There were two things I didn’t know (and I’m frankly ashamed to admit) before trying my hands at this traditional Italian cooking class.
Number one – Never add salt to stock. So when you boil meat or chicken with vegetables for the main purpose of using its stock for later use, never add salt to it during the process. This makes your stock much more useable in other dishes where you can salt to taste as required.
Number two – Pour hot water on tomatoes to make their skin easier to peel off. I’ve tried peeling tomatoes in the past and it wasn’t pretty. So by pouring boiling hot water on them and resting for a few minutes, the skin pretty much glides off.
While in Bologna, I attended a traditional Italian cooking class at Cultura Italiana Scuola di Cucina Bologna to learn the art of making three types of Italian pasta dishes Emilia Romagna is known for – Tagliatelle al Ragu (meat sauce), tortellini with sage butter, and gnocchi with tomato basil sauce. Needless to say, I came very hungry to class.
Cultura Italiana Bologna Cucina offers both amateur and professional gourmet cooking courses including preparatory techniques for working chefs. According to the school, it’s the only one of its type in Bologna that conforms to the European Framework for culinary training. Students are awarded a certificate of attendance recognized by the EQF (European Qualifications Framework) which can be used in private employment at restaurants, cafeterias, catering, and similar fields.
So we were in the very capable hands of Chef Davide (pictured above) who was going to guide us through the entire process from scratch.
My friend and fellow blogger Anna Carolina Levier of Brazilian Portuguese travel blog, Vontade de Viajar, dressed and ready to go.
Fresh meat and chicken parts ready to be dropped into the pot for making stock. Normally, I would have just tossed in some bouillon cubes myself but this freshness made a difference.
Chef Davide proceeded to expertly hand-chop carrots so finely that they looked like they were passed through a grater. Impressive. He then handed me the knife to try myself. Me? I just laughed.
Chef Davide mixes minced meat, carrots, onions, and tomatoes in what will later become slowcooked Ragu sauce for the tagliatelle pasta we were going to make. Diced tomatoes simmer for the gnocchi’s tomato basil sauce.
Passing boiled potatoes through a press to later hand-mold them into bite-sized gnocchi.
For the tortellini, we mixed ricotta cheese with a generous helping of parsley and parmesan cheese.
Chef Davide grates some of the good stuff – Parmeggiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese) which is traditional to the Emilia Romagna region.
While you don’t personally have to buy this cool-looking contraption to roll your own gnocchi (a simple fork will do), it was nonetheless pretty cool to watch how each individual gnocchi was designed by lightly rolling it across the grooves.
The main show – Chef Davide rolls out the dough which we’d mixed and rested for a couple minutes so we could start making fresh pasta.
Then it was time to pass the dough several times through the pasta press so we could get the right consistency for the type of pasta we were making.
Chef Davide showing off the translucency of the final rolled out dough.
Then it was off to generously stuffing them with our ricotta-parsley-parmesan mix.
And then shaping them into the cutest tortellini shapes which reminded me of Dutch wooden clogs.
Thinly sliced pieces became tagliatelle.
To finish off, we popped the pasta into salted boiling water for three minutes max. Along with sauteering sage leaves in butter to make the sauce and tossing fresh basil leaves into the stewed tomato sauce, it was time to serve up and dig into what we had made.
Tortellini stuffed with ricotta and served with sage butter sauce.
Gnocchi served with fresh tomato basil sauce.
Tagliatelle al Ragu (tomato meat sauce).
I came with good intentions of taking home my handmade pasta to cook later, but…
Anyways, after I shamelessly devoured all three plates of pasta, I wondered how I could ever possibly keep my figure if I were a pasta chef making and tasting so much heavy carbs every single day.
Well… after exchanging grazie mille and ciao, Chef Davide pulled out his bike and rode off.
You can view more photos of my cooking school experience in the imagebank. My trip to Italy was with the award-winning #BlogVille campaign and a collaboration between the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board and iambassador.