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.
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 Recipe
- 20 oz flank steak cut into strips
- 1 clove garlic diced
- 1 whole red onion diced
- 8 whole Porcini mushrooms chopped and soaked in olive oil
- red wine for cooking (maybe a little for drinking too!)
- veal broth for deglazing
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- Braise the onion in a little bit of olive oil.
- Saute the strips of flank steak and then add them to the onion.
- Add red wine and simmer until evaporated, then deglaze the pan with veal broth.
- Saute the mushrooms and set aside.
- Simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes and then add the mushrooms. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes, 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 Recipe
- 2 lbs potatoes peeled and diced
- 20 oz flour
- 14 oz ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- grated Parmesan cheese
- salt to taste
- nutmeg to taste
- Boil the potatoes until soft. Drain.
- Mash potatoes with a potato masher.
- Make a well within the mashed potatoes and add the flour, ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, salt and nutmeg.
- Knead the dough and roll it out into long strips.
- Chop the dough into pieces for the gnocchi, generously dusting the pieces with flour.
- Drop the gnocchi into boiling water in small batches. When they float to the surface, remove them and add the gnocchi to the sauce to saute.
- Grate 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
I was a guest of Castelfalfi in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely my own.