Wednesday, July 13, 2011

{wanderlust} cooking classes in rome

Though the sights and sounds of Rome had me falling in love at first sight, it was the tastes of Eternal City that really left me hungry for more. While I didn't sample any of the traditional quinto quarto, I did indulge in some modern Roman classics like pasta e ceci, carciofo romanesco, and, of course, plenty of gelato. Needless to say, I enjoyed eating my way through the city.

But one of the best meals I ate during my time in Italy was one that I prepared myself. Well, one that I prepared myself alongside nine other students and under the tutelage of Chef Andrea Consoli of Cooking Classes in Rome. Chef Andrea runs his day-long program at his family's restaurant in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, and the classes take place in the very same kitchen that is used for dinner service each evening. 

When we arrived at the restaurant, Chef Andrea had already been to the market, where he chose the menu for our class based on what was available that day. To start, we would be making squash blossoms stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella alongside a southern style pesto dipping sauce. Our next course would be tagliolini with zucchini, zucchini flowers and sausage, followed by involtini of beef in fresh tomato sauce, and, finally, chocolate souffles.

{zucchini sauce for tagliolini and fresh tomato sauce for involtini}

I decided that since I know my way around a dessert recipe pretty well by now, I would step away from the chocolate and the sugar (this took a tremendous amount of willpower, let me tell you) and focus instead on building my skills with ingredients I am less confidant about preparing at home.  For me this means savory dishes, especially those that involve meat. I was especially excited about learning how to work with squash blossoms, which I'm tempted by at the Greenmarket on the regular but have always been too much of a culinary chicken to attempt cooking on my own.  So instead of whipping egg whites and chopping chocolate, I spent the morning rolling up neat little packages of beef and mortadella, crumbling sausage into a pan of steaming zucchini sauce, pinching the pistils out of squash blossoms, and preparing pesto.

{stirring egg yolks into flour; mom cranking the pasta machine}

And then there was the pasta. After we finished prepping the rest of our lunch, we turned our full attention to making fresh tagliolini. We each took a turn stirring a well of egg yolks into a massive mound of flour in order to create our pasta dough.  Next, we divided up into teams to roll out our dough and cut it into tagliolini using a hand cranking pasta machine.

By the time we sat down for our four course meal (with wine pairings, natch) I'd learned several recipes and techniques and was excited to taste what we'd created. First up were the squash blossoms, which were stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella, dipped in beer batter and deep fried.  I'm not sure that words are sufficient to describe how delicious these squash blossoms were so I will let my actions speak for themselves and just tell you this: I had four helpings. 

Yes, you read that correctly. I had seconds, thirds and then fourths of deep fried, cheese stuffed, squash blossoms.  This didn't leave me much room for the remaining three courses but I didn't care--the squash blossoms were just too good to pass up. (And, I somehow managed to pull through and eat at least one serving of tagliolini with zucchini sauce, involtini in fresh tomato sauce and chocolate souffle.)

{the whole group sitting down to the meal we prepared--mom and i are in the middle of the left}

You can find more information on Cooking Classes in Rome on Chef Andrea's website. And be sure to check back soon to see my attempt at making squash blossoms at home.

1 comment:

Sam said...