Sunday, December 4, 2011

Food is Life !

In Roma we were delighted to have booked a cooking class with an Italian chef in a beautiful private home just north of Rome in the countryside.  Mazzana is a town that looked like something you would find in a storybook, or movie.  Our Chef was Monica who had an assistant Natalie. They met us in the center of Roma and drove us to our kitchen.  Monica also took us for a cappucino in a town nearby called Calcata. It was built in the 11th century on a big rock.  But that is another blog :-)
Monica and Natalie
Monica and Natalie had done most of the shopping, and were well prepared for our lesson. Although we picked up meat from the butcher, vegetables from the Fruititaria, and a few things at the "mini mart." :-)  We arrived in Mazzana and climbed through the narrow winding streets filled with beautiful doorways.  I expected Pinnochio to be around the corner.  I could have spent the day with my camera photographing. But we came to cook.
The "mini mart"
Starting with a fresh tomato bruchetta, then mushrooms, potatoes chopped.   We were making 3 pastas: pumpkin, sausage, and bechamel lasagne, artichoke ravioli, and ----with tomato sauce.  Pasta that is to be stuffed or layered is made with an egg.  It gives the noodle elasticity and strength.  Pasta that just gets a sauce is made with water. "Exact amounts of flour, and water are important.  We worked the dough by starting with a volcano of flour that we dropped our eggs or water into.  Kneading it until it did not stick to our fingers when squeezed in our hands.  Adding bits of flour if needed.  Then putting it through the pasta machine to make sheets.

The eggs pastas were used for the ravioli and lasagne.  The water pasta was rolled into tubes as big as a wooden spoon handle.  Then cut into pillow size squares that we stretched with 2 fingers into a shell shape.  I would have been happy to have stopped there.  But there were 3 chicken dishes: "Saltimbocca" which is translated "jump into your mouth. A pounded tiny piece of chicken with proscuitto  and a sage leaf held together with a toothpick.  That was cooked quickly in hot oil. Then we marinated chicken with balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, sugar and salt.  The 3rd dish was chicken double dipped in egg and seasoned break crumbs.  All this time we drank delicious local white wine: "Argento" Tenuta Ronci Di Nepi.  It was a young wine, and went down smooth.
Pumpkin, sausage, bechamel lasagne. My fave!
Finally we made Tiramisou....dipping bicotti cookies in expresso, and layering them with sweetened egg cream, a few chocolate chips, and topping with cocoa powder when served.  Bob and I ate as much as we could, tasting a bite of everything.  I took leftover pasta and dessert back to our apartment and ate it for breakfast.
Artichoke ravioli finishing in the juice from cooking the choke and parmesan cheese.Tomato sauce.
The ladies were a treat, as well as the fresh pasta, wines, and rich information about Italian cooking.  I know we have a new pasta machine in our future.  We were warned to get a good one that will last. I look forward to making these dishes for our friends and family to enjoy.
Tiramisu and our apron.
Ciao, and thanks for reading!
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