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Learn to make your favourite Italian dishes with Nonnas Cookery Schools

Published On Monday 16 Nov 2015 by Sticky Beak
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OH MY DAYS! You know when you’ve had a really, really great time and you’re bouncing round the room like Tigger? Well I have literally got back to the nest from a cookery lesson at Nonnas in Chesterfield and I am buzzing with excitement and joy; so much so that I just had to write an article as soon as possible. As you know dear readers I am a total glutton when it comes to food, I just can’t get enough of all things delicious. I love eating it, love reading about it, love writing about it, but alas my culinary skills leave much to be desired. Anyhow when Chiara invited to be one of their “test pupils” ahead of the official launch next year I jumped at the opportunity, and I am so glad I did.

Rather naively I thought that given the title of the day, Pasta and Gnocchi, that those would be the sole items we would be making. Talk about an understatement! In addition to those two delights we made Basil Pesto, Ricotta and Lemon Ravioli filling (and the ravioli to put it in) and Nonnas Ragu. I didn’t know a single soul there, but it didn’t take long at all for us all to be chatting away like great friends, and I think that’s one of peoples biggest fears when doing something on their own -  the fear that they will feel isolated and left out. Well trust me, that certainly won’t happen at Nonnas cookery school; plus the fact when you’re in a room with like-minded foodies you already have something in common to talk about.

The teaching and workspace area is lovely and spacious, well lit and well set out. We all donned our stylish Nonnas pinnies/aprons and gathered round for our first tutorial from Head Chef Jamie and Chef Carl. In no time at all our first masterpieces (fresh pasta dough) was making its way into the fridge to rest and chill; no such luxury for us, it was straight into making the Ragu which involves quite a bit of chopping and other preparation. 

Later on, whilst we were up to our elbows making our Purple Potato Gnocchi and its accompanying Basil Pesto, a rather dashing gentleman came round taking our coffee and tea requests and brought them to our work stations. I have never needed a drink so much in my life – I was having so much fun and was completely engrossed in the process, I had completely forgotten to go and pour a glass of iced water for myself!

Both Jamie and Carl came round to lend a hand if needed, as did Gianni ( Nonnas owner), so you always feel supported if there’s a detail you forget or just to check that the consistency of the Gnocchi is right; I have never made it before so was completely unsure of how it should be. Actually, I’m going to confess/brag about the new shape of Gnocchi I made; little balls. The confession part is the fact that I would love to say I did it deliberately but the truth is that I was too busy talking (I know, hard to believe) and missed the bit where Jamie said to cut it into diamond shapes.

Artistic licence is the preserve of all great chefs and their recipes, and suffice to say my artistic tendencies were firing on all cylinders this morning :). We cooked and blanched our Gnocchi and put them in little containers to take home before turning our attention to making the Pesto. The room was soon full of fragrant aromas of fresh Basil and Toasted Pine nuts and it was making my mouth water I can tell you. More containers were filled for us to take our creations home to enjoy later.

Next up was the Ricotta and Lemon filling for the Ravioli we would be making. This is a really simple but amazingly delicious item to make, there are literally 5 ingredients to it. We kept it in our small mixing bowls as we would soon be using it to fill our Ravioli and Tortellini. Our chilled pasta dough was brought back to our workstations and the process of using the pasta machine and its settings was gone through for us. So off we trooped to make our pasta nice and thin ready to cut into Ravioli pillows and Tortellini shapes, and we also made some Tagliatelle and Linguine with the other half of our Pasta. Again these were parcelled up in little boxes for us to take home and enjoy – chez Beak  will be having these for dinner tonight, and I am so excited to present my flock with the fruits of my labour.

I was absolutely flabbergasted when Gianni announced it was lunchtime; 1.30 pm has never come around so quickly in a day before! They say time flies when you’re having fun and it really rings true in the case of Nonnas Cookery school, you have such a great fun-filled experience the hours just melt away.

As we all sat down at the table to eat you could just hear sounds of laughter and chatter and there is no nicer sound than a room of people engaging and having a great time. I forget just how hospitable Italians are at mealtimes so I assumed the banquet of Olives, Mixed Meats, Bruschettas and Fresh tomato and Basil salad with waters and wines was our (most enjoyable) lunch. As our plates were cleared away, fresh cutlery and napkins were being laid before us, and a couple of us looked at each other in puzzlement. It wasn’t long before dishes of fresh Rigattone and Nonnas Ragu were placed in front of us ready for us to tuck in and savour.

Head chef Jamie told us that they make about 65kg of pasta freshly during a typical week, that’s about 9.5 – 10 stone in imperial weight! Everything is freshly made in Nonnas and you really can taste it; I also love the fact that they source everything as locally as possible too.

I also learned that they do a pre-theatre drinks special in the bar upstairs, 2 drinks for £7, so for those of you that enjoy going to the theatre pop into Nonnas for a cheeky tipple to add to your evening, or even have a bite to eat before you go if you have time.

If you are struggling for Christmas or Birthday present ideas for a foodie acquaintance have a look at their website www.nonnas.co.uk/cookery-school or contact Chiara info@nonnas.co.uk, as there are a wide variety of different themed cookery class days throughout 2016.

I can guarantee that a fantastic day will be in store for you, or your foodie friend and a superb meal to top things off; there aren’t many things better in life than food, fun, laughter and great company and you will experience them all in abundance at Nonnas Cookery School in Chesterfield.

Thank you to all the staff at Nonnas for making this such a magnificent day, and thank you too to all the wonderful ladies and gents, my fellow pupils, for being amazing company.

Cookery Schools for 2016

Monday 15th February Pasta & Gnocchi
Monday 21st March Italian Easter
Monday 18th April A Day In Tuscany
Monday 16th May Dolci, Torte & Pastry
Monday 6th June Cooking With Fish
Monday 19th September Sicilian Secrets
Monday 17th October Pizza & Pane
Monday 14th November Northern Winter