Italian food is renowned the world over for its quality, taste and the sheer joy Italians take from the creative process. When we recently took cooking classes in Italy we began to understand something of the passion and verve for which the Italians are so rightly credited.
In the hills of Tuscany at Villa Ferraia our education began courtesy of Eating Italy. I won’t pretend I am now able to can match the skills of the locals – I was something of a kitchen virgin when we started the course. But during our cooking classes in Italy, we had a good go at crafting a few tasty dishes.
We created foods, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, most of them were traditional and authentically Italian. Here are three that you can try yourself from our cooking classes in Italy.
Recipes from our cooking classes in Italy
Our first attempt at a dish was unexpected but a certainly a great introduction, Marmellata di Prugne, or as we call it plum jam. This was a good introduction for a cooking novice as it wasn’t too taxing, and it gently introduced us to the process of gathering, preparing and finally cooking ingredients.
Marmellata di Prugne
- 300g sugar and 1kg of plums
- Peel the plums and remove their cores
- Dice fruit into small pieces
- Add plums and sugar into cooking pan over low heat
- Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning
- Once water from the plum has fully evaporated and sugar dissolved, turn off heat and leave to cool
- Transfer mix to a blender/food processor and blend into a homogeneous jam
- Optional spices and aromas can be added at this final stage, such as cinnamon or orange peel
To preserve the jam, place sealed glass jars in a pot of warm water over the stove, boil jar for 30 minutes. Alternatively, place jar in oven for 45 minutes at 110℃
The plum jam was surprisingly easy to make, but how would we fare with the following round – ravioli. Lunch was next up on the menu and there wasn’t a packet of ready-made ingredients anywhere to be seen. Instead we were starting this from scratch. I had a feeling our chef Stefano was going to have to work very hard this time. Yet, under his expert instruction we managed to concoct a scrumptious lunch.
Homemade Ravioli: serves six
- 250g wheat flour
- 250g white flour
- five eggs
- 600g ricotta cheese
- 100g parmesan cheese
- fresh sage
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- *use gluten-free flour as a substitute
- Knead together all ingredients by hand to form dough
- Leave to rise in a bowl covered by a dish towel at room temperature for 1 hour
- In the meantime, prepare the ricotta cheese stuffing by mixing the ricotta, a pinch of salt, a pinch of nutmeg, and parmesan cheese into a smooth cream
- If using a “KitchenAid” pasta maker, set width to #6 and pass the dough through until a smooth and thin sheet is formed (Otherwise, roll by hand adding flour when needed)
- Place a spoonful of the ricotta filling every 5 cm on the left side of the sheet
- Fold over right side of the sheet over the left
- Using your fingers, push down on side of the filling to remove air pockets, closing the ravioli and uniting the two sheets
- Cut your ravioli using a pasta cutter
- Cook in boiling water for 8-10 minutes
Serve with butter and fresh sage sauce:
- In a pan, add butter and finely chopped sage leaves on low heat until melted. Drain pasta and add to pan, tossing with butter mixture and adding some of the cooking water to form a creamy sauce.
After our cooking endeavours we were entitled to our just desserts, and they don’t get much better than homemade tiramisu. As a dessert it is fabulous and as a compensation for all your hard work it is a delicious reward.
Tiramisù: serves 10
- 500g mascarpone
- five eggs
- five cups of sugar
- unsweetened coffee (watered-down espresso or coffee from a mocha machine)
- Ladyfingers or sponge-cake*
- unsweetened cocoa powder
- *use gluten-free cookies as a substitute
- Place a pot of water to boil on the stove and place another pot on top of the first one
- Whisk five egg yolks and sugar in the second pot in order for the steam to warm it from the bottom for about 5-8 minutes
- When the liquid starts to condense, remove pot from stove area and continue whisking until mixture becomes a white, foam-like consistency
- Leave to cool
- In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites into a foam (they should not fall out of bowl when turned upside-down)
- Add the mascarpone cheese delicately into egg and sugar mixture; follow by egg whites
- Inside a dish, place ladyfingers (dipped in unsweetened coffee) on bottom, cover with cream, place another layer of ladyfingers, cover with cream, and sift cocoa powder on top.
- Let tiramisù rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving
We prepared an extensive range of dishes during our cooking classes in Italy. The examples here give a taste of what we learnt and what you can try yourself. So whether you take one of Eating Italy’s courses, or just try these recipes at home, I hope they feed you and your thirst for culinary knowledge.