cook the rest of the way. None of the plating of the pasta and topping with the sauce. The pasta needs to absorb the flavor of the sauce.
As I was making these two items I realize we would eat this for days if we didn’t have help. So a few of our friends on the lake were taking a cruise, a quick text and I had them drop by for a spontaneous Dock Dining moment. However with 11 people on the boat it was more of a tasting than dining experience!
Vic was still trying to convince me there wasn’t enough food … ha! He just wanted it all for later! It’s awesome to have someone who loves your food and it’s even more fun to share the experience with friends. Needless to say my first attempt at recreating my Tuscan experience, was a hit!