Thursday, March 31, 2011

Homemade Pasta: A Cooking Lesson in Bellagio, Italy

 
I recently came home from a vacation in Italy where I took a pasta making class from Chef Luigi at Salice Blue restaurant in Bellagio on Lake Como.  The town of Bellagio provides the inspiration for the Vegas hotel with the same name, and it’s no wonder they chose a place named for its stunning beauty to inspire their palatial hotel.  The real Bellagio is somewhat less grand in scale than it’s Vegas counterpart, and has none of the commercial hype or fantasy-land aspect of the Americanized version.  The town is only about as long as a few blocks, and the handful of shops trickle up into the hillside from the main street.  The cafes and gelato shops sit right on the water's edge and overlook both sides of Lake Como.  This idyllic little spot is where my cooking lesson began.



By the end of the morning we had created a masterpiece of dual colored ravioli, stuffed with potato and pesto filling to serve for lunch at Salice Blue.  At exactly 12:30pm the entire restaurant filled to capacity.  As though the town had some communal lunch hour that everyone adhered to.  This made things difficult for Luigi, who prepares each dish to order.  After the morning cooking lesson our lunch took over three and a half hours, but I enjoyed every minute of it.  Our little table in the sunshine overlooked both the distant mountains and the piercing blue waters of the lake beneath them.  It was my own storybook chapter of my perfect Italian holiday.  Sure the next day we’d drop a passport running through the Milan train station, and the day after that realize my credit card had been stolen…but for those few gorgeous hours I ate my heart out in bliss.




We began with a tour of Chef Luigi’s home garden.  He showed me the different herbs, lettuces and grass that had been planted there, each to honor a specific moment in time.  His own birth and those of his family members properly celebrated by a rosemary bush or a crop of spring onions.
Then the lesson began…






Fresh Homemade Pasta
Ingredients:
1000 grams semolina flour
200 grams water
2 eggs
pinch of salt

First we made a hole in the center of our flour.  Then in a separate bowl we cracked the two eggs and beat them lightly with a fork.  We added most of the water and the pinch of salt to the bowl.  Then we poured the mixture into the center of the flour.  Then with a fork we slowly incorporated, bit by bit, the egg mixture into the flour.  Then we used our hands to really knead the dough together until it formed a ball.  We had to incorporate every bit of flour on the board, and if the dough wasn’t coming together and was too dry we just added a bit more water.  When the dough formed a ball we placed it underneath a container like a tupperwear and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Then we used a rolling pin to flatten it out.  The rolling process took almost 30 minutes as we had to create smooth pieces of dough that we pushed through the pasta maker many many times.  Then we used another machine to slice the dough into thin strips.  Finally we took one piece of dough and brushed it with water before laying down alternating strips of beet red (made the same way with about 200 grams of beet paste) and plain pasta dough.  Finally we pressed this together again and again until it was one smooth piece.







The ravioli were filled with (I have to be honest we didn’t  make the filling so I can’t quote the recipe I sincerely apologize!) fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil, porcini mushrooms, potatoes and almonds.

Then the pasta was boiled and finally, it was devoured.



3 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos! What a great job you did with that pasta! Looks like you had a great time too!

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  2. Oh, my gosh! What gorgeous pasta! How lucky you were to experience this fabulous cooking class...must have been an incredible vacation :)

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  3. Wow that pasta is amazing! Good for you!

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