During my holiday to Umbria a few weeks ago I was keen to do a cooking class to try to get a real understanding of Umbrian cuisine. We chose a one day course at La Chuiza restaurant, a small cooking school, restaurant and organic farm near Umbertide. €75 included a one day course and lunch. The course was recommended by Penny who owned the villa we stayed in, and she helped us book the course, explaining in her fluent Italian to the instructor that two of our friends were vegetarians. No problem we were told, but when we arrived the menu for our days cooking included chicken as the vegetarian option! Only in Italy…
Once our vegetarian friends had abandoned the course things progressed pretty smoothly. While the cooking course was not quite as hands on as I would have liked, the recipes we learnt were easy to replicate and included lots of handy tips and technique. The meal we had at the end of the day, featuring all the dishes we had cooked was one of the best I had during our time in Italy. The best recipe, and one I have tried since, was the recipe for gnocchi. We learnt that the size of the gnocchi depends where you are in Italy, in the North near Trieste, the gnocchi is large and it is smaller down South. In Umbria, the middle, the gnocchi is medium size.
1.5kg potatoes – red skinned are best
375 plain flour
1 and a half eggs
15g unsalted butter
2 Italian pork sausages
15g dried porcini
1 clove garlic
Italian pork sausages
1. Boil potatoes for 40 mins with the skin on, then peel once cool.
2. Mash potatoes onto a lightly floured board.
3. Spread flour around the edges of the mashed potato, then break the eggs onto the mashed potato and add the butter and salt.
4. Use a knife to roughly combine the mixture before kneading the mixture with your hands. Knead until the mixture comes together , but be careful not to overwork.
5. Once the mixture has come together roll a handful on a floured board into a thin sausage shape using your hands.
6. Lightly flour the knife and then cut the gnocchi into pieces 2cm in length.
7. Roll each piece of gnocchi on a wooden, indented board (or a fork) to make the indentations that will hold the pasta sauce, before placing on a floured board.
8. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and place the gnocchi in, it is cooked when it floats to the top.
9. Meanwhile make the sauce by removing the sausage skin and frying the pork sausage for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. There is no need for butter or oil as there is enough fat in the sausage.
10. Add the dried porcini which has been soaked in boiling water, garlic, flour and cream over a low heat and stir until combined and the cream starts to thicken.
11. Fish out the gnocchi and serve with the creamy pork sauce spooned over the top.
Details: La Chiuza, SS del Niccone km 2, Umbertide, Perugia, Italy (Ph 075 941 0848)