I have always considered myself to be a reasonably proficient cook. I did my time in hospitality as a barista, waiter, dishy and cook, so I can tackle most recipes and have a good arsenal of cooking skills. But pasta is something I have never been bold enough to tackle. To me, pasta is on a pedestal that is reserved for Italian Nonnas; an impossible feat that when done wrong makes a soupy mess. But when done right, it is an amazing thing. So when I heard about learning to make pasta from Pasta Emilia, one of my favourite places to eat Italian, I jumped at the opportunity! What a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning, learning to make pasta and then enjoying the food you have prepared over lunch with a glass of wine.
There are two classes available which run on alternating weekends, including a pasta making class where you learn how to get the best flour mix, enjoy creating your pasta dough and try to stretch the finest pasta sheets to produce different types of pasta. From filled puffy ravioli to small and yummy cappelletti, long linguine, twisted strozzapreti, you will see and produce all the different shapes and sizes that fresh pasta can have.
The Gnocchi and Sauce class is on the following weekend and this is the one that we attended. Gnocchi has always been daunting. 9 times out of 10 when I eat gnocchi out, they are hard little rubbery balls. rather than the light fluffy clouds that they are meant to be. So I was eager to learn how to make perfect light clouds!
For the cooking classes, large pieces of timber have been placed on top of the dining tables to give you a good surface to work on. You are met by a resounding 'ciao' by all the staff, who are lovely and friendly. Everything is provided for you and it is run by Pasta Emilia's Alessandro Grisendi, who is the official pasta maker and still makes all of the pasta for Pasta Emilia by hand. He carefully and slowly runs you through each step.
The secret seems to be using the smallest amount of flour and working the dough for the shortest period of time. Alessandro goes around to every person, explains each step, helps you check when the dough is the right consistency and offers a little pointer as to how to improve. Once all the gnocchi is made, rolled, cut and pressed - it is onto the sauces!
Pasta Emilia prides themselves on using as many authentic ingredients from Reggio Emilia but, also are a certified organic restaurant, meaning that they can only use certified organic products. So due to the availability of certain products, they sometimes need to get them locally. There are three sauces that we were shown how to make. First, a standard tomato base. When I say standard, it couldn't be further from standard and was sensational and a flavour explosion. Second, a perfect Italian pesto, made by hand in a mortar and pestle. Third, a gorgonzola and walnut sauce, with a little bit extra cheese on the side for nibbling.
At the conclusion of the class you sit down to a lovely meal with the other people in the class (usually 6-8 people) and enjoy a meal of the gnocchi and sauces that you have prepared. There is an abundance of food and a glass of wine to enjoy your meal with. I quite literally could not think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning - learning how to make something new, meeting some lovely people and then sharing a meal that you've helped create! This would be a perfect present to a loved one and fantastic as you can share the experience with them! I will definitely be back to do the pasta class. Thanks to Isobella and Alessandro for an amazing time!