Thanks to kind friends, I was invited to attend an Italian cooking class last Saturday, at the home of Wally Maria Mazzuco Wyatt. (More about Wally Maria and her classes HERE.)
We were served espresso as we studied the menu we were going to prepare. . .
On the menu were: homemade ricotta ravioli in tomato cream sauce, asparagus topped with a sunny-side up egg, a salad of fennel, carrot, apple and Sambuca- soaked raisins, and an apple strudel with Grappa -soaked raisins.
There were ten students -- most came in pairs but we introduced ourselves and quickly began to work well together.
Many hands busy chopping . . .
Preparing the salad, the ricotta filling, the tomato sauce, the filling for the strudel . . .
The salad came together quickly and was set aside; the asparagus was tossed with olive oil in readiness for roasting . . .
Then Wally Maria brought out her homemade limoncello and other liqueurs for a refreshing little break . . .
It would have been rude not to taste them all -- at least that's what I thought and I noticed most of the others seemed to agree. (Since the liqueurs have a base of 100 proof vodka, things grew noticeably more relaxed.)
There was elder flower and something called Golden Elixir and two different Limoncellos and Mertille (?) and I seem to have lost track of what the other was. No matter -- in my mind, the Limoncello was the best, which is to say amazingly good, but I had to have another glass just to be sure . . .
Now that we were all sufficiently relaxed, it was time to tackle the strudel -- something that I, for one, have never made.
Strudel, you're saying, is that Italian? Well Wally Maria is from Northern Italy and the Austrian influence may be responsible.
After whirling up the flour, salt, water, and oil in a food processor, Wally Maria proceeded to show us how to transform this lump of dough into a sheet of pastry thin enough to read a love letter through.
The floured sheet is key -- for rolling out the pastry . . .
Pretty thin, indeed!
Now for the filling: thin sliced apples, crushed amaretti cookies, a little almond flour, spices, and those Grappa-soaked raisins. (I think Grappa is unbearably bitter but it worked beautifully here to balance out the sweetness.)
I wasn't the only one taking pictures.
Rolling up the strudel . . .
Using the sheet to support the strudel as she rolls . . .
(Doesn't she have beautiful hands?)
The sheet made a useful sling to transport the finished strudel to the baking sheet.
The strudel went into the oven and now it was time to make the pasta for the ravioli -- right on the granite tabletop.
A little pile of flour with a depression in the center, break in an egg . . .
Beat the egg, maintaining a shield wall of flour while incorporating the flour ointo the egg . . .
Four eggs will get worked into the flour bit by bit, bringing in extra flour as needed.
Next come the kneading -- quite a lot of kneading . . .
Followed by multiple trips through the pasta maker . . .
All this while, the smell of cooking apples and pastry has been filling the kitchen and now . . .
Out comes the strudel! Beautiful!
It takes a good bit of turning but at last it's time to make the ravioli.
Which will be topped by a second sheet of pasta . . .
then cut into squares with a crinkly edged cutter.
Who remembers Chef Boyardee ravioli in a can? (The horror! The horror!)
Lovely little morsels awaiting the boiling water plunge . . .
And in they go -- in batches . . .
The finishing touches are put on the table . . .
Some of the class have brought wine to go with our lunch -- after all, it's been a while since the limoncello . . .
As you may imagine, our appetites are keen . . .
The pasta is served first, the primo, in the Italian manner . . .
Lots of shaved asiago cheese top this delicious dish . . .
Smiles all round . . .
After the pasta dishes are removed, we have the salad and the beautiful roasted asparagus, topped by lightly fried eggs, and so good that I totally forget to take a picture as I am too busy eating.
And last of all, the strudel -- every bit as good as it looks.
It was a wonderful day which I highly recommend to anyone in the area. Wally Maria's web site (see link above) lists the various classes she offers (she also teaches Italian) both at her home and other venues.
She also has a beautiful garden -- it was too cold on Saturday to linger long but I'll share the pictures I took tomorrow.
Thanks to Joe and Suzy and Louise for giving me this terrific experience! And thanks to Wally Maria for sharing her expertise!