As it gets colder and colder, nothing can quite compare to a hot and fresh homemade meal. And when the ingredients are grown locally, the taste is so much sweeter. This past weekend, I was able to attend a cooking class in the Trastevere area of Rome. For a few hours, cultures united to prepare one of Rome’s most famous dishes: gnocchi. And if that isn’t enough, for dessert, poached pears in red wine.
Three types of gnocchi were made: one in a tomato sauce, one with butternut squash and pecorino, and finally, one with butter and sage.
Gnocchi comes from the word “gnocco” which means knot. Traditionally in Rome, it is known to be eaten on Thursdays. It used to be made with stale bread, but when potatoes came from America, Italy started to adopt a new way of making gnocchi which is how we commonly eat it today: with potatoes. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this cooking class was the fact that most of the ingredients used were purchased at a local market in Garbatella called “Roma Farmer’s Market.”
Juli, one of the instructors for the cooking class, comments on why she purchases from the fresh air market:
“For me it’s a no-brainer to buy from the farmers in Rome. Here there are fruit and veggies grown all year, you can even find nuts and tons of meat and cheese too. For someone coming from the northeast U.S. where we have a good 3 months of just potatoes and celeriac, and local meat costs a ton, I’m not so accustomed to this convenience, so really appreciate it. Buying local means you’re supporting your local economy and small business owners who put money back into the community, are healing the environment (most small-scale farmers don’t use chemicals and care for their land sustainably) and are eating more nutritious and literally tastier food. It’s really just doing as Italians have always done, having pride in their terra.”
After tasting these dishes, I have to say I agree, there is something singularly special about fresh ingredients. As soon as you take a bite out of the crisp salad, you can tell you’re biting into freshness.
The recipes themselves were absolutely delicious and the class had a warm and inviting atmosphere. With Italians and Americans participating, it was definitely a learning experience from multiple angles. Juli and the head chef Domenico of breaking Bread were great hosts. They made learning how to make gnocchi fun, and as my time here in Rome as a student ends, I know this is one experience I will take home with me that will definitely benefit my friends and family for years to come.
By Jennifer Arreguin
PS You might also be interested in reading our wrap-up of cooking courses in English in Rome.