By Alex Wilks/Special to the Langley Advance
Whether someone is an aspiring chef, or just a lover of food looking to learn some secrets behind Italian cuisine, Marzia Bellotti welcomes them into her kitchen.
The 46-year-old Langley resident has been teaching hands-on cooking classes to families, at private social functions, and children’s birthday parties for more than five years.
“I want to inspire more people to cook. That’s my goal,” Bellotti said, as she rolled out and cut her homemade gnocchi (a small, potato dumpling that can be eaten with various sauces).
Even though she is not a professionally trained chef, Bellotti cooks all her dishes from scratch, incorporating local ingredients and family recipes that she learned as a child growing up in Italy.
“Every time I do a cooking class I tell the kids that the secret ingredient is a sprinkle of love,” Bellotti noted with a smile. “They just have such a reaction to that.”
Although she offers custom classes fit for all ages, she enjoys teaching and working alongside youth the most.
“I like it when they come to my class then they go home and try my recipe for their family,” she said.
The main dish that Bellotti teaches children to make is gnocchi – because, as she recalled – it is the first dish she was taught as a child and it’s a favourite amongst almost everyone who attends her classes.
“I like to give some of my tradition to Canadian families,” she added.
Most of her culinary lessons are usually directed out of her home in Walnut Grove, but Bellotti will also bringing her experience to the others’ homes, as well as schools.
“I’m not a chef, but I just like to teach people my tradition, my knowledge that I learn from my grandma, from my mom, from my country,“ she explained. “Italy is a great country about food.”
What she teaches people is not only how to cook Italian cuisine, but also “where to buy the stuff and how to buy real, authentic Italian ingredients.”
Bellotti supports local businesses by buying most of her cooking ingredients close to home – fresh deli meats from Bonetti Meat’s, as well as homegrown vegetables from the Langley Farmers Market and Laurica Farm in Aldergrove.
“I grew up around food, around my mom, my grandma, my family,” she said. “Food in Italy is something very important – which is very different from here.”
Homemade pasta noodles, gnocchi, pasta sauce, ravioli, tiramisu, soup and lasagna are a few of the staple Italian dishes that Bellotti focuses on teaching in her classes.
“People think that cooking Italian food is difficult, but it’s not. It’s very easy,” she explained.
“Nobody believes it until they come to my class and see first-hand what I do.”
Bellotti was recently invited as a guest speaker to R.E. Mountain Secondary. She spoke about Italian culture and cooked fresh pasta with the senior students attending her seminar.
“They called me because teachers wanted to inspire kids to cook more healthy, homemade food,” Bellotti explained.
She is using this experience as a stepping stone towards teaching more cooking classes to students in Langley.
“It was an amazing experience to teach all those students how to make fresh pasta from scratch, talk about my culture, and wonderful homemade food,” she added.
Most of Bellotti’s classes are around two and a half hours long, accommodate roughly four to 10 people. For more information, people can visit Bellotti’s website.