One night during our anniversary vacation in Rome last month, we joined two locals and six other tourists for Cooking with Nonna (Nonna=Italian for “grandmother”) and spent an evening learning to cook Roman-style.
We booked this class after I convinced my husband that he really did want to cook his own dinner (just one night!) while on vacation. I was already thinking ahead to this Weekend Cooking post, so we both took a lot of pictures during the class. (Unfortunately, I didn’t take any notes, so we’ve forgotten a few details already.)
First we found our way on the Metro to the Appio-San Giovanni neighborhood of Rome where “Nonna’s apartment” was. It turned out that it wasn’t her actual home, but it seemed very homey inside.
We all washed our hands, donned aprons, and listened as Nonna’s English interpreter explained the menu: Bruschetta, Antipasto, Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli, Saltimbocca alla Romana, and Tiramisu.
As we went around the table and introduced ourselves, Nonna demonstrated how to make two different toppings for bruschetta – tomato and black olive. Then we had a glass of Prosecco each while we topped and ate our bruschetta. We learned that bruschetta is pronounced with a hard “k” sound, not a “sh” sound. Nonna also definitively explained the difference between bruschetta and crostini, which we have both forgotten now, because my husband thought it was something to do with the bread and I thought it was something to do with the toppings!
Next we all took a turn kneading the dough for the pasta. (As a germaphobe, I admit to cringing during this class because several of us were using cameras and you couldn’t keep running to wash your hands after every photo. I just kept reminding myself that the pasta was going to go into boiling water before we ate it!) I was surprised at how long the dough had to be kneaded. I had thought pasta dough would be more like pie crust – the less handling the better.
Here is Nonna praising my husband’s kneading expertise. (My compliment from Nonna was that I had a “great smile”!)
After the pasta dough had rested enough, we learned how to run it through the hand-cranked pasta machine that Nonna clamped to the side of the stainless steel table. (No pictures of the ravioli pasta being rolled out because we were all put to work in two teams and kept busy the whole time. The dough was floured and put through the press several times before it was thin enough to start cutting out the round ravioli.)
Nonna put together the antipasto course as we looked on, and then it was time to eat! Once we sat down to eat the antipasto course, our work was done, and Nonna and her able assistant cooked the pasta and finished cooking the saltimbucca and they didn’t get to sit down until the second course was served.
Unlike in the restaurants where you’re expected to linger for hours, we had to hustle out after taking the group photos. Some of the group were calling for taxis but we walked to the subway station to get a start on working off some of that night’s many calories.
We never felt nervous walking around at night in Rome, even in some of the neighborhoods that were described in the guidebooks as sketchy. So many people were out walking till midnight (and beyond, probably!) and even on a pretty deserted subway platform, it felt perfectly safe.
Lots of fun! I learned about cooking classes while traveling from a Weekend Cooking post a year or two back, so thank you to Candace of Beth Fish Reads for hosting this weekly foodie festival for so long!
Happy Weekend Cooking!