Ever wanted to experience Venice, Italy but don't have the time and/or money to get there? Well now all you have to do is travel to Annandale and book in for a class at Cucina Italiana Cooking School.
The beautiful house
Held in a private house, the owner Luciana has converted the lower level to a demonstration kitchen and dining/tasting area. The family photos and trinkets scattered around the counter tops, on the walls and on top of the range hood though, indicates this house is still very much a lived in family home.
Luciana is a very passionate teacher who made the lesson interesting and fun. A big believer in quality Italian goods, she makes all her egg pastas at home.
Two cracked eggs - the beginnings of pasta
She began by assigning us to pasta making stations, and by explaining about how the weather greatly affects the pasta making process. The amount of moisture in the area has a direct impact on the amount of flour that needs to be used. As such, every recipe given is therefore just a guide, and flour quantities must be adjusted accordingly.
Items required for pasta making
Then we began. Create a ring of flour on your bench top, leaving some off to the side. Crack two eggs in the centre and slowly start mixing the flour in with a fork until the egg stops moving. Then mix the whole lot together to form a thick dough. Now came the fun part, the kneading.
The dough dance
By Luciana's definition, kneading is a dance. A whole body movement requiring swaying to and from the bench to avoid arm cramps. Boy did we dance. Back and forth for well over 10 minutes. It got to a stage that we thought she had forgotten about us. Finally though, we had achieved a dough to her satisfaction, and it was placed aside to rest. We were then moved to the dining area. Here we were treated to some more of Luciana's unique views: Jamie Oliver has ruined Italian food, and that he is the food terrorist. And flat parsley should only be used in butchers as decoration, and never for cooking, and olives are like cherries - they should burst in the mouth with flavour. Her vibrant personality is what set this cooking class apart from all others.
While sharing her pearls of wisdom with us, she demonstrated her famous bruschetta recipe; olives, borlotti beans, red onion, parsley, and a ton of olive oil. Simple and delicious.
The pasta machine
After our snack, It was then back to the kitchen to roll out the pasta. For the first time ever, I used a pasta machine, and It was surprisingly easy. You roll your dough ball out into a small rectangle, and then feed it through your pasta machine. Begin with it set on one, and then keep threading it through, each time putting the setting higher and higher until you reach a thin, flat sheet. We were then ready to make - wait for it: Ravioli!!!
Everything was prepared for us. All we had to do was scoop some pre-made filling (beetroot and pumpkin) into balls along the length of our pasta; fold it in half, and then cut it into sections using a pasta cutter. Of great importance was squeezing all the air out of each little pocket, and putting in enough filling so they weren't miserable. They were then placed on drying racks.
While all this was happening, small side tutorials were being run on the art if making fish scaloppine and semifreddo. Once we had all joined together again, there was some quick instruction into the art of making a pasta sauce (oh the butter, oil and cream) - and then it was time to eat.
Entree is served: ravioli
What a feast it was! In typical Italian style, the pasta we all slaved over formed our first course. This was my favourite. That rich, creamy sauce highlighted the delicate flavours of the filling in what proved to be a light and tasty dish. We then moved on to the second course of fish scaloppini; a juicy fillet of barramundi lightly floured and fried before being finished off in a white wine and butter sauce. It was served with a caramelised walnut and lettuce salad.
Finally, we finished off with a caffeine addicts dream - the beautiful rich semifreddo. What a way to end a meal.
I undertook this cooking course as part of a staff development day, and it was such fun! I can't wait to come back for one of the regular classes Luciana runs in Italian cooking. Soon I'll be a connoisseur of Italian cuisine, nothing like that famous food terrorist....
Where: 84 Johnston Street Annandale NSW
Why: Learn to make beautiful Italian food from an enigmatic teacher.
Cost: $130- $155 per person
When: Wed & Thurs evening, or Sat & Sun day classes. Alternatively you can book a private group.
Good for kids: Yes, she runs family classes.
Take away: N/A