Handmade ravioli, papardelle and fettuccini pasta. Bolognese sauce, butter and sage, and tomato and basil sauces. Pizza from scratch. Homemade gelato and sorbet, and panna cotta.
It was fun to cook with other people. It was fast-paced and our chef was skilled in managing tourists through the process of preparing authentic Italian dishes with a decidedly Tuscan perspective.
For our pizza dough, always let the dough rise the day before so you can use less yeast (always use fresh yeast). In Tuscany they don’t add salt to their bread dough so our pizza wasn’t as salty as other regions in Italy. We had some salt from our cheese and sauce.
Always bake the pizza crust with sauce for a few minutes before adding toppings and, of course, place your fragile ingredients like fresh basil and spinach beneath your cheese.
Gelato and Sorbet (Italians pronounce it sor-bet, just like it looks, except remember to roll your ‘r’)
Use only fresh milk, fresh cream, fresh fruit and ingredients.
I liked the sorbet better than the gelato and there is no milk and cream but it was smooth and creamy and amazingly satisfying instead of ice cream. If you make it from scratch and enjoy it right away it doesn’t get hard and icy. Nice to make and serve when you have friends and family over.
I like the taste and texture of the pasta we made with eggs better than the pasta without eggs.
Ravioli—Don’t overfill. Get all the air out. Cook for a bit longer than noodles because the pasta has been folded and is double thickness.
Salt your pasta water and use a bit of that water in your sauces when you add your pasta to your sauce and let bind together before serving.
Hand cut papardelle, use a pasta machine to cut fettuccini and smaller noodles.
Tomato and Basil Sauce
Score and blanch your tomatoes first. So easy to take the skin off and then dice and place in the pan that has been prepared with olive oil. Add the fresh basil and your sauce is soon ready.
Use natural gelatin instead of powder form. One of the people in my group is a pastry chef from Bruges, Belgium and makes panna cotta differently than the Italians, but it was a cooking class in Italy and we made it their way.
This next week I’m taking a market tour and will learn how to choose the best ingredients including how to select fish. Then I have two more cooking classes–one class will teach me how to use all of a fish, skinning and fileting and then using what is left for soup and pasta sauce. I will also make bruschetta and tirimisu as well as a few other dishes typical of Italy.
A quick primer on sealing and cutting your ravioli…