A few words about this series of blogs. I don’t feel that they are up to my normal standards. We have had pretty full days, and even though I have allowed time at the end of every day to do the blog entry, it just seems there has not been enough time. In reviewing the blogs, they seem to lack the depth that I normally write with, so for my readers and myself I am sorry for this. As you know I do this for a few reasons, one is so that Jerry and I will have something to look back in our golden years to remember all the places we have been the second is to hopefully inspire others to travel and experience a world outside of the US and their comfort zone. I can tell that my blog is not up to standards, by the lack of comments I have received typically I get a couple of comments at least on every entry, this time around I have only received 3 comments in total. With that said, let’s talk cooking.
One of the main reasons we picked Bologna as a city on this trip
to visit was the food, it is very much the center of good cooking for Italy. It is also a university town; Jerry and I have been refereeing to it as the Portland (Oregon) of Italy. The residences are younger and hipper, the city has an artsy feel and many people ride their bikes everywhere. Since we are in food central we had to take a cooking class to learn how to make stuffed pasta and the traditional bolognaise sauce.
This was one of the top cooking class I have ever taken. The information and techniques taught I can certainly take home with me and apply in my own kitchen. The three of us were taking a stuffed pasta class, there happened to be a market glass with 2 other couples at the same time, so we also got to see and learn about what they were cooking. At the end we all sat down and enjoyed the efforts of our labor from both classes.
We started with the making of the broth. To save time this was done in a pressure cooker, otherwise it would take several hours to get a good broth. The stock was very
simple, whole baby carrots, celery leaf, on onion cut in half (not peeled) an old hen chicken quarter (skin on) a chunk of brisket (with fat, tendons and all) and two beef bones, add water seal the cooker and let it go for about 90 minutes.
While the stock simmered we started that bolognaise sauce. This again was very simple and there is no tomato in most Bolognese food, especially the bolognaise. The mirepoix was traditional equal parts finely diced celery and carrot and diced onion that equals the size of the celery and carrot combined. Olive oil in the bottom of a sauce pan (do not use non-stick you want the caramelization and that just doesn’t happen with non-stick.) Next, we added ground pork belly for depth and so the sweetness of the pork would balance the bitterness of the beef. A very important note here, all of this goes in a cold pan not a pre heated, you do not want the vegetable to sear as soon as they hit the pan. The pan is then turned on and you let it reduce and caramelize. When you have achieved the caramelization that you desire, you begin to
add the broth, turning down heat and just let it simmer, the longer the better, adding broth as needed. Our sauce simmered for 2 hours, but 4 or 5 would have made it even better. There is a tablespoon off tomato paste just for color not flavor. All seasoning is done at the end. As an extra treat, we added some leftovers to the sauce for extra depth and flavor (theses are not part of the actual recipe but if you have them on hand you add them.) We added a parmesan rind and the end of some prosciutto di Parma.
With the sauce simmering a way, we moved on to the fillings for our two stuffed pasta. We were making tortellone, ravioli, and tagliatelle (that latter not stuffed and was served with the bolognaise.) I have never really known the difference between tortellini and tortelloni, now I do, besides being larger tortellone is stuffed with some cheese mixture and tortellini with a meat mixture. Since we were doing tortellone we made a ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg mixture. Even before we stuffed the pasta the filling tasted incredible.
Next, we moved on to the filling for the ravioli;
sautéed red onion and asparagus. The onion was cooked first until transparent, then the finely diced asparagus was added (we saved the tops for the sauce) then was cooked until it the asparagus was tender but not soft so it would make it easier to blend in to a puree. There was a bit of salt and pepper added. Half of the mixture was then pureed with a hand-held blender (emulsifier) then the remaining was stirred in for texture. Both fillings were then placed in a piping back, the asparagus placed in the refrigerator to firm up but the cheese mixture left at room temperature.
We then played sous chef for the market class and cooked some vegetables for them and Jerry and & Christina stuffed zucchini blossoms with some of the chees mixture we had made. These were then dipped in egg rolled in fine bread crumbs and baked in the oven. They were the best blossoms of the trip.
I then started the sauce for the ravioli, olive oil, red onions, the asparagus tops lightly sautéed in oil, later fired artichokes were added. You will notice that zero garlic has been added to anything, there was
a bit of garlic added to a sauce the other class was making, but generally, garlic is not a big part of northern Italian cooking.
With the bolognaise simmering, the fillings resting and the ravioli ready for final garnishment, we moved to the pasta making. Now, I have been making pasta by hand for over 20 years, and while it is good, it never turned out this. I think a few thinks lead to this and they all have to do with ingredients, domestic flour, until recently, just didn’t have the right protein content and the eggs are not really the best for pasta, but we use what we have. I also tend not to work my dough a lot, but they worked the hell out of it, so I will change that on my next pasta.
All of the pasta was hand rolled, no machines. It started in the same fashion as I do at home, a mound of flour with a well in the center, your eggs added to the middle and scrambled, then you just start incorporation the pasta until it is thick enough to work with your hand. I don’t have a pasta board
so usually use my marble, but I really need a wooden board and an actually long pasta pin, not to mention the drying racks.
The making and rolling of the pasta took about 45 minutes, it was pretty labor intense and a good work out on your back. The instructors, were very demanding regarding the texture of the pastas, a moisture pasta is needed for stuffed pasta, but even if you add to much flour you can correct this by letting it rest longer so the moisture returns.
The pasta all rolled over, we began stuffing our pasta, the market class returned to their meat in the kitchen. Just a bit about what the other class made, the did a pork scaloppini, two ways, one in balsamic one in white wine, both were incredible. They also prepared a chicken roulade, chicken breast (which the deboned themselves) stuffed with a frittata, chard and pork sausage. This was rolled and tied then seared before baking. Finally, they made the best lamb chops I have every had. Butchered the rack in to double chops then coated with something and baked. Even Jerry and Christina liked the lamb and they are not
While they were finishing their meat and sauces in the kitchen we were busy stuffing the tortollone and ravioli. The tortollone was very difficult to get the shape but we managed to get it stuffed and shaped. The ravioli was much easier as we were shown the technique of just using one sheet of pasta putting the filling on one side then folding over and pressing out your ravioli. A huge time safer over making each one individually.
The pasta stuffed, it was time to cook the pastas. The tagliatelle cooked very quickly, the ravioli was cooked half way in the salted boiling water and fished in our sauce, which we now added some cherry tomatoes then the ravioli and cooked tossing now and then. The tortollone had a very simple butter and sage sauce, torn sage leaves in butter then melted. The tortollone was then just tossed with this sauce. We plated, served and ate like kings, with wonderful red and white wines.
The group was a good group and fun. What I was most impressed with, that for 20/30 somethings, not one of them looked at their phone once other than to take
a picture of what we were doing. They were generally interest in cooking and learning the culture, it as very refreshing from most people their age.
We ate and chatted for quite a while, finally leaving at around 3:00. We went back to the hotel to drop off our aprons and Christina stayed to rest while Jerry & I headed back out to explore the markets. We went back to the salumeria purchased some salami, then did a balsamic tasting best every and bought a 12-year-old balsamic to bring back home. It was not cheap and is not to be used for everyday cooking.
We continued to walk around the area, ran across a bit of street theatre then return to the hotel to have some wine and relax before dinner. Dinner
The night’s dinner was at the second place recommended by our instructor at the cooking school, the second one was already booked full for the night. Jerry and I had walked by it earlier in the day, it was in a small piazza near the two towers. The hotel booked our reservation for us, and for one of the rare nights we ate outside.
We were not all that hungry after all the food we had cooked and eaten at the pasta class, but we still wanted to taste some more food of Bologna.
The restaurant was Il Papagallo. The service was a bit chaotic, with the language difference and the hip young vibe of the wait staff, it was just average service. They didn’t have a wine list Jerry had to walk to the wine wall and make a selection. The food was good, but it was like you had to finish the garnishing and seasoning at the table, because they didn’t use much at all.
The meal started off with out first Spumante instead of prosecco. Christina and I had a Rose Kante Cal (Rose spumante) and Jerry had an Asti Brut. They were good but prosecco is much better. It took us a while to decided what we wanted, but we finally ordered.
Christina and Jerry both had a tomato and onion salad. I had an insalata verde, and it was just that a bowl of iceberg lettuce and nothing else. I borrowed some of Jerry’s tomatoes and onions to make it more interesting.
For the Primi,
Jerry and I split a beef carpaccio and tartar, both were could the carpaccio needed balsamic and live oil, which was on the table. Christina had a tomato soup (served room temp) with a crispy parmigiana crisp.
For our entrée’s Cristina had Tagliata di Fassona, perfectly medium rare beef strips served with rosemary and salt to garnish to your taste. The beef was probably a little rare for Christina but she did seem to enjoy it. Jerry had a Tortellone di Ricotta with tomato and on a bed of mozzarella. Needed a bit of seasoning but still good. I had Tagliatelle in a nice butter sauce and herbs, it was the best pasta of the night, but not of the day, that was certainly everything we made at the cooking class. To accompany our dinner, we had a decent Nebbiolo d’Alba Occhetti Prunotto.
We passed on dessert and instead got gelato on the way back to the hotel. The ends the Bologna portion of the trip. Very much a city that would make a great place as a headquarter city then take day trips out to the surrounding areas. I would most definitely take additional cooking classes from
The dish of the day was every pasta we made at the cooking school.
Step count, zero, very flat.
Tomorrow we are off to Florence for three nights.
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