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GnoccHi della Signora
November 3, 2009

Gnocchi is a hardy Italian dumpling that's rumored to have made the Romans invincible. Dickinson students who participated in an on-campus cooking lesson can now test its mythological powers whenever they wish.

Nicoletta Marini-Maio, assistant professor of Italian, taught students how to make gnocchi during the Global Gastronomy Group's fourth cooking lesson, held Nov. 3.

Although the first gnocchi dishes, which used a flour base, are believed to have originated in ancient times, gnocchi is today most commonly made from a potato puree—a practice that dates back to the Renaissance, when potatoes entered the European diet. But, says Marini-Maio, not every potato will do. Under Marini-Maio's tutelage, the students mixed flour and egg with pureed hard baking potatoes, which contain a high starch content and create firm dough. The students then kneaded, rolled and cut the dough and boiled the pieces in salted water. The dumplings were ready to eat when, after one or two minutes, they floated to the surface of the water.

"The students learned the whole process very quickly and ate the gnocchi even faster," said Marini-Maio. "Some of them said they would make gnocchi in their dorm over the weekend."

See the Global Gastronomy Group make ratatouille.

Click on image to view larger photo.

Gnocci della Signora
A student kneads a basic dough made of potato, flour and egg during the Global Gastronomy Group's fourth cooking lesson. The secret to good dough, participating students learned, is to puree hard potatoes with a vegetable mill, rather than a mixer.

Gnocci della Signora
Students sprinkle the dough with flour and hand-roll it into snake-like shapes. Next, they will cut the rolls.

Gnocci della Signora
Nicoletta Marini-Maio, assistant professor of Italian (left), explains how to create dough with proper texture, as students and her son, Ricky (above), and daughter, Costanza (not pictured), watch and learn.

Gnocci della Signora
Marini-Maio prepares to cook the gnocchi in boiling, salted water.

Text by MaryAlice Bitts
Photos by A. Pierce Bounds '71