Thursday, November 10, 2011

La Cucina Italiana

Last Thursday we went to a cooking class and dinner, again organized by our language school. The class was taught by local chef named Lalla (her nickname and also her professional name).  It was a delightful evening that started with Prosecco and appetizers, included a multi-course meal paired with locally made wine, and concluded with dessert and limoncello.  We began by learning how to make pasta from scratch, and then doing the prep work for the sauces.  

Lalla demonstrates how to make pasta - 2 eggs and 350 grams of flour.

Making the tagliatelle.

Henry might have a new career as a pasta chef!

The menu Lalla had planned involved a lot meat, but she made a separate meatless dish especially for Gabriella and another of the students who is also vegetarian. Of course it was all fabulous. One highlight was the potatoes.  They were slow cooked in a covered frying pan with fresh sage from Lalla’s garden, olive oil, salt and pepper. YUM!  Lalla explained that EVERY Italian dish includes the following essential ingredients: olive oil, salt and pepper.  Garlic is sometimes used in a form known adorably as “dressed garlic” (aglio vestito) or “garlic with its shirt on” (aglio alla camicia), which means you use the cloves without peeling them.  In this way the garlic adds a less forceful flavor to the dish.

Lalla taught us that the secret to the light but extraordinarily flavorful Italian tomato sauce is that the tomatoes are cooked in their own juice – without adding water or oil in the cooking process.  Olive oil is added only at the end.  Here’s how she taught us to prepare a tomato sauce:

Chop about 3 cups of tomatoes, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and an onion.  Place them in a pan and cook for about half an hour until they are soft.  At this point you can strain the sauce through a sieve or leave the vegetables intact.  Add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.   Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Reggie and I are big fans of your blog. As the Potato Man of the house I 'd really like a little more detail on Lalla's potato and sage dish. Russets? Chunks or slices? Peeled? Inquiring minds...

    Ciao bella from both of us, we're quite jealous.