One of the highlights of my trip to Italy last summer was the cooking class through Food And Wine Academy of Florence! All cooking classes are expensive. But for the price, I picked this one compared to lots of others I researched for a few reasons:
- It's a long course (about 6 hours) so it takes your whole day, BUT you get a huge meal out of that would cost some hefty Euros at a restaurant (plus drinks, seating charge, etc.).
- These classes have a 10% student discount, PLUS I was able to add in a Rick Steves travel guide code that was in his book. Bonus!
- Class begins with a tour of the Central Market of Florence where you get your ingredients for the day, AND a cheese/balsamic vinegar tasting (food education + snacks!)
- You walk away with the recipes from the day PLUS some other ones to try at home
In this class, we made pasta and tiramisu, but I'll save the tiramisu for a separate post. Here's a shot from above of our work space for the day! This was after a couple hours at the Central Market (also saved for another post).
Chef Giovanni taught us a lot, even though he was slightly condescending to American food culture (but hey, I'm not blaming him when we have McDonald's to be proud of...). He dispelled a lot of myths, like:
- Fettuccine alfredo is NOT ITALIAN. Italians use smaller noodles with white sauces (angel hair, penne, etc.).
- Spaghetti would also not be used with a meat sauce. Italians use the thicker pasta noodles (like the pappardelle we made that day) for hearty meat sauces because they can withstand it.
He started by measuring out our individual flour portions. We used Tipo "00" flour, which is a finer type of flour. I can't seem to find it in the US except for on Amazon in huge portions, so I have semolina and all-purpose at home.
Start out by making your pile in a neat circle, then using your thumb and first few fingers, create a well in the center. Plop your egg in, some olive oil, and pinch of salt. Take a fork and scramble the egg, and every so often add in some flour from the side of your well until fully incorporated. This is a messy step, so when I'm at home I do this inside of a mixing bowl then will put on a flat surface to knead.
Speaking of kneading, do it for about 15 minutes. Yes, you will get tired if you're like me and incredibly out of shape. I also blame my height for not having enough leverage to use my body weight. You want to keep kneading it until it becomes smooth on the outside, and create a pretty ball. Then you're going to wrap it very tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. This lets the dough soften for when you roll it out.
In the meantime, Chef Giovanni took us to the stove to make the Bolognese sauce. It was in here I answered his quiz question that the sauce got its name because it originates in Bologna (go me!).
Once the dough is finished sitting, roll out the dough. Put some flour on the counter and on top of the dough. Every now and then keep flipping the dough as you get it thinner and thinner. If you think the dough is thin enough, keep going. We were told to roll it until you can see the granite through the dough (if you look really hard you can see it in the picture).
To make the pappardelle, lightly fold the dough and simply cut it to pappardelle thickness! The order of noodles from thinnest to widest are: Angel hair --> Spaghetti --> Fettuccine --> Tagliatelle --> Pappardelle
We used half the dough to make pappardelle, and the other half to make ravioli. The filling is a simple ricotta and egg mixture.
Similar to the pappardelle, fold the dough but this time to the thickness of your ravioli cutter (in this case, a glass!). In the first step, do NOT cut the pasta, just use the glass to get the correct width. Instead, first cut the dough in long ribbons with the correct width. Place the ricotta mixture in a small ball on one ribbon, and then place another on top. You may need to stretch the top layer slightly to make it over the ricotta.
NOW you can cut the ravioli in pretty circles. Take a fork and crimp the edges to seal. Be careful not to puncture the cheese in the process!
Here are the fruits of our labor for the day!
As we ate some bruschetta that was made for us, Chef Giovanni put the dishes together:
- Pappardelle with Bolognese sauce
- Ravioli with butter and sage sauce
I've already made these dishes multiple times at home. And although I can't re-create the exact flavors because the meat in Italy is fresher, I believe it still tastes good! I have also been able to teach family and friends how to make pasta as well, which is always fun!
I highly recommend doing any cooking class of some sort if you're interested in that sort of thing. It was relatively basic, but I was still able to learn something from it and makes a great store. It's an experience you'll never forget!