I love Italian cuisine and it has always been a dream of mine to learn traditional Italian recipes whilst living in Europe. My dream recently came true with a unique experience learning three traditional Italian pasta recipes at the Culinary Institution of Bologna in Italy.
My husband and I went to Bologna for a long weekend and spent an evening with an experienced teacher at the Culinary Institute of Bologna learning how to make three pasta dishes from scratch following traditional Bolognesi recipes. Included in the cost of the lesson was unlimited wine so we started by popping open a bottle of pignoletto, a bubbly white wine made in the Emilia-Romagna region.
The first cooking instruction was to do the preparation for the pasta sauces by finely chopping two onions, zucchini and pancetta. We sweated the onions in the pot for the bolognese sauce and browned pork mince before adding the tomato paste and water so the sauce could slowly simmer and reduce for the next couple of hours. A wedge of parmesan skin was added to the pot as a special secret ingredient to enhance the flavour.
In a separate pan we fried onion, zucchini and pancetta using a tricky technique of tossing the ingredients in the pan to ensure they were cooked evenly and throughly. It took more than a few attempts to get the technique down pat and it helped that the teacher advised us it was okay to make a mess.
Next we worked on the fillings for our pasta. In one dish we blended cooked zucchini with parmesan and cracked pepper for the ravioli. In another dish we mixed fresh ricotta, parmesan, and nutmeg for the tortellini.
The fun part started with making the actual pasta. We measured 200 grams of flour and added two eggs to make the pasta dough, kneading it gently with our hands. We let it rest for 20 minutes before rolling it out into thin sheets to cut our circles for the ravioli and tortellini, and then strips for tagliatelle. Very gently we piped the filling into the pasta to fold perfect ravioli triangles and tortellini bows.
A pot of water with one cup of sea salt was bought to the boil and our pasta only required a few minutes of cooking time. We made tagliatelle bolognese, ricotta-filled tortellini with sage butter sauce and zucchini ravioli with pan fried pancetta and grated parmesan. Our food was delicious and although we were a little tipsy on pignoletto, we managed to remember a couple of cooking tips to take back home.
The cooking class cost 330 Euros for two of us and it was a unique and fun way to learn about another culture. I would recommend it to anyone travelling to Bologna. For more information, stories and photos, visit the Culinary Institute of Bologna Facebook page.