I don’t really cook. I’ve lived alone too long and I don’t have a dishwasher. Why would I spend two hours over the stove when there’s no one there but me, if I then have to spend two hours cleaning up? Instead I could make a sandwich and watch the Real Housewives on Youtube. The problem is that when I do have some houseguests or the man in my life does something worthy of a hot meal, my repertoire is pretty limited. I’m always saying I need to learn how to make more stuff, particularly Italian food, since I live here and all.
(Not to sell myself too short – I like and am rather good at baking.)
So when a friend of mine invited me to a cooking class in Rome, you can guess my reaction – “Do we get to eat it?” I liked her answer so I joined the group.
We met in Torre Argentina for the “Fabiolous Cooking Day” in the center of Rome (walking distance to everything), and Federico, our host/chef/instructor couldn’t have been more friendly. We walked over to Campo de’ Fiori. By night, hoards of young Italians and Americans gather here to get drunk, but by day, it’s a charming outdoor produce and knick-knack market. If you’re in Rome, you should go by this market anyway just to see it. He showed us how to pick the best mix of tomatoes for a homemade sauce, and explained what Roman broccoli is. I’ve always seen this thing but always been too intimidated to purchase. Not anymore! After a stop for cheese (thank God!) and freshly butchered veal, we walked through the Jewish Ghetto neighborhood (where I live actually), and across the bridge to Tiber Island.
Tiber Island is worth seeing. Forget the legend of Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf. The reason Rome sprang up where it is thousands of years ago is because this natural island in the middle of the river made it easy to cross. A settlement bloomed at this river-crossing point, which exploded into an empire, and is now the most beautiful city in the world. Now that island is home to a hospital, a pharmacy, a couple of stores, and, as I found out on this day, TWO private residences. “I live on Tiber Island” is not something I’ve ever even imagined hearing anyone say. Yet here you are, in a glamorous apartment, with a private chef, and grocer bags opening and wine bottles popping. This is a dream Roman experience, friends!
The cooking class lasted for several hours but it’s kind of a blur and really flew by, because we were having so much fun. We made pasta dough from scratch (flour, salt, oil, egg) and then learned how to make about five different shapes. Yes, you do need some special tools, but if you’re in the States you can get them all at Williams Sonoma, if not Target.
He showed us how to make real tomato sauce, simmering fresh tomatoes (of mixed variety), and then how to prepare, stuff and smoke(!) artichokes. He sautéed the veal and made a citrus-herb sauce, and then after all of that a light dessert of strawberries with a balsamic reduction.
Then, we got to eat everything. The four-course meal was worth the day and the cost of the class alone, although I really did learn a lot too. For example, how much of the artichoke do you really need to cut off to get it ready to eat? What kinds of tomatoes should you mix to make fresh sauce? Why do you use egg in some pasta and not in others? What tools to you need to make all this at home?
I would like to wholeheartedly recommend this class to anyone with a bit of experience cooking. I would not say it is for absolute can’t-boil-water beginners or children. Plus there is so much perfectly matched wine that you don’t want to bring your kiddos anyway. But couples? Girlfriends? You’ll love it.
To book, go here.
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