High above the Amalfi Coast in is the town of Agerola and it’s where I learned to cook Gabriella’s authentic Italian potato gnocchi. Pillowy, soft and perfect.
Cooking lessons the south of Italy
Gabriella Acampora is the owner and operator of a wonderful B&B in the Italian commune of Agerola. She’s the cooking instructor, manager, guest greeter and the wonderful woman who taught me to make her authentic Italian potato gnocchi.
Located about an hour’s drive south of Naples, Agerola is set high up in the hills above Italy’s Amalfi Coast. It’s where, in a villa set right on the clifftops, Gabriella and her husband Federico run Nido Degli Dei – which translates as Nest of the Gods. It’s a wonderful mix of rustic charm, with the sort of million dollar views you’d expect from the highest end places.
I had booked a three night foodie stay at Nido Degli Dei through Jo-Ann at Active Gourmet Holidays some months before and it was the last stay of my five week holiday through southern Europe (going as far north as Paris) in May 2023. The booking included transfers from Naples train station, with Federico as my chauffeur.
At left, the incredible view of the Amalfi Coast from Nido Degli Dei. This photo is snapped from the B&B’s upper level terrace.
The drive back to Agerola was an experience in itself and despite language barriers, Federico and I managed to communicate . He pointed out landmarks, including Mt Vesuvius and informed me as we drove through the town of Gragnano, that it was the village where 20% of the world’s pasta is made.
Side note: If you can find it, pasta from Gragnano is worth buying. It’s robust in texture and nutty in flavour and wonderful for holding onto the sauce. The BBC has published a nice article about Gragnano and its pasta. Here in Melbourne, I buy Gentile brand pasta from The Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick. It’s a great place for Italian ingredients and foods!
At right, the stunning mountain views on the drive through the mountains to Agerola, southern Italy.
Meanwhile … back in Agerola
Arriving mid-afternoon, I was led to the terrace where Gabriella greeted me with a lovely Campari Spritz. It went down well and I sat and watched Federico and some workmen tinker with the newly installed spa-with-a-view as I took it all in. A couple from the US, Mary-Carol and Ron, were also there from Active Gourmet Holidays and had gone down to the coast for the day and Gabriella was awaiting their arrival to begin cooking the evening’s meal.
My booking included two cooking lessons with Gabriella, not including the first night. But I was invited to join in anyway and this is where we learned to make the gnocchi and so I was able to get involved in the cooking all three evenings.
When we arrived in the kitchen, there was an apron and some goodies from Jo-Ann waiting for me that had travelled with Ron and Mary-Carol. Included in that was my apron, which is now my favourite one to wear when cooking.
Gabriella had cooked the potatoes and she drained them as we came in. She braved their steaming heat and eased the skins off and Ron was tasked with pressing them through the potato ricer, straight onto the bench.
At left, Ron busily pressing potatoes under the close watch of Gabriella, with Mary-Carol doing some washing up in the background.
Gabriella then sprinkled some salt and a handful of ricotta cheese all over. She told us the salt in the ricotta helped to draw the moisture out of the potatoes and also added a little more flavour to the mix.
Ron then started bringing the dough together, with a lesson in kneading from Gabriella. She was so good to watch in action and we had plenty of laughs as it came together. “Like this! More flour! Mix it!”
At right, freshly riced potato with ricotta and one egg yolk on top.
Finally the dough was right and all we had to do was roll and cut and shape on the paddle. Easier said than done. It took us ages to do! At one stage, Gabriella did some and she was like lightning. I guess that’s what you get when you begin making gnocchi with your own Nonna from the age of 8! Years of practice.
Once it was all turned into little pillows resting on trays, we retreated with a wine to the terrace to once again admire that insanely stunning view.
Soon after, we were served generous portions of the freshly made gnocchi, finished with cheese and accompanied by Federico’s Dad’s home made red wine.
The gnocchi was marvellous. So light and airy and the sauce, made with Gabriella’s home-bottled tomatoes was perfect.
The wine… I’m not so sure it was for me. Sometimes, home made products can be an acquired taste. But I drank it anyway and it was perfect for the first night in Agerola.
At left, picture of the serving of the freshly made gnocchi we made with Gabriella at Nido Degli Dei, Agerola. She served it with an amazing tomato sauce using her own bottled tomatoes and fresh cheese.
Now you have the story of how I learned to make this wonderful food, here’s Gabriella’s own recipe. Things to note is she didn’t measure anything (maybe the flour? I can’t recall) – she just knew how much of each ingredient to add. The written recipe she shared with me also had the note of one egg yolk per kilogram of potatoes. I cooked mine with 500g potatoes, but used one whole egg yolk anyway and it was fine.
More Italian recipes to make
Spaghetti with browned butter and sage is a winner. It’s so simple to make and all it takes is some butter, fresh sage leaves and a drip or three of pasta water.
A delicious bowl of home-made pasta verde (green pasta) with fresh summer vine tomatoes and basil. Yum!
it’s easy to make your own fresh egg pasta! This recipe shows you how.