Gnocco Fritto is basically a savory pastry square (Ingredients: flour, milk, cream, margarine, salt and yeast) that puffs up when it is deep fried in Lardo (pigs fat). It is typical of the Emilia Region in Northern Italy and is generally served along side cured meats as an alternative to bread.
Something so simple and delicious is even more so when you see a team of Nonni cooking their hearts out to please a group of young students who are way too excited about food. As our bus pulled into il Cicciolo D’oro farmhouse we were greeted by a group of very friendly elderly people and half a pig. Jumping off the bus with excitement we all caught on to the relaxed vibe and continued to smile mirroring the good mood of our company. Our first tour was straight to the shed where we found a lovely old man frying Gnocco Fritto in a rather large pan full of boiling pig fat. Mouths watering, we were given a quick explanation of what they were doing before following our elderly tour guide back to the half pig lying on the table of the ‘head-quaters’ or meat making room. Half way into our introduction arrived baskets of hot Gnocco Fritte, marched in by a rep from team Nonni and put any where they would fit on the table. These were soon followed by plates of salami, prosciutto, pancetta. I was reminded of Australia, a day on a farm, eating with my hands and surrounded by big bellies (just replace beer for lambrusco, sausage for cured meats and remove the odd mullet) I found myself wanting to cuddle all the cuddly italians that came near me!
As the 3rd gnocco fritto somehow reached my mouth, I finally paused to take a breath and see that we were still accompanied by half a pig lying on the table. Quite odd, though strangely it seemed to fit the scene perfectly. People were so hooked on the food that they were accidentally bumping into its feet and yelling sorry behind them as they moved towards a plate. Half an hour later we began the pig meat demonstration and it was as though everyone only just noticed there was half an animal lying on the table. We were shown all the different cuts, the curing processes and watched as they rolled pancetta. We were invited to help make the salami and getting hands on I was able to try. Touching a pigs rectum with one bare hand and helping the salami meat through with the other I yelled “my first sausage!” to which I received a questioning look from one of the Nonni.
The food that is available from one animal is unbelievable and was amazing to see, if you ever get the chance you to see this process you should definitely do it. After 2 hours of demonstration we moved inside to do a cured meat tasting before lunch.
… Gnoccho fritte, lots of pig and the loveliest of people… and that was just aperitivo!
*Moral of the morning – ALWAYS remove the rind on your salami, who knows which part of the insides has been used to cure it.