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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?