Ben and I recently arrived back in Sydney from a three week whirlwind trip to Europe.
I was a bridesmaid for my best friend Melissa as she married her now-husband Bradley in Cornwall, UK which was the main reason we went. But we wanted to make the most of that ever-so-long flight.
Me with the beautiful bride, Melissa.
So, we were lucky enough to fit in a few short trips before we travelled over to the UK, to the city of love, Paris and then on to Rome!
We had a wonderful first day seeing the sights – the Colosseum, Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and the Trevi Fountain. We sampled delicious pasta, ice cream and pizza – and the sun was shining gloriously.
Me at the Colosseum
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for our final day so we didn’t get to see the Vatican, but day two was truly the highlight of our European adventure.
Ben turned 30 at the end of March, and his sister Claire very generously booked for the two of us to attend Cooking Classes in Rome.
Cooking Classes in Rome is Run by Italian Chef, Andrea Consoli. Visitors to the city can sign up for a five hour class beginning at 10am, where chef Andrea educates, entertains and carefully explains how to prepare four courses of traditional Roman dishes.
Chef Andrea with Ben and I
Classes are held for up to twelve people at a time and when all food has been prepared, Andrea turns into your waiter and serves the food in his dining room, with accompanying wines if you choose (and of course we did!).
This is a very popular thing to do in Rome, for good reason, see the TripAdvisor reviews here where it is rated #1 of classes and workshops in Rome, so expect the class to be full.
When we arrived at the location, we were sat at what would later be our dining table, where we got to know the other students and were served some delicious coffee and snacks. We were then taught about the dishes we would prepare, given aprons and directed into the kitchen. At first glance it’s a fairly small space, but this works out well as you’re forced to “get to know” your fellow students quickly and you truly feel like part of a “real” kitchen.
In the middle of the room all of the fresh ingredients were laid out. Andrea explained the importance of using fresh seasonal produce for the best flavour.
Fresh Ingredients laid out
We were told many interesting facts about Italian food – the origins of different dishes e.g. Spaghetti alla puttanesca AKA “in the style of the whore.” – Chef Andrea explained that this dish was a favourite of these women to prepare as it was cheap and quick. They would leave steaming bowls of it by the window to draw in hungry patrons!
Chef Andrea explains…
We were then divided up into pairs and helped with preparing and then cooking the dishes. Chef Andrea was never too far away and happy to answer any questions. He would stop us from time to time and show us how to do parts which were a bit trickier. He also called us out on our often patchy understanding of Italian food…
He was particularly unimpressed by my assumption that there is alcohol in tiramisu! Well, I now know that alcohol is only added to the tiramisu if it has not been eaten quickly – due to the raw egg content – as a preservative!
Starter – Carciofi alla Romana – Roman Style Artichokes
We were taught how to prepare and carve the artichokes – which was definitely not my strong point – there wasn’t much artichoke left after I’d finished! Then we stuffed each artichoke with mint, salt and pepper after which they were steamed in olive oil and water.
Artichokes in oil
First main course – Homemade Cavatelli shaped pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil leaves
This was probably the most interesting part for me – making fresh pasta from scratch. The pasta was made with semolina or durum wheat flour – no egg (which may surprise you) and water. The flour and water was kneaded into a dough, then using the below device and a special technique we learnt, it was rolled into the cavatelli pasta shape! It was then boiled until the pieces floated to the top. The end result was “al dente”, still firm.
Making the dough
When we returned to the UK we actually made this dish again for my mum, dad and sister – I forgot to take a picture but I can vouch that it turned out exactly like it did in the cooking school. We will certainly be preparing this dish again, nothing beats fresh pasta, it is divine!
Second main Course – beef “carpaccio” with cherry tomatoes, arugola and shaves of Parmesan Cheese
This dish contained thin strips of beef, which were fried lightly with garlic then mixed with arugula (rocket) and fresh diced tomatoes. I’ve never fried rocket before, but the end result was really tasty.
Lightly cooking the beef
Side dish – Broccoli Romaneschi (Roman Style Broccoli)
The Roman broccoli is quite strange looking and took a long while to prepare. Ben and I were tasked with the titillating job of removing each tiny broccoli floret, and then pulling off the even smaller parts, before it was fried with garlic and chilli.
I have to say this may have (surprisingly) been my favourite dish of the day! It was aromatic and delicious.
Dessert -Traditional Tiramisù
Some of the group were surprised to find out that real tiramisu contains no cream, it’s egg whites, yolks and mascarpone cheese that provide the dessert’s creamy element.
We dipped ladyfinger biscuits into freshly brewed espresso, then whisked the egg whites with sugar. The yolks were then whisked with sugar and mixed with the mascarpone cheese. It sounds a lot easier than it was, but the finished dish was by far the best tiramisu I have ever tasted.
Time to eat!
At the end of the cooking class, we were sat at the table to devour our creations and a few glasses of wine – matched perfectly with each dish.
Beef with rocket and tomato
Tiramisu with a personal touch!
Cooking students dining together
I can’t recommend Cooking Classes in Rome highly enough, it was interesting and so much fun.
It is a refreshing break from the crowded tourist traps and a productive way to spend your time in Rome if you only have a few days.
I’m certain if we go to Rome again, we will return! You can check out their Facebook page here.