For a recent visit to Rome, Italy, my parents and I reserved an in-home pasta-making and dining class on BonAppetour.com, which I highly recommend doing if you’re traveling outside of the U.S. and want to learn more about the cuisine at your destination and meet outgoing foodies. If you're planning a trip to Rome, click here to find available hosts.
Our gracious host, Francesca, had a wide range of interests and knowledge in addition to offering three different cooking experiences; she is a former IT project manager, trained sommelier, Airbnb host, and artistically inclined. As far as Italian cuisine, what her mother didn’t teach her she discovered through experimentation, classes, and cooking shows on television. Learn more about Francesca and the dining experiences she offers here.
What I found to be the most interesting aspect of the class was Francesca’s association with making pasta to the creativity of shaping clay and working with one’s hands. Pasta is a staple for Italians, yet their attitude towards food in general, its origin, preparation, and presentation, is given the same respect as works of art. Pasta = Life = Art.
We made 3 pasta dishes from scratch with Francesca’s guidance, but since I am limited here to one post on the subject, I will focus on the initial pasta-making and the ravioli.
We began by “making the volcano” on a clean counter top with Semolina flour and eggs.
Throughout the pasta-making process, Francesca reminded us that our hands are our best tools.
As we took turns kneading, she told us to “Put energy into the dough. The best way is to think about someone you don’t like!”
As the dough rested and the spinach leaves steamed, I blended the ricotta with grated nutmeg and parmesan cheese which would later be combined with the cooled spinach for our ravioli filling. In Italy, there are four varieties of ricotta cheese available; made from cow, goat, sheep, or buffalo (water buffalo) milk.
When it was time to begin flattening our dough to form it into small sheets, Francesca instructed that the flattened pasta should look smooth and not have many “holes,” or indentations, in its surface.
After she showed us how to use the machine, the dough sheets needed to be passed through the rollers a few times more, so she encouraged us to “continue on your own.”
We cut circles from the sheets with a cookie cutter to form our raviolis.
A spoonful of the spinach and ricotta mixture went inside each circle, which were gently folded in half, and pressed or pinched shut.
When the making of the pastas was complete, Francesca, her son Francesco, and his girlfriend took care of the actual cooking and serving while Mom, Dad, and I sipped glasses of an Orvieto wine, selected by Francesa. We all sat down together for a lively conversation and a delicious meal which was the gran finale of a truly fun and memorable experience!