Romolo Marcoccio demonstrates a homemade pasta technique at the Lewiston High School cooking classroom where he will be teaching an adult ed. class titled “Let’s Speak Pasta!” Andree Kehn/Sun Journal  Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — On a recent September day, Italian-born Romolo Marcoccio, who teaches math at Lewiston High School for a living, put an apron over his shirt and tie and demonstrated how to make pasta.

Within minutes, he had mixed eggs and flour into a dough and sent it through a pasta machine.

Ecco! Out came lasagna noodles.

Next month, Marcoccio is repeating a sold-out course he led last year for Lewiston Adult Education: “Let’s Speak Pasta.”

“This is season two,” Marcoccio said with a smile.

The two-night, $25 course is one of several cooking classes planned for the Lewiston Adult Education program this fall — classes that usually fill up.


On Oct. 10 and 17 his students taking “Let’s Speak Pasta” will learn about cooking and get a taste of Italy.

Students will be introduced to the culture, language and images. He plays Italian music while they cook. “We’ll share Italian phrases during the night,” he said, from “ciao” (hello or goodbye) to “Roma non e stata costruita in un giorno” (Rome was not built in a day). “We really have fun,” he added.

Romolo Marcoccio displays a homemade lasagna noodle fresh from the pasta maker. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

On Oct. 10 students will make lasagna noodles from flour and eggs (one egg per serving), boil the dough into noodles, then assemble layers of pasta, tomatoes (he uses canned crushed tomatoes), meat and cheese.

Eating the dish when done is traditional.

On Oct. 17 the lesson is gnocchi, a dumpling-like pasta made of egg, flour and potatoes. After the gnocchi pasta is formed, it is boiled and “swims” to the top when done. The shape allows it “to wear tomato sauce,” Marcoccio said. “It’s a very old, simple recipe. Anyone can do it.”

He tells his students not to be creative, stick to directions. “The worst you can do is overcook my pasta. It’s not acceptable by Italians.” The rule is al dente.


Marcoccio, 48, of Falmouth, was born in Rome, where he spent most of his life. His first name means “man of Rome.” He learned cooking from his mother. In college Marcoccio studied math and philosophy. He moved to the United States for new opportunities 12 years, first living in Massachusetts. He moved to Maine two years ago.

In Italy “my family were farmers,” he said. “Daniel Webster said, ‘Farmers are the founders of civilization. When tillage begins, other art follows.’”

In Italy, food is art. “It’s a fundamental part of our tradition,” he said.

To prepare good Italian dishes “you need to love food,” Marcoccio said. “The main reason you cook is to be with your family and friends. Food is a way to nurture. And the Mediterranean diet is the best in the world.”

Romolo Marcoccio feeds homemade dough into a pasta maker, set to produce lasagna noodles. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Traditional meals in Italy are served in courses, one at a time, each bit of food enjoyed by itself. There’s no one big plate. First is antipasta, such as cantaloupe. That’s followed by the “primo piatto” (first dish), often pasta, then the “secondo piatto,” second dish, of meat or fish and vegetables. “Then you’re done, with possibly dessert,” he said. “Maybe at that point you can get coffee. But not a big coffee. Just a shot.”

Italian cooking is simple. Dishes are not crowded with many ingredients. “Less is more,” he said. “Every ingredient has its own personality.” If you mix too many ingredients, that personality and flavor fades, he said.


While cooking from scratch is a lost art with many in the United States, Marcoccio said more people should try making their own food.

“It’s cheaper. And you know what you’re eating,” he said. “Food is a way to bring people together and find common values.”

In addition to teaching math to high school and adult ed students, Marcoccio is teaching Italian language in the adult education program this fall.

He said he enjoys working in Lewiston schools, and praised administrators for embracing the city’s diverse cultures. Differences between people from other countries, he said, are “nothing compared to what we have in common.”

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