The last time I went to cooking class was when I was 6 years old. It was at the recreation center and we made things like grilled cheese sandwiches, and english muffin pizzas. While I know that those dishes sound completely unforgettable (*sarcasm*), what I remember most was that the "chef" used to hide our shoes in the freezer if you didn't pay attention. I have not been too keen on cooking classes since then. However, when I was asked to attend Abu Dhabi's new cooking class by Cooking@Home sponsored by 800 Pizza, (yes, sort of a generic name, but one of the best pizza places that I have yet to find in Abu Dhabi!) I was very excited, and I came prepared to pay attention.
Francesa and Cristina are two wonderfully sweet and genuine Italians, Francesca from Northern Italy and Cristina from Roma! They have been teaching Italian cooking classes since 2012 in Dubai, which is where they started their own business, born simply out of their passion to cook (and eat).
We were given detailed recipes and a pen to take notes...of which I wrote none because I was too entertained. And then I had to get to work on pasta making. If you want to sit back and watch someone else cook, you can do that as well in these classes, but it is way more fun to put on the apron and get flour up to your elbows. At the end when you are sitting down to a fantastic meal, it is all that much more amazing when you actually made it!
We learned where to get all of the great Italian ingredients here in Abu Dhabi and which brands might be better than others (top secret!). We learned that you will need to buy basil growing in a pot (because that is really the only way that it is sold here), but then you can just water the plant and keep it growing on your window sill. Ideally, if your thumb is greener than mine, you will have some new sprouts in less than a week and be on your way to your very own basil farm right in your kitchen.
We made two types of pasta, tagliatelle (with pesto) and ravioli (with mushroom and ricotta). They had some great manual pasta machines that made rolling out the pasta super fun! There is something really satisfying about squeezing pasta dough through the two metal rollers to see it come out perfectly flattened...and then to do it again and again until you have your final perfectly thin shapes! So, why in the world do we not have little kids making pasta instead of playing with Play Doh...how useful would it be if they could make dinner while playing?
We piped the mushroom and ricotta filling into the ravioli, before sealing and cutting them. I felt so crafty! And Francesca's ravioli cutter makes certain that each one seals perfectly, so no worries about them popping open and spilling their guts while they cook. (Not that, that has ever happened to mine.)
Although I have made pasta before, making it with Cristina and Francesca, whom really know what they are doing, left me with some great tips to try on my next attempt. Like keeping the pasta from sticking with semolina flour. And it mostly left me wanting one of those pasta machines...too bad I sold my grandfather's at our garage sale about 10 years ago. (Oops. This is why I can't get rid of things, I know I will want them again in just about 10 to 20 years...like if I had only kept my denim vest from the early '90s...)
We boiled our fresh pasta for just a few minutes and then Cristina and Francesca served us to thank us for all of our hard work. The pasta was incredibly light. The tagliatelle showcased our simple, flavorful pesto, while the ravioli were perfect little creamy pockets.
I felt like I could really add this to my growing list of activities when I reach some very old age. Activity #26: Making pasta all day while chatting with people. Then cook pasta and eat pasta.
We sprinkled on a little more parmigiano and a little black pepper, before we cleaned our plates. There was plenty to go around, as in typical Italian fashion they made sure that we were all well fed.
Before saying goodbye we had a small taste of our first project, Tiramisu. Before we made the pasta and the pesto, we quickly constructed a Tiramisu and put it in the refrigerator to meld its flavors. This is one of my favourite desserts ever, and I have to admit that during my recent stay in Italy I probably became a bit of an expert (expert is code for weirdly obsessed, and having tasted way too many). So based on my expertise, ours was fantastic. Light and fluffy, while still creamy and rich with coffee. And of course they reminded us that there are tons of variations that can be done on this dessert (shh...even one from Naples made with Limoncello).
So, when class was over, we all waved goodbye and shuffled towards home a little sad to leave such delicious food and fun teachers. I did not get very far because I ended up stopping into the grocery store across the street to buy a basil plant and semolina flour for pasta making, and a couple of bags of ladyfingers with the goal to make tiramisu before I just eat them. (likelihood is 50%).
To join a class or just to get more information, call Louis Alberts
Mobile: +971 56 291 4783