Italian food – a cooking class!

I was a participant for this class. It was amazing. I ate way too much but it was all so very delicious. It kept me fueled for my evening in the forest with cubs and scouts until late building shelters and geocaching.

Enjoying an Italian lunch in the sun

Two lovely ladies from Puglia ran the class. If you are not familiar with Italy’s regions, Puglia is the heel of the boot. On the menu was handmade pasta, two sauces to serve with the pasta, melanzane parmigianna (one of my favourites) and tiramisu. We started late and with 18 people all making pasta and preparing enough food to feed everyone, by the time we ate it was well beyond lunchtime. But the sun was still out and still warm considering it was late September so we could eat outside – it felt very Italian.

I had never made homemade pasta before. I am ashamed to say it. It is so simple especially as we made Cavatelli which doesn’t need any pasta rollers or special cutters. Just a bit of space on a work top, a rolling pin and your fingers. Simply plain flour and semolina in equal quantities and water at room temperature. About 100g of the flour and semolina mix per person should be enough.

Make a well in the flour on the worktop, pour a little water into the well and pull the flour together until you get a soft dough that doesn’t crack when you roll it out. Cut the dough into strips and then, using your finger tips, pull the dough towards you so that it curls in on itself as in the picture. This is easier on a wooden chopping board than on a stone work top. Lay all the pasta on a tray and leave to dry while you make the sauces. When your sauces are ready, then you can cook in boiling, lightly salted water until al dente. The time will depend on the size and thickness of your pasta shapes.

The recipe for pasta varies a little around the country, some regions it is more common to add egg, the mix between flour and semolina varies. What varies much more is the shape. The shape of the pasta is so important. Outside Italy, the ubiquitous spaghetti bolognese breaks all the rules. In Italy, you would be hard pushed to find a rich meat ragu served with spaghetti. This is the wrong ‘vehicle’ for the sauce. Tagliatelle would be a much better choice as the heavy sauce would coat the thicker, flatter pasta so much better. The shape of the pasta is very particular to the sauce or the dish it is being used for.

And never cut your pasta!

It’s all in Italian but even if you don’t understand, it’s funny anyway! Poor Nonna!

Tune in soon for the next installment of the Italian lesson, for the Puglian secret ingredient to sauces, and two delicious sauces but I might keep the melanzane for another post. I am mean like that.

To end, another little Italian fact, it is so wrong to drink cappucino in the afternoon. That was news to me.

Thank you to Angela and Manuela for an amazing lesson and delicious food. I hope I have done your recipes justice here.

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