An Authentic Italian Cooking Class With Friends

authentic italian cookingLaura and I decided to sponsor and host a cooking class event to honor our love and obsession with Italy and its cuisine. The donation of our event will benefit our children’s school and truthfully, we are the ones that actually reaped the benefits most sharing a fun night learning to make homemade pastas and traditional sauces amongst friends.

Our former Italian teacher, Antonella, who is a jack of all trades, Berlitz teacher (Italian, of course) and a personal chef who runs a business called Eating in Style, graciously offered to guide us through the secrets of turning eggs and flour into delicious hand-made pastas. Antonella originally hails from Rome and now lives in Northern California. She finds her way back to Italy a few times a year and has recently started to bring groups of passionate foodies to cook with her all over Rome.

authentic italian cooking class, making pastaThe evening began with a toast of Prosecco and a flurry of conversation about the variations in pastas that we would be learning and accompanying authentic sauces. The kitchen was filled with stations of flour and eggs, pasta cutters, rolling pins and smiles. The most intriguing pasta cutter was the guitar cutter (la chitarra), which looked like a zither or any other gorgeous stringed instrument, but whose use resulted in the perfect spaghetti, rather than pitch-perfect sounds. One end of the table cranked out cavatelli, while the other rolled out their dough to an almost paper-thin sheet of pasta ready to roll-up, cut and unroll into tagliatelli.

authentic italian cooking, class demonstrationOnce we had our share of practice making the pastas, we learned the secrets of what pasta goes with what sauce (cavatelli with pesto sauce, spaghetti alla chitarra with gorgonzola and walnut sauce, pappardelle with lamb sauce and dry ricotta cheese and fettuccine with pesto sauce and cherry tomatoes), how long you truly cook home-made pasta (2 minutes), why you never buy or cook with pre-grated parmesan (actually is parmigiano and the answer from Antonella is “just because”…translation is that it is not fresh and changes the taste of any dish) and that your olive oil does matter (first cold press is the best, also known as Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Ok, now you are clear on the ins and outs of authentic Italian cooking. Plain and simply put, use the best, freshest ingredients and don’t be afraid of oil, fats, and salt. Italians eat very small portions. It is the best way to enjoy the flavor of your food.

It was a lovely night and fitting of the name we used for the school auction item of Una Bella Serata (A Beautiful Evening)!

Here are the recipes for the sauces we made, which were fresh ground lamb sauce, gorgonzola with walnuts and fresh pesto sauce.

Lamb Sauce

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped onion and carrots

1 pound ground lamb

One 28-ounce canned Italian whole plum tomatoes

1 pound of pasta

1 cup of aged ricotta cheese or parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, add oil, chopped onion and carrots. When the onion and carrots are soft, add the ground lamb. Cook the lamb and then add the tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Let the sauce cook for 45/50 minute over a low heat.

When pasta is ready, mix it together with the sauce and add ricotta or parmigiano-reggiano on top.

Gorgonzola Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup of Italian gorgonzola cheese

2 cups of heavy cream

½ cup of walnuts (chopped)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, cook the gorgonzola cheese and the heavy cream over low heat.

Let the cheese melt and add the salt.

When pasta is ready, transfer it into the gorgonzola sauce pan and let pasta marinate for 3 minutes.

Add the pepper before serving.

Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh basil leaves

2 cloves garlic

14 cup pine nuts (pinoli)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

34 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese and salt

1 cup of cherry tomatoes

Place basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese in a food processor.

When pesto sauce is done set aside and cook pasta.

When pasta is cooked, drain well; toss pesto with pasta, cherry tomatoes and additional pine nuts until they are well coated.

Bon Appetito!

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