The Art of Making Homemade Pasta in Bologna - Spanish Sabores

The Art of Making Homemade Pasta in Bologna

Creating a Bolognese Masterpiece with Taste of Italy Cooking Classes

There are certain things that the average home cook just doesn’t make from scratch, and pasta is definitely one of them. I remember the day I saw an episode of Top Chef where one of the contestants whipped up homemade pasta and a gorgeous sauce in the 30 minute challenge. Their pasta ingredients? Nothing more than flour and eggs.

Flour and eggs
Can you believe that fresh pasta is nothing more than flour and eggs!?

It all looked so simple that I just had to give it a try. The messy disaster that followed in my mother’s kitchen was nearly inedible. At the time I blamed it on not having a pasta machine– surely one was necessary to make the thin, perfectly uniform noodles we get in any good Italian restaurant. How little I knew…

We arrived to Maribel’s home bright and early on a Saturday morning in Bologna, excited to begin our discoveries in the food capital of Italy. As we entered her lovely kitchen, the first thing I noticed was the size of her refrigerator. It came up to my shoulder and told me one important thing– in Maribel’s house, food was fresh. I smiled, knowing we were in for quite the meal.

For the first time in many years, I didn’t cook anything while in the kitchen— I watched. It was a surprisingly gratifying experience to see my husband follow Maribel’s careful instructions (and hopefully he’ll be able to repeat his success back at home). Maribel offers a multitude of mouthwatering cooking classes on her website, Taste of Italy, but we had to choose the classic Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese and giant tortelloni stuffed with roasted pumpkin, freshly ground nutmeg, and Parmigiano cheese. My mouth still waters at the memory.

ground nutmeg
Freshly ground nutmeg enhanced our pumpkin and parmesan filling.

Over the course of the three hour class Ale worked hard and everything was done by hand. The magical pasta machine I had assumed we’d be using didn’t exist in Maribel’s kitchen, and I was fascinated to learn that true “homemade” pasta would never be machine cut– even if you make homemade pasta dough it needs to be hand rolled and cut as well to truly be considered pasta fatta a mano.

The whole process was beautiful and Ale was able to do just about everything on his own, with Maribel always there to prevent disaster. A simple tear or two in the dough was enough to threaten our lunch. There were a couple of critical moments when we feared we’d leave hungry, but everything turned out in the end.

Making Homemade Pasta in Bologna with Taste of Italy

Making pasta
Did you know that in Italy there are special eggs sold specifically to make pasta? They have bright orange yolks and are super fresh!
Ale makes pasta
Using soft wheat flour such as cake flour allows the dough to stretch.
Kneading the pasta dough
Depending on the day’s humidity, the temperature of your hands, and the temperature of the surface you’re working on, the dough will absorb more or less flour. Dough must rest 30 minutes before rolling out!
Maribel rolls dough
Maribel explains how to roll out the pasta dough.
Ale rolls pasta dough
Masterchef Alejandro!
Rolling pasta dough
With this pasta dough we made both the tortelloni and tagliatelle.
Rolling dough
If you’re not careful, the dough could end up on the floor!
Rolling pasta dough.
Rolling out the dough can take awhile– it needs to become so thin that it’s translucent.

Three hours later we were tired and hungry, but very proud of our Ale’s work. We formed the tortelloni with Maribel’s assistance and happily added them to a pot of boiling water. A few minutes later we were ready to eat.

Cutting the dough.
First, the dough is cut out into perfect squares and filled with a scoop of pumpkin.
Form the tortelloni
Now, you form and seal a triangle for the tortelloni.
Making tortelloni
Next, fold and seal the ends to make the perfect tortelloni!
Two perfect tortelloni (Maribel might have made those!).
Beautiful homemade tortelloni ready to be cooked.
Homemade tagliatelle
The homemade tagliatelle was fun to make too. Just roll, cut, and extend over a knife.
Homemade tagliatelle
Extend the tagliatelle and make little nests.
Cooking pasta
The tortelloni cooked in boiling water for a few minutes and were soon ready to eat.

The tortelloni were simply spectacular. With a dusting of grated parmesan cheese on top, I was in food heaven. Maribel told us that most people eat about five as a first plate, but we had seven and only refused seconds because the tagliatelle was coming.

Homemade tortelloni
Homemade tortelloni with butter and sage and dressed with 25 year old balsamic vinegar.

The homemade tagliatelle was also incredible. Instead of rejecting the sauce like your average box of Barilla pasta does, it absorbed the ragú and clung to the ground meat. It was fantastic, and I only hope we’ll be able to recreate it here in Madrid.

Homemade tagliatelle with a true Bolognese ragu.

We finished our meal with a steaming espresso and some of the best white grapes I’ve ever had. Full and exhausted, Maribel and her husband made sure to give us restaurant suggestions and directions before we made our way over to our hotel. We rolled out of her house and couldn’t stop smiling.

Maribel’s pasta making class was my first experience taking a cooking class while traveling, and it is undoubtedly something I will do again and again. Having someone with such in-depth knowledge of a foreign cuisine is invaluable, and makes for a fantastic experience and an even better meal.

If you are visiting Bologna I would highly recommend getting in touch with Maribel about a cooking class. Make sure to contact her early on, as her classes generally sell out far in advance. And while I know that all of her classes are all tempting, the pasta making ones get my vote for fun, beautiful, and delicious!

Have you ever taken a cooking class while traveling? 


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